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It's a bizarre scene, Winnie the Pooh, a pink-haired anime girl, and a Raving Rabbid stand in a circle, up to their knees in water, discussing the symbolism of a Christian baptism. Like message boards and chat rooms before it, virtual reality creates a new online space where people can come together and interact. VRChat isn't a place for beating games or solving puzzles, it's a space to meet and talk with other people, wherever they are in the world and whatever their personal situation. It's why one priest has started to hold baptisms in VRChat for anyone who wants one.
DJ Soto has been holding baptisms in VRChat for the past year. Players will come to him and he will go through the baptism service, explaining what it is they're doing and what it means. In a video created by Symor (via Polygon), Soto explains that the people he meets often aren't able to attend churches in real life. "One of the girls that did get baptised has a condition where she can't even leave the home," Soto says. "So we were able to baptise her and when she was coming out of the water she was just bawling and crying because she never thought she'd have that opportunity because she's stuck at home."
And through all this earnest work to bring religion to people who wouldn't be able to access it easily in the real world, or wouldn't feel comfortable making the first steps, there are the absurdities of gaming. The people Soto is baptising have video game avatars, the water they're dunking into is a simple translucent texture, and... well, at one point someone wearing a Spongebob Squarepants avatar steps into the water and absorbs it all.
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While it's easy to dismiss VR and say it hasn't taken over the industry as predicted when the Oculus Rift was first revealed, it is clearly a fascinating space where the people who do have headsets are coming up with ways to interact with one another that were never intended by its designers.
Featured Image Credit: Symor
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