Virtual Burning Man

Of course Burning Man could not take place as usual this year. So in a very noble and heroic effort, the organizers of Burning Man took created a version of the festival in virtual reality — in particular, in AltSpace VR.

I tried VR Burning Man together with some friends, and I learned a lot. I could see the immense effort that went into it, and the artistry involved.

Yet there was something unsatisfying about the experience. And I don’t mean in comparison with an in-person version of the festival — of course a virtual festival can never replace a real festival.

I mean that various design choices were made that in retrospect didn’t work. The most notable was that there didn’t seem to be a way for our group of friends to travel together, the way one travels together in a car.

Sure, we could individually navigate our avatars to the same place. But if I saw something in the distance and wanted to teleport there, I could not take my friends with me. We’d all need to try to jump to the same spot, and hope for the best.

This is important because what really matters is not the cool things one sees, but the conversations with friends — the bonding that occurs when we go on an adventure together.

If you keep needing to interrupt the conversation just to get to the next thing, then what is the point of going together on an adventure? It would like going on a cross-country road trip with everyone driving in a separate car.

There are that things that I’d also like to see improved. But fixing that one would be a very good start.

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