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The essence of the VTuber
What exactly is VTuber?
It’s easy to answer this question in a dictionary-like way, saying “people who use avatars online,” but I suspect we must dive deeper. Perhaps those of you reading will agree that there is more to this phenomenon than simply ‘using an avatar.’
Regarding The VTuber, what exactly is the “essence?” What’s ahead for this kind of technology?
Avatar and character as one “fashion”
One of my favorite phrases is “The world changes with just one piece of clothing.” For example, don’t you feel excited or perhaps different when you put on your favorite clothes, or feel like you’re a little different than usual? On such a day, even the world will surely look brighter than usual.
Many people have experienced that feeling- that they feel they have changed when they change “fashion” such as accessories, shoes, and hairstyles, not just clothes.
On the contrary, it is possible to change such fashion according to one’s feelings and intentions. After a broken heart, you can cut your hair for a change, or start with fashion so that you can behave like an adult.
This is just an example of how fashion interacts with people’s minds and behaviors, even though it is a “retrofit element that can be exchanged to your liking.”
It is true that the human body, mind, and soul are physically different from external elements such as fashion, but those things that are consciously or unconsciously recognized as “a part of oneself”. Human beings are not so simple creatures that we can feel nothing about them.
And when you wear an avatar that is your appearance in virtual reality, or a character that is a tentative but personality itself, it is rather unnatural that you will not be affected by it. Moreover, some of the elements of VTubers can be said to be fashion that is worn in a material “self” area that is closer to the core than clothes and hairstyles, which is closer to the soul area that cannot normally be dealt with .
Just as we get excited when we come to our favorite clothes and get into work mode by changing into crisp suits, the so called ‘Babiniku’ (Japanese term for an online avatar depicting an anime-style female character used by content creators who are often (but not always) male) wears the appearance of a beautiful girl as a VTuber. Then, the perception of “self” (self-awareness) may change, and as a result, the behavior and thoughts may change little by little.
What is the essence of VTuber?
In the previous section, VTuber is a fashion that wears “appearance” and “heart” in the virtual world, and because of that, it has the potential to change the heart of “people inside.”
However, this is a story from the inside experience of VTubers, and it lacks the important viewpoint of the majority of viewers who make up the outside observers of this relationship. Now, I would like to focus on this viewer’s point of view and talk about the essence of VTuber.
Originally, from a materialistic point of view, the only thing that actually exists in the mechanism called VTuber is the “people inside” and the “avatar” as its front end. In other words, “the person in the middle” = “avatar”, and what exists on the distribution screen is simply the person in the middle who has changed his appearance.
But perhaps this opinion is disappointing to many VTuber enthusiasts, including myself. There is definitely something that is neither an “inside person” nor an “avatar” as a puppet .
I consider that “something” to be the essence of VTuber . And one of the things that creates it is the viewer’s line of sight. The viewer should have the illusion that the personality certainly exists . The essence of VTuber, “something,” is created by organically connecting elements in this way to form a single entity.
In other words, ” the existence of VTuber, who is neither a person inside nor an avatar, who exists as a personality on the other side of this screen “, the virtual existence is the essence of VTuber.
And this “illusion” is not just for the viewer. Because it was none other than the distributor himself who intended it. In other words, VTuber, a virtual existence that does not exist in the real world, really exists when both viewers and distributors believe that it does exist in the virtual world.
It is the reality of the virtual world, that is, virtual reality (VR).
And the biggest difference between VTubers and other fictional characters, which may also appear as virtual beings in animation or movies, is none other than this virtual reality .
The discourse that anime and manga characters exist is just a vomit of desire, but on the other hand when asked if VTubers exists, it is difficult for many to at least assert that it does not exist.
Even though the “character called X” doesn’t exist anywhere, everyone still feels the real reality of interacting with X (virtual reality) . Don’t you think this is very strange when you think about it?
Now, let’s return the viewpoint to the “people inside” side again…
Viewer reaction is what creates the VTuber
I have already mentioned that acting as a VTuber goes beyond acting just to wear a character as a surface layer and transforms the thoughts and behaviors of the “people inside”. The viewer’s line of sight and reaction are deeply involved in this change.
Originally, wearing an avatar and performing as such character is “acting.” And apart from the first-class actors and voice actors who can immerse themselves in any role, acting usually gives a sense of discomfort that “this is not me.” It’s like wearing clothes that don’t fit. It is a sense of incongruity that the image of “self” in me (what I want to be, what I want to be) and my actual behavior are different.
Human beings can obtain mental stability only when self-image and self-awareness are matched in this way, and the behavior that dissociates them is stressful. Therefore, if you continue to act too hard, you will end up separating such behavior from “yourself,” saying “that is not me.” The mask that corresponds to the self and avatar separated in this way is, so to speak, a “persona “.
(If you’ve played the “Persona” series, this explanation will be very nice.)
Human self-awareness is unexpectedly vague, while affirmation from others has a strong impact on humans.
Did you notice that the same can be said for VTubers?
In other words, the above-mentioned influence on the “soul” of wearing the fashion of a VTuber is greatly enhanced by the positive reactions (comments, replies, views, etc.) from these viewers.
