The popular social virtual reality app VRChat dropped an update on February 24 that added one of its community's most requested features—a panic button. VRChat is a virtual reality chat room where users with or without VR headsets can interact, chat, and play games. It’s a fun application that got really popular over the holidays thanks, in part, to Twitch streamers, YouTubers,and a racist meme.
Parts of VRChat are a chill place where users hang out in custom avatars while others are dank meme-soaked hellscapes full of obnoxious noises and awful images. Some users are normal folk and others are pure troll—just there to get a rise out of the laid back community.
For months now, trolls have been able to don pornographic, gorey, and otherwise horrifying avatars to spam the eyes of the unsuspecting. This was bad enough for the typical user, but a nightmare for Twitch streamers. While VRChat has loose community standards, Twitch doesn’t allow the broadcasting of extreme images and trolls would figure out when a Twitch streamer was broadcasting and bomb their account with horrifying images with the goal of getting the user in trouble with Twitch.
A Twitch Streamer named Glacey was in VRChat hanging out with people and singing some Britney Spears songs. Then another player walked up and spamed her with a porn avatar. The offending avatar is blurred out in the YouTube clip below, but Glacey’s reaction is telling. “Fuck off,” she says. “I gotta leave. I can’t stop it. I can’t stop it.” She then stood up, mid-stream, and left the room, her camera still rolling.
It was a big problem and one VRChat users repeatedly asked the developers to fix . A few months ago, the team had a similar problem with voice spammers—people playing obnoxious noises and music as well as verbal harassment. To fight that, VRChat added a feature that mutes all new avatars a player encounters and allows players to mute all avatars that aren’t on their friends list .
The panic button does the same thing for avatars a player doesn’t want to see. “In the event that unwanted audio or visual spam occurs or that frame rate tanks you can now engage a ‘Panic Mode,’” VRChat’s latest patch notes said . “This mode will visually mute any avatars and audio mute any users who are not your friends.”
Before this patch, when a Hank Hill avatar walked up to another player, assumed the body of 10 foot tall anime woman and began flashing its genitalia, the only thing a player could do was change rooms or exit the game. Now, they can hit the panic button to transform all the avatars in their immediate area into a boring, gray robot. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than the nothing VRChat had before.