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With the rising popularity of the metaverse, what kind of social responsibility and etiquette do we have to uphold in this world? The research conducted examines the history of the metaverse, avatars and embodiment, and social accountability. Through conducting and developing a VR experimental game, there is much to be learned from players’ responses to how they reflect upon their actions in virtual worlds, a space where people can easily act differently from their normal selves under an anonymous guise. The proposed game is a study in new rules of VR social etiquette.

Keywords: VR, Social Responsibility, Social Etiquette, Game Design, User Experience, Educational, Metaverse, Avatars and Identity, Unity


April 2022 - May 2023


I worked on the methodologies/user experience/game design research, UI/UX/game development, and written proposals. Throughout the year, I had multiple presentations, a gantt chart, competitive analysis, style guide, and conducted user testing for the project.

Thesis Statement

VR offers opportunities to trigger deep conversations about social responsibility in virtual spaces.

Target Users

This project targets both new VR users as well as those who are already familiar with the space since it aims to educate and provoke thoughts surrounding social etiquette in the metaverse.

Phase 1: Research


In order to better understand social responsibility in VR, I had to first do a deep dive into some surrounding areas, including:

  • History of VR and socialization

  • Avatar, Identity, Representation, Embodiment

  • Perception, Orientation, Accountability

  • Existing Works


  • The idea of VR has been around since the 1930s but has gained a lot of attraction and popularity in recent years

  • VR has evolved to personalize experiences and mimicked real world architectural integrity in order to make the virtual environmental more pleasant to be in

  • Avatar likeness range from "very mechanical" to "very humanlike" (uncanny valley) and avatar style range from "cartoonish" to "visually detailed"

  • An avatar is given a sense of personality and unique behavior, resulting in users attach themselves to the avatar as a second self. The self-presentation is portrayed and experienced as a combination of conscious personal choices and specific technological affordances

  • Being perceived in the virtual world helps to solidify the individual's presence in that world

  • VR technological orientation still differs from the real world

  • Accountability starts existing in the metaverse when an individual's presence and humanness strengthens over time

Phase 2: Prototyping

Prototyping Timeline

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Prototype 1​

  • The first step in creating a game in Unity was to place down various random objects. Without any prior knowledge of either Unity or Unreal, I chose Unity as I understood there to be more tutorials and assets available for reference.

  • In this prototype, my main focus was adding in snap turns, teleportation, a mirror, and some environment objects. From research, the key to allowing players to experience a sense of embodiment in a virtual environment was through the orientation and viewing of the self in a virtual world. By including an XR Interaction Toolkit and the movement systems that come with it (i.e. XR Rig, Locomotion, Teleportation, Snap Turn), the player will be able to move about in any given environment. Further alterations to the movement settings will allow for a slightly different experience. In this prototyping phase, I left the movement settings as is. There was also an intention to leave out the Continuous Move Provider since free movement causes dizziness due to the body being still while the eyes are able to perceive movement. Frame rate droppage also causes vertigo since even though we are still seeing in first person perspective in VR, we are not used to seeing frame drops in our vision in everyday life.

  • While I worked on getting the XR components to work, I also started a game story script. During this prototyping phase, Ludology pointed me towards creating a story narrative to help encapsulate the audience and get them to be better immersed into the story. 

  • The project was named “Masked Mirror” based on the identity dichotomy between the real and virtual world.

Prototype 2

  • Building off of the previous prototype, I started looking into importing .fbx models from Blender and the Unity asset store. One model I tried was a room I had created for VR class. The proportions were different from how I imagined so I made some adjustments to it. As simple as some things may sound, I often found myself having trouble finding where adjustments were located. Oftentimes, I would click on a setting and unknowingly create errors for the future.

  • In this phase, there were some XR interactions added so that players can interact with the objects affected by gravity, giving the world some degree of realism. I used the examples from my VR class, a tennis racket and ball. The ball itself was able to bounce with adjustable gravity and I played around with the idea of having items be able to float when being let go, similar to how a drawing pen in VRChat floats when let go.

