+
upworthy
Heroes

She was sexually harassed in a VR game. So the game added self-defense superpowers.

Jordan Belamire's story starts in a snowy, medieval fortress shooting arrows at zombies and giant spiders.

The fortress wasn't real, of course; it was a level in a video game called QuiVr. She was actually standing in the living room of her brother-in-law's home in Redwood City. In her hands were two motion-sensing video game controllers and strapped to her head was the HTC Vive — one of the best and first consumer-level virtual reality (VR) headsets available.

A man using the HTC Vive. Photo by Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images.


Belamire was completely immersed in this virtual snow-blanketed landscape.

"Never had I experienced virtual reality that felt so real," Belamire wrote of her time playing QuiVr. "I was smitten. I never wanted to leave this world."

VR is a essentially a series of games brought to life by a headset that immerses you in a 3D, 360-degree simulated environment. The headset tracks your head movements so that if you look up in real life, you'll see the simulated sky. Look to your left, and there's a fast approaching enemy. Look to your right, and you see a fellow player, signed in to the game with you.

VR promises to be at least the next big thing in entertainment. At most? An interactive technology as ubiquitous as TV or the internet.

But VR is not without some unexpected problems — and Belamire's experience with the game soon turned sour.

Belamire booted up a multiplayer version of the same game, launching herself back into the same, snowy, virtual world. This time, however, she had other real life players — virtually — beside her.

Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images.

Between waves of attacking zombies, a nearby player began groping Belamire's avatar — grabbing at her chest with a disembodied 3D floating hand.

It was just as weird and creepy as it sounds.

"I must have laughed from the embarrassment and the ridiculousness of the situation," Belamire said. "Women, after all, are supposed to be cool and take any form of sexual harassment with a laugh. But I still told him to stop."

The other player didn't stop. In fact, he chased and followed Belamire, continuing his virtual assault despite her multiple pleas to stop. Frustrated, she had no choice but to rip off her headset and log out of the game.

Belamire left the game wondering if virtual reality was destined to become yet another space where women are chased out by targeted harassment.

Photo by Glenn Chapman/AFP/Getty Images.

She wrote of the experience in a blog post (which has since been deleted) and then, presumably, expected that to be the end of it. After all, tech companies have been notoriously hit or miss when it comes to responding to online harassment.

Then something unexpected happened. Belamire got a response from the game company.

"The first thing I felt was that we had let someone down," wrote Andrew Stanton, a developer for QuiVR. "We should have prevented this in the first place."

Stanton and fellow developer Jonathan Schenker were deeply saddened and disturbed by Belamire's experience in their game but used it as motivation to solve the problem. "No one should be able to treat another player like [Belamire] had been treated again," Stanton said.

They introduced an in-game solution in the form of a superpower. With the push of a button, players were granted the ability to create a personal bubble around their avatar that makes anyone who enters it disappear from view. It's a simple and innovative solution that puts the power directly in the player's hands to control their personal player-space in a virtual world.

"We don’t know if this solution will work perfectly," Stanton wrote. "And it’s certainly not the only solution; like everyone in VR, we’re just learning how to approach these very real problems. "

VR is a young technology, which means now is the time for developers to implement forward-thinking solutions to these inevitable problems.

Virtual reality essentially promises a new plane of reality. One where you can be whoever you want to be and one where, ideally, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy and safety.

Mark Zuckerberg has been a big supporter of VR technology and its potential to extend beyond gaming into social interactions. Photo by Glenn Chapman/AFP/Getty Images.

Harassment and bullying are an unfortunately ubiquitous part of the gaming community. Game creators across all platforms are addressing it in different ways. Riot Games, for example, built a "player behavior team" filled with psychology Ph.D.s to analyze, study, and tackle the rampant harassment they found in their online communities.

VR has the potential to be a mainstream entertainment platform that reaches more people than standard video games. The difference is that VR games feel real to those playing — meaning things like virtual sexual harassment feel just like real-world sexual harassment and can cause the same emotional trauma. To that end, solutions are badly needed to protect players like Belamire who had her experience ruined in mere minutes.

Photo by Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images.

The developers of QuiVr plan to make their "personal bubble" technology available to all VR game developers — and Jordan Belamire thanked them for addressing her concerns so quickly and efficiently.

