Facebook-owned VR device maker Oculus announced something we’d all been dreading. The service is migrating accounts to become part of Facebook profiles, meaning that from 2023 (or sooner if you buy a new Oculus device before then), you’ll need to have a Facebook profile to use your headset.
It hasn’t gone down well with users. And that’s understandable, because Facebook’s reputation for user privacy leaves, shall we say, something to be desired. A lot of people have either left Facebook, or never joined, and they feel held to ransom by the House of Zuckerberg. It hasn’t gone down well with the EFF either.
Part of the problem stems from the ‘Big Tech’ attitude to VR pornography – or indeed, pretty much anything ‘adult’. Look at any of the walled gardens of the big headset makers and there’s nothing much above PG-13 to be seen.
While that’s understandable on some level, burying heads in the sand over adult performance isn’t helping matters. Users are forced to use third-party app stores – and while there are some great ones, they’re also a lot more dangerous than staying inside the confines of your manufacturer’s store.
Yet, even third-party stores are growing weary of adult content. Take a look at Sidequest – a popular ancillary choice. It had a fancy coat of paint to its store this week, but the “NSFW” section, suspended last December, appears to be gone for good.
Here’s the rub: ignoring adult content doesn’t make it go away. Moreover, by stifling that creativity could be holding back the progress in the genre.
Look at VRBangers, for example. It recently launched an industry first: 8K VR porn content. Nowhere in the non-porn VR space is even close to that kind of technical innovation yet. Sure, there’s the odd nature scene on YouTube to show what’s possible, but it’s nowhere near commonplace.
Yet it seems that headset manufacturers are determined to play whack-a-mole with adult content. The Oculus/Facebook move didn’t set out to further impede adult content, but it didn’t exactly lay out a red carpet either. After all – how many people will feel comfortable watching pornography, knowing that your usage telemetry is almost certainly being logged by Facebook? Eww.
It can also damage hardware sales. If you’ve bought an Oculus and decided that having to log in to Facebook has put you off, sure you could go out and buy a Gear or a Vive, but there’s no guarantee that Samsung or HTC might not do something similar down the line. It’s going to make the end users’ own game of whack-a-mole pretty darn expensive.
The other option is everyone accepts that the future is Google Cardboard, which, (A) it isn’t, and (B) is simply another walled garden, albeit one with slightly lower walls to jump over.
Assuming that idea isn’t sitting well (and why would it?), maybe the adult industry needs to try something new. What if there was an all-NSFW VR store, available across all the major headsets? It’s not installed at launch, but is actively accepted as the ‘official source’ and can be sideloaded by anyone who wants to, with a guarantee of (let’s say) tolerance? Well, there sort of is, provided all you want is VR porn scenes, not VR porn games – it’s SexLikeReal, but the more these services lock down the content that can be accessed and side-loaded, the riskier users’ actions have to become to escape the ‘walls’.
At the other end of the scale, there are dedicated VR headsets for porn, but these tend to work out as a bit expensive, and a bit limited in functionality – needlessly so, as there literally wouldn’t be a need for them at all if the major platforms were a little more open to adult content.
Hopefully, if VR studios aren’t being stymied at every turn with threats to privacy and compatibility, some of the innovation that begins with the adult industry will start to drip down into the non-adult realm. See, letting adults making adult choices can help everyone after all.
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