  • I thought about the potential of having objects that can be interacted with but don’t have meaning aside from what the player assigns it (e.g. a camera can be picked up but cannot take a photo, so the player can only hold the item).

Pre-Thesis Mood Board Week 10.png
Pre-Thesis Mood Board Week 10 (1).png

Prototype 3

  • During this phase, I completed my mood board, color palettes, must-haves, and found additional resources. I thought about the possibility for a few layers of immersion, where the player would see a game’s main character who sees their avatar. Furthermore, to distinguish which “layer” the player is viewing the game from, I chose different color palettes. However, this idea proved to be difficult to execute from a technical standpoint later on, which I will explain further in Prototype 4.

  • I also figured out how to use a plugin to help import an avatar from websites with premade avatars (e.g. Ready Player Me) as well as started model rigging so that the imported model isn’t stiff. In this phase of prototyping, I started having ideas for viewing the self from a third person perspective so that the player has an out of body experience viewing their own actions performed. This goes back to my findings on Marc Owens’ “Avatar Machine” where he viewed himself in third person perspective. This model will later be changed into one more fitting for the environment since this current phase does not yet have a solid environment.

Prototype 4

  • The project had some big direction changes from this point forth, so I unnamed the project. Here, I started working on camera movement following the avatar. This was going to be the core mechanic tying together the project. I wanted to execute the idea where the player would float behind the avatar, viewing themselves from a third person perspective and have a higher awareness of their own actions.

  • A major technical roadblock was that the project became unviewable inside of the VR headset. Unbeknownst to me, I created some errors preventing the world from being viewable, so I dedicated a lot of time into fixing this error. I found that ultimately the issue had to do with the avatar camera movement. 

Prototype 5

  • After many conversations with classmates and meetings with my thesis professors and advisor, I decided to build a new environment with trees and interactable objects relevant to the updated game plot. I began putting together a forest-like environment for the player to explore.

  • My biggest time allocation during this and the last phase was working on the follow player camera movement. As seen in the image below, the camera is situated behind the avatar. One major revelation in this process is that I realized the player wearing the headset could look anywhere in the environment, so there was a high chance of the player abandoning the avatar by looking and moving in a different direction. From a technical point of view, I was challenged to make the avatar be in view of the player at all times. This was the case at some point in Prototype 4, but the idea felt backwards since there was no point in having the player be in VR if they could experience the game with similar camera mechanics in 2D. Here, I felt that I needed to change my direction one last time to adapt to my goal of getting the player to feel responsible for their actions in VR.

Prototype 6 - Final

  • After scratching the follow player movement, I thought about having the player’s animations scattered around the environment that shows what the player is doing. The player would then imitate what they see their avatar animations doing, following a cycle that leads to destruction at the end.

  • The experience is meant to last under ten minutes to prevent dizziness, so I shortened the experience and only included a few interactions, with fire propagation being the main event.

  • After in class conversations, I thought deeply about how being in an environment can trigger the player to reflect on their actions. There must be a consequence to an action that makes the player feel like they caused it. Since I was building out a forest-like environment already, I thought of one of the worst things that could happen, forest fires. This mechanic took a long time to get right, around the same if not longer time than the follow player movement that I scrapped. 

  • The environment was starting to take shape, as well as animations and interactions. Everything was slowly coming together, but I felt I was still missing the part where the player should care about setting fire to this environment without simply thinking that it’s a game and shifting blame to the avatar. This is where I thought about adding in two additional scenes to onboard and wrap up the narrative, by adding in a tutorial and ending scene.

  • The tutorial scene helped players get situated to being in a headset as well as showed the player’s avatar before they entered the portal. There is text floating above the wooden teleportation planks that give story context as well. Based on testing results, this helped to solidify an expected social etiquette before players entered into the forest environment.