The VTuber, who is a “self in the virtual world” that is very different from the self in the real world, said, “That’s it, this is this” because of the discomfort that “that is not me” that is proportional to the distance. It seems like I ‘m going to be separated from myself.
However, a positive reaction from the viewer overturns this instinctive reaction. The gap between “self in the virtual world” and “self-image” is resolved by changing the self-image by the affirmation from the surroundings, and the self in the virtual world also feels like himself.
In particular, the VTuber community has a strong attitude of sending a positive reaction of “like” rather than “dislike”, which is especially strong for both distributors and viewers, and that is what supports these changes in a good way.
The strengthening of behavior by the reaction of the surroundings is actually a phenomenon that is commonplace in reality. However, the unique existence of the VTuber is that “self in virtual” is always in the eyes of others in the environment of distribution and receives real-time reactions.
If you make a mistake or make a mistake during the delivery and do something that you think is “not like you”, you will get an almost instant (usually positive) response. For example, when you sneeze or make a strange voice, you usually get impatient with “I’m done,” but in response to this, the comment section has a positive reaction such as “sneezing” or “low voice is cute”. What if it was full of sneezes? (Although you can see if you look, most of the delivery is like this reaction)
This is because the existence of VTuber is a fictitious reality that exists not only in the “people in the middle” but also in the viewer, and therefore changes in the viewer . It is a phenomenon in which a character walks alone, leaving the creator’s hand, as it is called in a creative work. The trajectory of VTuber’s soul, which changes and evolves day by day, and the archives that accumulate with activities will eventually produce the same phenomenon of walking alone.
Thus, there is a common understanding here: “Beyond this screen, a fictitious existence called VTuber, which is neither the person inside, nor just an avatar, exists as a personality”, not only from the viewer’s side. It will also be established from the self-awareness of the distributor.
Finally: What is waiting for the future from here onwards
Now that my boring and verbose narrative has settled down, let’s conclude with a slightly fresh, slightly dreamy future outlook .
Around that, let’s go back a little. Visit the old and know the new, that is, the old and new.
VTuber is an extension of avatars such as online games. Both are the same in that they are the appearance of the virtual world that changes to “the self in the real world” and are the icons that attract the eyes of people. I think that the two major epochs are avatar and VTuber, and what has changed between them is “a significant improvement in humanity through tracking technology” and “the existence of identity elements such as unique appearance, personality, and flavor settings.” The combination of these two gives the viewer a sense of reality that makes them believe in the “virtual existence of VTuber “, and the “person inside” has the physicality that the former is VTuber = myself (that is part of me). It can be said that it has become a sprout to nurture a new unique existence of “another self in the virtual world” in combination with the viewer’s line of sight.
Then, if you follow the extension of Avatar and its evolution system, VTuber, the future will naturally emerge.
Further improvement of humanity due to the development of tracking technology is already becoming a reality. The number of VTubers that obtain 3D bodies through multi-point 3D tracking is increasing day by day, and the technology is constantly advancing. Naturally, 3D is closer to our body than 2D, and the reality for the viewer (humanity) and the physicality for the insider (own body) are enhanced.
And as those who have experienced with VR goggles etc. will understand, the experience of moving one’s body in the VR world tells us that ” Avatar is one’s own body itself ” that is incomparable to other things. I will hit the recognition. When I put on my VR goggles and look at my hand, there is a little girl’s palm, and if I wave my hand toward the mirror in the VR space, I can’t be myself, but I ‘m definitely myself. “I am in the world” there. This astonishment can be experienced by anyone who logs in to VRChat now and will continue to grow in intensity as consumer devices evolve.
As technology advances, the evolution of haptic devices (devices that reproduce the feeling of touching) will support this. As the days go by, the distinction between our reality and the virtual body disappears, and eventually the “virtual body” is not a figurative meaning, but the cognitive difference with our own body disappears. In the original sense, “virtual body” = you will feel that you are practically your own body.
And in terms of the latter, the identity element that defines VTuber as an individual, technology will also expand the world. One example is the voice changer.
In abstraction, a voice changer is the power of technology to convert “your own voice in the real world” into the “your own voice in the virtual world” This composition has the same elements as appearance and personality, but what is important is the outlook that virtual world elements will increase steadily as technology develops in the same way.
What one imagines will surely come true. In the not-too-distant future, the day will come when humans can change their mood and tension as they wish with the ease of applying hair wax and changing their hairstyle.
Making of the face, hair, height, such as integrated elements on the appearance of course, voice and intonation, such as how to walk or trivial gestures, and eventually mood. The day may come when it will be possible to convert to “what you want in the virtual world”.
The identity element of “I in the virtual world” that deviates from the real self, and the virtual that I can feel in my body so much that I cannot say “It is different from me because it is an avatar after all” due to the development of technology. Two conflicting elements certainly create a discrepancy and anxiety in our self-awareness. That is our limit, no matter how much we change ourselves into what we want to be, we cannot freely transform our inner perceptions and self-images.
I feel that VTuber will show us the way in such a distant future.
It bridges the gap between “I in the real world” and “I in the virtual world”.