VRChat changed Joe Hunting’s life. Not only did the first-person virtual reality game serve as the setting for Hunting’s debut film “We Met in Virtual Reality,” but it also introduced the 23-year-old director, producer, writer and editor to his new girlfriend. (The Sundance-premiered documentary, now streaming on HBO Max, is garnering mostly glowing reviews as well as a few ambivalent ones.)
Hunting, a British-born recent graduate of the University of Gloucestershire, began using VRChat in 2018, mostly for gaming and short-film experiments. But amid pandemic lockdowns in September 2020, he decided to turn his virtual world into an IRL documentary. His 93-minute feature traces the lives of fellow VRChat users, recording their avatars in conversation as they coped with grief, found love and formed deep and fulfilling friendships. He finished the film in December 2021. For a documentary that features no actual human actors, “We Met in Virtual Reality” is filled with humanity.
The Information chatted with Hunting, who was zooming in from his part-time home in Sacramento, Calif., about his personal VR habits, how a filmmaker operates in this brave new medium and what he looks for in an avatar. The interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.