Wherever this whole VR thing goes, it should be a place where everyone can have fun, where no one has to be subjected to sexual harassment or bullying or unwanted attention.

It's a lofty promise, but VR is inherently untied to the laws of reality. Giving players bully-stopping superpowers is simply a matter of writing code. Maybe the future of VR is the future of personal empowerment. Maybe not.

At the very least, you should be able to kill some zombies in peace.

Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

Keep ReadingShow less

Kevin Bacon's farm songs have become a social media favorite.

When Beyoncé dropped two songs from her upcoming album of country tunes, Renaissance: Act II, she may not have expected to make history, but that's exactly what happened. Her first single from the album, "Texas Hold 'Em," shot to the No.1 spot on the Billboard country music charts, making her the first Black female artist to hit that top spot. The catchy tune also topped the Billboard Hot 100 the last week in February 2024, a week after it debuted at No. 2.

Presumbaly, Queen Bey didn't expect her song to become an Irish stepdance hit, though that's also exactly what happened. And surely she didn't expect it to be sung by Kevin Bacon to a bunch of farm animals, yet that also has happened.

Perhaps we should all have expected that, though. There's a precedent here, after all.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photos by Daniela on Unsplash (left) and Rens D on Unsplash (right)

Peeling garlic is notoriously challenging.

If you ever cook with fresh garlic, you know what a challenge it can be to remove the cloves from the skin cleanly, especially if you're starting with a full head.

There are various methods people use to peel garlic, with varying levels of success. Doing it by hand works, but will leave you with garlic-smelling fingertips for the better part of a day. Whacking the head on the counter helps separate the cloves from each other, but doesn't help much with removing the skin.

Some people swear by vigorously shaking the skinned cloves around in a covered bowl or jarred lid, which can be surprisingly effective. Some smash the clove with the flat side of a knife to loosen it and then pull it off. Others utilize a rubber roller to de-skin the cloves.

But none of these methods come close to the satisfaction of watching someone perfectly peeling an entire head of garlic with a pair of tongs.

Keep ReadingShow less

Teen with size 23 feet receives new shoes from Shaq

Any adult responsible for raising a teen will tell you that not only do teens eat a lot and sleep nearly as much as they did as infants, they also grow quickly. Sometimes it feels like their growth spurts are literally happening overnight. You go to sleep with a squeaky voiced teenager that's still shorter than you only to wake up to what appears to be a fully grown man wearing your child's clothes.

It's no wonder that parents can have a hard time keeping up with the ever changing clothes and shoe sizes that come with a growing teen. But Tamika Neal's son has surpassed what would be considered the average height and weight of a 16-year-old, which means he's also outgrown sizes carried in the stores.

According to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, boys aged 16 are typically between 5-foot-3 and 6-foot, weighing between 104 to 180 pounds. Jor'el Bolden is a towering 6-foot-5 and 380 pounds with a size 23 shoe.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Erin Bailey Law (used with permission) and Monstera Production/Pexels

Erin Bailey has taken a hard stand on sleepovers.

A mother who’s a criminal defense attorney is going viral on TikTok for a hard stance she has taken on her children going to sleepovers. For Erin Bailey of South Carolina, the answer is a big no. The reason? There are too many variables that could make her children vulnerable to sexual assault.

Bailey has a practice in Georgetown and is ranked among the Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers in South Carolina by the National Trial Lawyers.

"I don’t allow my children to go to sleepovers. I’m a criminal attorney and here’s why,” she opens the video. “First and primary is the S.A. [sexual assault] risk. While you may feel like you know the parents who are hosting the sleepover really well, and you know and love and trust them, that's exactly who's committing S.A.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Harold Krichel, Wikipedia/Representative Image from Canva

Anne Hathaway hilariously tries to sit in a tight latex dress during Fashion Week in Milan

Anne Hathaway might have played fashion-oblivious Andrea Sachs in “Devil Wears Prada,” but nowadays, in real life (or at least on the red carpet) she’s more on the level of Miranda Priestley—turning heads at every event with showstopping looks.

However, no matter how high her status as a fashion icon rises, the “Princess Diaries” actress still holds onto her humility.

Case and point: she has no problem sharing what it’s really like to wear certain designer dresses. Spoiler alert: it’s not quite as effortless as the fashionistas make it look.

Keep ReadingShow less