elt like some character from a canned Black Mirror episode: alone in my boxers on a Sunday night, with a bulky silver headset strapped to my face, a joystick in one hand and a Bud Light in the other. But inside the goggles, I was courtside at a Magic–Cavs game, next to a 16-year-old grocery bagger with virtual blue sunglasses and a virtual blond Afro. His online alias: Slim Shady.
Last year, the NBA and Oculus ran a commercial featuring Adam Levine and Jonah Hill watching the Warriors in their respective homes while their look-alike avatars sat beside each other in VR, nodding, moving their mouths, and waving their hands. They were bro-ing out in Oculus Venues, a virtual theater that lets you watch live concerts, comedy shows, and sports with hundreds of cyber randos. Since I spend most nights scrolling through Twitter and dating apps with a game running in the background, I figured: Why not find the Adam Levine to my Jonah Hill? So one day this spring, I got an Oculus Go headset, decked out my digital self (green hoodie, flattop, and VR headset with cat eyes on it), and picked up a few tall boys for a Monday-night matchup between the Warriors and the Hornets.
After being subjected to an eerie code-of-conduct video (summary: Making the jack-off gesture with my virtual hand could get me virtually ejected), I appeared in my seat as the game started. Someone popped up in the seat next to mine, and, not knowing what to do, I said, “Whaddup?” Then, a boy’s voice: “What’s up? Whatsupwhatsup? What’s up, trill? People around meeeee . . . I’m all the way up here—oh my Lord!” A second voice screeched, “I’M HIS LITTLE SISTER!” I gathered that the one avatar was multiple siblings trying VR for the first time. The little sister’s scouting report on Kevin Durant: “DANG HE BIG!” Read more