Feeling safe is essential for rest and sleep, even if you are alone in your bed at home.
But one day I entered the bedroom and immediately heard a child’s voice in my ear. The boy who had a robot avatar tried to engage me and the medieval knight in conversation, but failed. (My avatar was a piece of butter with a tiny cylinder, because why not?) The angry robot swam to a corner where about seven avatars lay peacefully together, appearing to be asleep. The child’s voice then mocked them, “I will kill you. I will literally kill you.’
It’s well known that the metaverse is full of underage users, and my journey through the bedrooms confirmed that children are very common in these adult spaces. Another sleep room I visited was filled with children’s voices speaking Spanish and French. I took the elevator up to the “rooftop” where I found a corner lit by red lights with plush velvet sofas. “Hi, I like your avi [avatar], – said a child’s voice behind me. I turned to see another robot avatar talking to what looked like a stuffed animal. “I like yours too,” said a man’s voice. “Do you want a hug?” The kid swam away and I followed suit, nervous.
Schwerd told me that he also saw children in the bedrooms. “Minors are definitely causing trouble,” he says. But he insisted most bedrooms were quiet and “respectful”.
As I wandered around, I mostly believed this to be true. Some of the bedrooms I came across were empty and quiet. Others had avatars pressed together, fast asleep. Still others had groups of avatars huddled together, awake, but quiet, some whispering, others just resting. I often felt the need to mumble “I’m sorry” and tiptoe around, forgetting that since I was a pile of butter in a room full of avatars, few would hear or notice me.
I couldn’t fall asleep in VR. I was very aware of my surroundings and the headset was uncomfortable on my face. But while I found some rooms to be unsettling, I found sleeping quarters that were quiet and peaceful places to just sit and be. I struggle to find quiet places to relax in the real world, and if nothing else, virtual bedrooms have given me space and time to lie down and look up at the stars.