Social VR People

Builders, Creators, Hosts, and Participants

Tom Nickel
4 min readOct 9, 2021

Many factors come together to help determine the nature of Social VR in the Metaverse. Technologies, platforms and corporate strategies all play a role. But so do people, people as an aggregate force and people as individuals who lead from the front, middle, or rear. People who inspire.


VR is making huge advancements, with smaller, untethered devices, better resolution, and the early stages of hand tracking and haptics. In-game worlds are more realistic as well.

What appears to be lagging behind is the avatar — the in-world representation of the player. On most social VR platforms, avatars are still fairly primitive, with bland, pleasant facial expressions and limited mobility.

In time, the technology will catch up and we’ll be much more accurately rendered in VR. But is this what we really want?

A lot of folks enter VR social platforms because they’re uncomfortable with some aspect of face-to-face socializing. Some are self-conscious about their physical appearance. Some are just socially awkward and struggle with reading social cues, which can make it difficult to make friends.

Right now, with the lack of facial expressions and the variability in network lag, no one in VR can read social cues easily, so everyone makes allowances. It levels the playing field for people like me.

I have a minor disability that makes it difficult for me to track conversational turn-taking cues. I can manage a one-on-one conversation with enormous effort. In a group it’s hopeless. But in VR, I’m normal.

For the first time in my life, I have a group of close friends. We play cards and golf together. We hold group discussions about things that matter. If I don’t show up for a party, they notice. How ironic is that? I had to go to virtual reality to find real friends.

As avatars become more lifelike, able to accurately track facial expression and body movement, what will happen with those of us who have used the platforms as a sort of social prosthetic? Will we be left behind, as out of place in VR as we are in the outside world?

Maybe there’s an argument to be made for keeping a little of the “virtual” in virtual reality.


Most World Builders have a signature style. You know it’s their world the moment you step into it. This might be more true of ShuShu than any artist working in VR today.

Most Builders are modelers. They have mastered one or more of the major 3D software packages, like Unity or Unreal, and they are able to express themselves freely with the tools.

ShuShu is a theatrical director, trained at the world famous Ludwig Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts in Krakow, Poland. He thinks spatially and directs plays, multimedia installations and film. His worlds are not modeled as much as they are shaded, reflected, and lit.

ShuShu burst into AltspaceVR in March, 2021 and built at least ten jaw dropping worlds — including Afterlife, Skyloft, and Treehouse — in about six weeks. Each one was a breakthrough look and a conceptual challenge.

Nymphs, Requiem was first shown as a public performance on July 16, 2021, in ShuShu’s, Teatrum Anatomiucm, in AltspaceVR. Several other highly skilled World Builders worked with ShuShu to create an astonishing two-act performance which immerses the audience in death as theatre and death as one response to love.



Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos