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Youth Identity in Focus: The V-Tuber Phenomenon

Multiple Virtual YouTuber characters (Images courtesy of Gamerman's Lounge/Binus University)
Multiple Virtual YouTuber characters (Images courtesy of Gamerman’s Lounge/Binus University)

Invisible bones are created in 3D models to represent the interior skeleton of the object, and weight values are assigned to the bones to control how the object interacts. Each animation that may take place for each moving part of a 2D model is defined by its rigging, which includes not only mouth and eye motions but also hair movements, clothing adjustments, and even cleavage jiggles. 

One other prerequisite for a VTuber model to work is a system for tracking motion. Depending on the individual, these configurations might be complicated. Others record their upper body or facial motions, whilst some have intricate setups that need complete body monitoring.

On the technology side of VTubing, several research has been done, especially in the areas of motion capture, animation, and expression. Both the audience of a VTuber and the VTubers themselves are influenced by visual appeal and perceived model quality. The creation of an automated animation system allows VTubers to have complete control over the avatar’s movement while also supporting more basic configurations for the necessary hardware.

Photo courtesy of Tsukiyomi Shigure (@081129_shigu)/Medium
Tsukiyomi Shigure (@081129_shigu amtoyumtimmy.medium.com)

The experience and perception of viewers as VTubers are explored in one of the most thorough research on VTubers. Because viewers could switch between different VTubers based on preferences or aesthetics, some viewers prefer viewing VTubers to watching a TV program with an ensemble cast. Interviewers believed that because VTubers are virtual, their expectations are different from those of live streamers. While several interviewees opposed the practice of real-person streamers asking for cash donations and virtual goods, they thought it was appropriate for Vtubers.

When discussing identity, the VTubers observe that in contrast to Asian VTubers, English and French-speaking VTubers place a strong focus on personal expression. Their objectives center on fostering happiness, community progress, and the creation of a tight-knit, homey neighborhood. In other words, there is a stronger focus on the VTuber as a whole and having a tight relationship with their specific audience.While gestures and facial emotions are absent during a phone call, it does provide synchronous communication and intonation. For example, if youths are timid and introverted in real life, they may be outgoing and loud online. Online social spaces can be used as a platform for an individual’s idealized self or to cover up for perceived personal flaws. Online communication can also have “the online disinhibition effect,” where people express suppressed feelings, anxieties, and desires in ways that might be harmful or beyond constructive. These can include bizarre deeds of compassion and kindness as well as violent, perverse, and nasty actions.

Wide eyes (especially for girls) and a somewhat androgynous look are common features of manga. (Image courtesy of Japan Zone/Game Quitters)
Wide eyes (especially for girls) and a somewhat androgynous look are common features of manga. (Japan Zone/Game Quitters)

Based on Mamat and her friend’s survey of Vtubers consumption, only 83 of the 104 people responded to this survey question. Among 83 replies, 26.9% are familiar with “VTuber,” while 8.7% were uncertain. The noteworthy number of individuals acquainted with the term is remarkable, considering VTubers gained popularity five years ago, remaining a recent development in anime subculture. Out of 14 respondents, 16.9% watched VTubers 1 to 5 hours per week, and one person spent 6 to 10 hours weekly during leisure time.

Generally, the respondents are positively influenced by VTubers since these viewers are encouraged  to become more informed, relaxed, motivated, creative, and excited about learning Japanese. They feel more successful thanks to the culture, in addition to comprehending Japanese and English conversations better and ultimately being more fluent in speaking Japanese.

On the downside, viewing VTubers has a bad connotation and is often associated with addiction to pornography. People who know little about this entertainment subsegment stereotype its viewers as someone who is fixated on an unusual sexual urge or deed. 

One responder claimed that they became addicted to watching VTubers and wanted to watch more, while another mentioned that learning Japanese swear words took a toll on their well-being. Admittedly, some survey participants watch VTubers as a time waster. However, it eliminated their ability to sleep. But as long as they did not engage in the activity, several of the respondents said that there was no detrimental impact on them.

While engaging with VTubers in itself is not inherently harmful, it’s important to recognize that the habits that viewers develop as a result can have negative consequences. So, if you find yourself drawn into excessive binge-watching of VTubers, it might be time to reflect.  

Are you concerned about the potential of becoming addicted to VTubers? To counter this, there are several effective strategies to consider.

One approach is to set limits on your VTuber viewing time, ensuring you strike a healthy balance. Another option is to periodically take breaks from VTuber content, allowing your mind to reset. You could also use VTubers as a reward for accomplishing tasks, making your viewing experience more intentional.  

If you find it challenging to manage your consumption, reaching out for support is crucial. Don’t hesitate to lean on friends and family for assistance. They can offer guidance and encouragement and help you stay accountable. Moreover, exploring alternative, positive activities can divert your attention from excessive VTuber watching, enabling personal growth and fulfillment.   Remember, the goal is not to completely eliminate your enjoyment of VTubers but to ensure that it remains a healthy and balanced part of your life.

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