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You can think of VRChat as a super-advanced, hip, VR reimagining of the 90s sensation, Habbo Hotel, in which players were invited to meet and converse via the magic of the internet. Ahh, just typing the words Habbo Hotel brings back auditory memories of the sonic storm that was the dial-up tone, but I digress
Even though we’re deep into the VR revolution at this point in time, there are plenty of people among us that are still only living their organic life. There’s no problem with that; more power to you, but if you’re interested in getting a taste of what the virtual world has to offer before forking out for a headset, VRChat is a great place to start.
What You’ll Need
I’m going to show you exactly how to get into the VRChat party with absolutely zero fancy VR equipment. That means you’re not going to need a VR headset or any sort of VR tracking equipment. In fact, you don’t even need a VR-ready computer — perfect!
However, before you get your hopes up for a night on the virtual town, I’d highly recommend preparing some sort of normal headset, otherwise, you won’t be able to talk to anyone. You’ll be that creepy, quiet person in the corner, and no one likes that creepy, quiet person in the corner. I know that because, growing up, I was that creepy, quiet person in the corner. Don’t be like me, folks, it gets you nowhere.
If you don’t already have one, I’d recommend this Logitech headset. It’s noise-canceling, has a great frequency response range, and it’s way, WAY cheaper than your garden variety VR headset.
Should you not feel like buying a headset just to play this game, you can still enter the flat VRChat world on your computer, but as I said, you won’t be able to communicate with people, which is kind of what the whole thing’s about. Still, if you want to go for a silent virtual wander, you’re perfectly free to do so by following these steps.
Step 1. Download Steam onto your computer.
Steam is a digital gaming distribution service. You can think of it as a massive game library. Some games you have to pay for, while others are completely free. Luckily for us, VRChat doesn’t cost a thing. You can download Steam by…
- Visiting the steam website.
- Clicking the big green “Install Steam” button in the middle of the landing page. I don’t even know why I’m telling you where it is. You really can’t miss it.
- Follow all the installation prompts that pop up onscreen, and voilà, you’ve got Steam!
Step 2. Creating a Steam account.
Before you get access to all the wonderful games Steam has to offer, you’ll have to create a Steam account for yourself. To do so…
- Revisit the Steam website at steampowered.com
- Click “login” on the top right-hand side of the landing page.
- Click the “Join Steam” button down and to the right of the page.
- Fill out the form (it only takes a second).
- Click, “Create My Account”.
Step 3. Launching VRChat
I hope you’ve got your headset on, and you’re feeling chatty because it’s almost game time, baby!
- Launch Steam via the Steam app logo wherever you’ve hidden it on your computer.
- Search the Steam library for VRChat.
- Load VRChat on Steam. Even though it’s a VR title, it can be launched like any other flat game — no special measures necessary.
- On your games list, you’ll notice two tabs, one that reads “VR” and one that reads “games”. Being that it’s a VR title, VRChat will appear under the VR tab.
- Once VRChat is up and running, on the home screen there should be an option that reads “Launch in Desktop (Non-VR) Mode. Click it like you’ve never clicked anything before. That’s your ticket to Habbo Hote…I mean VRChat.
- All that’s left to do is click the “Play” button, and you’re in — hurray!
Alternatively, you can download the VRChat client to your computer directly from the vrchat website, but having a Steam account is going to come in handy in the future, so I highly recommend accessing the game through their portal.
What to Expect
As VRChat is a VR title first and foremost, you’re not going to get the full experience playing it flat. The expansive tracking options a VR kit brings to the table really make the game what it is, but you don’t need expensive tracking devices to control basic character functions.
All you need is your regular old keyboard and mouse combo to get about…that’s it. If you like, you can even use an Xbox controller to explore the flat world of VRChat. If you’re used to playing consoles, that might make the game more accessible at first.
In terms of what to expect from the game itself and the players within it…nothing can prepare you. You know those Imagination Land episodes of South Park with all the crazy characters running around the place? Well, it’s kind of like that but on steroids.
VRChat is a wonderfully odd game unlike any other I’ve played so far. One of the best things about it is that there aren’t many trolls, well, scratch that…there are thousands of trolls, but not the racist 11-year-old kind you encounter on FPS games. No, these trolls are more like clowns acting up, so we all get a laugh or two.
You’re bound to encounter giant robots, leprechauns, Kermit the Frog hitting on frog ladies at the bar, large bands of wacky characters working together to build societies that disband as quickly as they came, and so, so much more.
It’s really no wonder so many people have taken to this whimsical and joyous social world. It seems to be a platform on which you can genuinely connect with others and share a few jokes. I’ll see you there!