First Forays: A Dragon’s Early Experiences in the World of Virtual Reality

Feeling the Breeze at the Udon Bird Sanctuary

Have you wished you could travel lately? I know I sure have. I want that sun, I want that open air. Living a city makes it all feel even further away. On a grey, dreary day it can feel like there’s nowhere to escape to. The pandemic has made it all the worse, between following lock-down procedures and dealing with those people who refuse to. I’ll be honest… Going outside lately kind of sucks!

Even when long distance travel is impossible in reality, we have some new and wonderful alternatives. With Virtual Reality we can create and explore spaces limited only by talent and imagination. There are spaces modelled on real locations, quirky games and imaginary areas. Some places might seem illusory or impossible. But thanks to VR, they all seem completely convincing.

A Fine Friend’s Fierce Fangs Photographed Fully

I suppose I should introduce myself fully. My proper name is Arivorastrix, but I’ll consider you a friend for reading this far so you can call me Ari. I’m a red dragon in her mid 30’s, making my way through life on this wild and wonderful planet called Earth.

I’m a relatively recent adopter of VR technology, having gotten an Oculus Quest. It’s a simple but effective rig, and quite portable. As long as it’s connected wirelessly to my computer I can wander around and interact with anything within the boundaries that I’ve set.

I wasn’t fully convinced of the viability of VR until I had a chance to try it for myself. There are really two components. The first is the freedom of location and the ability to occupy virtually any space. This is what I plan to write about most in the coming posts, as I’ll be exploring all kinds of places, both realistic and completely imaginary.

The second component is more personal and deep to me, which is the ability to occupy different forms within this space. The program that I’ll be using, VR Chat, allows you to exist in a space with others, interacting and exploring together. The avatar that you embody is what others see in a substantive sense, you can represent yourself in whatever way you want.

And so I am a dragon, this avatar that has been lovingly sculpted, textured and rigged to a skeleton. It’s a process not too different from animating a character, but instead all that range of movement is placed onto a person.

Looking down at yourself, seeing your hands and feet, experiencing a body that is both yours and not yours. As a trans woman, someone who grew up without the ability to feel attached to her own body, existing in a form that fits is better than real.

And so, I speak to you as a dragon. It’s not like pretending or playing dressup. It’s my avatar, it’s who people will meet and it’s who I have the privilege of embodying.

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A trans woman, freelance writer and student at University of Concordia. Also, I'm a dragon!

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Ariel Blackwell

Ariel Blackwell

A trans woman, freelance writer and student at University of Concordia. Also, I'm a dragon!

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