Ever dream of inhabiting the body of your favorite video game or anime character? In VRChat you can do exactly that. And perhaps that’s exactly what caused the explosion in VRChat’s popularity in December of 2017. VRChat landed in Steam’s Early Access section in February of 2017. Developed by Jesse Joudrey and Graham Gaylor, VRChat is an immersive social virtual reality sandbox. If you ever played around in SecondLife back in the day, you’ll know exactly what VRChat feels like.
And yet, VRChat is something wholly new.
What Makes VRChat So Unique?
VRChat is a VR hangout spot users have complete control over. You can create private instances, build your own worlds for other players to enjoy, and use any manner of 3D model as your avatar. With the ability to do pretty much anything you want, start a relationship, run quests, play hide and seek, VRChat holds infinite possibilities for players. It’s possible that VR spaces like VRChat will move out of the weird world of gamer niche and into the mainstream productivity world. Imagine wearing a second skin of yourself and interacting with a whole office full of people from across the world. While VRChat is a silly amusement now, it could be the foundation for something bigger in the future.
But Why Did VRChat Become So Popular?
To figure out why VRChat became so popular, you need only look to Twitch. Twitch is a video game streaming service and more people watch Twitch streams than Netflix streams in the U.S. Major Twitch streamers attract thousands of viewers on any given night. And when a major Twitch streamer picks up a new game, the whole gaming community pays attention. Controversial streamer PewDiePie picked up VRChat along with other big names in streaming back in early December 2017. These streamers not only introduced the VRChat platform, but they introduced the world to Ugandan Knuckles.
The history of Ugandan Knuckles is kind of fuzzy. But it apparently began with a YouTube review of a Sonic the Hedgehog game. In this review, the reviewer creates a parody of Knuckles from the video game. From here it gets really weird. VRChat players took the Knuckles parody, paired it with a common PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds meme, the Ugandan warrior, and went on a troll fest. Hundreds of VRChat players donned the Ugandan Knuckles skin and began to click their tongues and shout, “Do you know de way?” at various players. Right now, Stalsby’s short mashup of Ugandan Knuckles shenanigans sits at just under 12 million views. This single weird meme can be blamed for part of VRChat’s popularity. Add that to other popular streamer shenanigans, and you have a massive Twitch phenomenon on your hands.