“You are about to visit a remote village in the mountains. Remember to be respectful of the environment.”

“This is you. Observe carefully.

Now, enter the portal and have fun!”​

  • The ending scene, with a dark sunset different from the other two scene’s skyboxes, is only accessible after a player has burned down the environment. This was intentional as it would give players a reason to drop the torch. During testing, I found that due to the semi realistic approach to the environment, players refused to drop the torch as they were worried about the consequences. By including an obstacle before the end, I forced the players to see through an action and asked them to reflect when they reached the end.


The text in the last scene reads:

“So you set fire to the greenery?

Why did you do that?

VR offers a chance for a higher level of embodiment than traditional gameplay.

Please be mindful of how your actions may impact others in future VR social interactions!

The end.”

Phase 3: Production Rationale

  1. The player is first walked through a tutorial area with guides on how to navigate and interact with objects. They also see their own avatar and some story elements before they enter the next scene, an intentional game design helping to guide the way one should act in this virtual environment.

  2. Upon finishing the tutorial, the player enters a forest-like environment, with various interactable objects scattered along the main path. The interactions are chosen to help immerse the player into the environment, i.e. picking fruits in an environment filled with fruit trees.

  3. A key game trigger after a few interactions puts the environment in a devastating state, after which the player is able to leave the scene. Since the next scene is only accessible through seeing the destruction of the forest environment, the player is asked to reflect their actions through in-game text popups afterwards. This moment of reflection creates an opportunity for the player to think about the social etiquette that people should aim to uphold in virtual spaces.

The game is meant to be both thought provoking and educational for anyone who participates in online VR social interactions. With how seamless and immersive the VR experience is nowadays, anyone can step into the metaverse as themselves. VR becomes an interesting medium connecting the real and virtual world that allows for people to do game activities that they would typically do on a monitor.

The project is meant to be experienced in under ten minutes. As it aims at making the player reflect on their actions, it would help spark conversations about what kinds of social norms and etiquettes should be upheld in virtual worlds, a space where people can easily act differently from their normal selves under an anonymous guise. This is a study in new rules of VR social etiquette.


  • Practice as Research

    • Through this methodology, I learned about the relationship between social practices and self-representation. 

  • Design as Research/Participatory Design

    • By collecting data on people’s opinions on VR, the individual, and social responsibility, I am able to better understand and frame my project environment.

  • Ludology

    • After studying many games and understanding its core mechanics, I found some that could be implemented into my VR game to gamify the experience.

  • Critical Design

    • Thinking about critical design allowed me to implement features that will affect the player through game dialogue, juxtaposition, and provocation.

  • Auto-Ethnography

    • Based on personal experience with virtual social spaces and recently VR, I wanted to create an environment that is parallel to what I’ve experienced and push players to explore and think about what it means to embody an avatar socially.

  • User Centered Design

    • Through UX design practices, I am thinking about the ways elements are placed in the environment and how I can guide the user to achieve my predetermined goals while maintaining a smooth experience on the player’s end.

  • Social Anthropology/Sociology

    • What are the social norms and values of societies that don’t reflect equally in virtual spaces? This methodology helped me understand the dichotomy between real and virtual reality norms.

Prototyping Timeline

Demo Video


I was able to find some very interesting insights on the metaverse and create a project surrounding it. I also published my thesis dissertation to ProQuest!


This was my first big project using Unity. I used my UX knowledge to help guide my way through my goals for the project, but I've faced quite a handful of technological challenges throughout. Concept wise, it also took a while to narrow down and frame my idea.

Take Aways

For someone who loves to play games in my free time, I hadn't really considered UX in game design that much since my projects aren't usually game oriented. There is a lot to consider when creating a game level and mechanics that help make the gameplay smoothly. I was able to weave together my passion for games and UX design principles.

Thesis Defense

My year's worth of materials summarized in 10 minutes.

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