Celebrating AltSpace Week, And Mourning What Was

This week, we’re celebrating Altspace.

But what was it all about?

During the pandemic, sales of virtual reality headsets spiked, and for a good reason. We wanted to go out, and unless you lived in Florida or some other covid-denying jurisdiction (or freedom-loving jurisdiction, depending on your perspective), that wasn’t going to happen! Zoom “cocktail parties” didn’t do the trick, they were too much like a FaceTime call on your phone.

VR filled the gap, during that particular moment, and no VR app was better than AltspaceVR, which gave users a virtual home to entertain in, complete with basketball court and fireworks, as well as a schedule of events. Some of these events were created by Altspace itself, sometimes featuring performances or appearances by celebrities in custom-built nightclubs. Burning Man, for example, moved to Altspace during the pandemic. In many cases, users themselves built worlds and designed spectacular events, from painstaking recreations of extinct nightclubs like Studio 54 to impossible-in-real-life theatrical performances to all-night raves.

A pandemic-era Zoom New Year’s Eve party was just sad, but New Year’s Eve in VR was like real-life, only better. You could party by the Berlin Wall circa 1989, for goodness sake. I remember hanging around in the bar area of a Berlin nightclub with a couple of friends who in real life lived on different continents, chatting with an Irishman who confessed that in real life, he was lying in bed, quarantined, sick with covid. But in VR, he was celebrating.

Still, the pandemic ended. As the world opened up, attendance in Altspace seemed to slow down. Microsoft had no Plan B, although many Plan Bs were hiding in plain view.

Instead, Microsoft just gave up.

A year ago, Microsoft announced the closure of Altspace. And on March 10, the sun set on our virtual universe. Altspacers entered their portals one last time to watch the world end. Some sat in a meditation garden, some returned to the popular campground hub, others gathered in Veronika’s Pub. And then it was over. Unlike the “real” end of the world, though, we can relive this one on YouTube.

Now it’s been a year, it’s Altspace’s yarzheit, so to speak. It’s a week for celebrating Altspace. So the priority “thing to do in VR” this week is:

Celebrating the Miracle that was AltSpace

In honor of Altspace week, some old favorites will return in new venues, mostly VRChat. If you were an Altspace regular, this week will bring back memories; if you were not, it will give you a taste of the past, a nostalgia for something you never knew, a thrill of discovery rather than the pathos of loss.

The experience will be different; there is no in-app schedule, and no code that will allow you easily to find an event, so orienteering will be a bit more difficult than it was in Altspace. But it is possible, and we’ll explain within each of the listings below how to find your way. Either the event is public, and you can just walk right in. Or you need an invitation, which you can get from one of the event organizers, who are listed below, where applicable.

If you have never visited VRChat, set up your account a few days beforehand. It is free, but it takes a little time. You don’t need a headset to join, but of course, everything is better with a headset.

MOMA #72 in Altspace Rave, Saturday, March 9, 6 pm, Eastern Standard Time, Midnight CET, VRChat.

Celebrating Altspace

The MOMA raves were a high point of pandemic-era Altspace parties, featuring meticulously designed, photo-realistic worlds, great music, enthusiastic crowds and friendly, welcoming hosts. To answer your first question, they are unaffiliated with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; “MOMA” is instead a combination of the name of one of the founders (Manon) and the VR identity of another founder (Monster), whose real name is Mikael Zacke Zachrisson. Our personal favorite of the MOMA worlds was a Tokyo dance club, a really terrific venue in a sleek, high-rise building, with a great view. What made it especially special was that if you needed a breath of air, you could take a break from dancing and go outside to wander the Tokyo city streets.

These events, Zachrisson told us a couple of years ago, “started out on March 26, 2021, … when a previously regular event had a break. This soon grew into the recurring event…. Thanks to great dance music together with frequent newly built, interesting venues, well-proportioned innovative dancefloors, a realistic feel and a welcoming community, MOMA Raves soon grew into one of the most visited regular European dance events.”

Saturday’s rave will be held in “Crusöe,” an island resort with two dance floors with different music in each location, along with some quiet places on the island where people can talk, including a secluded campfire.

If you can, come dressed as your Altspace avatar. If you didn’t port your avatar over, or you were not an Altspace regular, the hosts will help you choose an Altspace-style avatar.

Crusöe is not a public world, so once you are in VRChat, search for Zacke-Monster or Manon_VR, who will let you in.

Bratwurst Party, Thursday, March 7, 3:30 pm, Eastern Standard Time, 9:30 pm CET, VRChat

These “Bratwurst Meets the World” Parties were a biweekly mainstay of the AltSpace covid festivities, created by organizers and world-builders who call themselves Mel and Klaus. Mel told us was back in 2022 that the name was designed to attract Germans to VR; Germans were otherwise hesitant to mingle in Altspace, and what could be more enticing for a shy German than a party filled with (humanoid) bratwurst sausages? Still, she assured us, “This event is meant for everyone from everywhere, to mingle and chill with friends, to talk and have fun, to meet new people.”

