Jordan Belamire was trying to shoot zombies in the virtual-reality fantasy game Quivr when a fellow player heard her female voice, came up behind her character, and groped her. In a piece recently published on Medium, Belamire said she asked the player to stop, prompting him to chase her through the snowy mountains — rendering her bow and arrow useless — grabbing and pinching, and finally aiming for where her character’s genitals would be.
While Belamire wrote that the situation looked fake and harmless from the outside, she said that because it happened in virtual reality, it felt very real to her. And if this situation mimicked real feelings of assault for Belamire, it probably did for the attacker too.
Women are trying to carve out safe spaces for themselves within the previously male-dominated gaming world using technology like the HTC Vive, but it’s difficult to control the behavior of anonymous avatars.
“As VR becomes increasingly real, how do we decide what crosses the line from an annoyance to an actual assault?” Belamire wrote. “Eventually we’re going to need rules to tame the wild, wild west of VR multi-player. Or is this going to be yet another space that women do not venture into?”