“If you’ve played a 10-minute game about being a transwoman don’t pat yourself on the back for feeling like you understand a marginalized experience”
– Anna Anthropy
I suppose I’ve shown my cards: I’m skeptical about the idea of VR as being a vehicle for meaningful creation of empathy. Or, perhaps, it depends on the definition of ’empathy’. One notes that the secondary definition of empathy is “
It’s the difference between asking “How would I feel if I were in Syria?” vs “How does a Syrian in Syria feel?”.
At least in the VR experiences I’ve explored, Virtual Reality changes my surroundings but does not change myself, at least not in that moment.
This is not to say that I believe that there is no use for art in generating emotions & broadening emotional interest. I see the role of art in the generation of empathy as being like the role advertising has in the generation of sales. VR experiences can very well draw strong emotions, and temporarily resituate oneself. Those emotions and thoughts can be haunting. The experience and its effect on the viewer can inspire the viewer to explore the topic further, to connect to people they normally do not connect to, etc, and this can lead to the development of empathy.