The Bratwurst worlds are not photorealistic, like the MOMA nightclubs, but instead bright and surrealistic, a kind of Pee Wee’s Playhouse in the sky, populated by smiling, happy Bratwursts. This reunion/memorial will duplicate the final world that Mel and Klaus hosted in Altspace, which saw ships ferrying Bratwursts away from their magical land, sailing into the sunset and an uncertain future.

It’s a public event, so once you’re in VRChat, just search for “Bratwurst Party” and go on in. “We have not had problems with bad people yet,” Mel says. “So we keep it open for everyone since our motto has always been: Everyone is welcome.” 

Veronika’s Pub, Friday, March 8, 5 pm, Eastern Standard Time, 11 pm CET, VRChat

Veronika’s Pub was a beloved Altspace tradition, just a little Irish New York pub that got popular, as these things do in real life, too. During Altspace’s last days, a poignant musical tribute video hit YouTube, and on Altspace’s last night, the pub was a popular destination to watch the world end, and it filled up to capacity.

The event is not public, so search for Veronika_VR and join her.

One Year Sunset Anniversary Remembrance Party, Sunday, March 10, 9 pm, Eastern Standard Time, 3 am CET, VRChat

“Where were you when the sun set for the last time in Altspace?” asks Citygirl. “Many of us took the day off from work and were together with our VR family in worlds like Blackout, reminiscing about all the worlds we have visited, the parties we attended, the events we had been to and, most importantly — the friends we had made. We held on to every last second we could in our home away from home. It will be one year on March 10th and for much of the VR community we hold Altspace in a very special place in our hearts. Come join us as we celebrate our past and talk about what we have done in the last year in so many other platforms. All are welcome to join, share and listen. We hope to see so many of our old friends come together to celebrate an amazing part of our VR journey.”

Blackout is a public world; search for it and go on in, or search for Citygirl and follow her in.

AltspaceVR Memorial World, beginning Friday, March 8, and ongoing, VRChat

This is a world set up as a sort of expansive museum dedicated to Altspace, by world-builders known in VR as SereneLiminal and Timo*. The world will include sixteen featured rooms, with tributes to some of the greatest worlds of Altspace, a theater playing Altspace memories, photo galleries, Altspace avatar statues, and portals to revisit Altspace worlds that have been rebuilt in VRChat. If you were an Altspacer, it will be a trip down memory lane. If you are a newbie, it will be an education. It’s a public world; search for it and go right in.

Unlock Our Potential: PlayroomSX and the VR Somatic Experience, Monday, March 11, 12 pm – 1 pm CST, 1 pm – 2 pm Eastern Standard Time, 6 PM – 7 PM CET, VRChat

VenusSX is “a VR somatic educator and coach providing pathways to freedom from social and cultural conditioning through educational events, workshops and parties in sensational virtual fantasy worlds.” Her events in Altspace, at her “Violet” adult nightclub, which she described as “the new digital erotic playground,” were perhaps the most provocative around, where she sought to harness a kind of sexual power in virtual reality and, among other forward-looking ideas, encouraging VR-only relationships, which she discussed with us in detail in 2022. And the nightclub was beautiful. 

“The Metaverse offers entirely new modes of creative expression and interactivity as we enter the age of digital relationships,” she writes now, “where we unlock our potential as multi-dimensional human beings living in a magnificently sensual body.”

So it’s appropriate that she’s holding one of her new events 24 hours after Altspace Day, as part of IMMERSIVE X-HOUR : The VR Conference Experience, presented at SXSW 2024. 

Venus writes, “In the first part of our event, we dive into the enchanted beauty and sensuality of Elysium, a Tantric Meditation Space. Discover underwater secrets, gigantic glowing flowers in the moonlight, at the Lake of the Goddess, the Home of Peace. Breathe, fly and play in this magical world of freedom.

“During the second part of our event, you witness Elysium pulsating with love as we reveal the empowerment of somatic experiential learning in a facilitated environment.”

The whole thing will conclude with a “mind-blowing surprise” and a VR dance party in one of her custom spaces. 

Register here for free.

Pagans in VR, March 10th at 8pm EST, VRChat.

This is not a joke; this is a serious New Moon Ritual in a Stonehenge world originally created in Altspace, and an ongoing tradition that has moved from Altspace to VRChat. One of the creators tells us that “like-minded” individuals meet in every Full Moon and New Moon, and also convene for a monthly class for serious pagan rituals that include an intention, a meditation and a discussion. It’s a public event; search for the Stonehenge world and go in. 

Where to Go Next

With the death of Altspace, VR nightlife became much harder to navigate. That’s why we were pretty happy to learn that someone, somewhere, has put together a frequently updated calendar of raves. You can find it here.

^^^

Content by Oblivioni. Lead image by Oblivioni.

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