Kmart in the VRChat metaverse is exactly what it sounds like—four identical recreations of the failing department store. Additionally, the majority of the staff members are anime cat people. My heart started to rush when I saw screenshots and a video of VRChat Kmart from Twitter user @CoachDorntastic. I had to experience it firsthand. An passionate Discord gang of like-minded gamers descends on the maps to roleplay as Kmart employees, “staffing” the VRChat Kmarts. Even my internet-addled brain struggles to distinguish between this and other expressions of affection and nostalgia for Kmart and the time period it stands for. I suppose it’s a little of both for the majority of the group.
One of the VRChat Kmart department managers, Lumanare, stated that it was the “dream” of the developer, Ericirno, to “ensure a once-great department store, one that could have challenged Wal-Mart in the contemporary day had fate been kinder, is forever preserved in some way.” When this article was published, Eric himself was not accessible for comment. Despite some tasteful and deliberate anachronisms like a selection of Xbox 360 games or 12-packs of Mountain Dew Baja Blast—the best Mountain Dew flavor, which would not be introduced until 2004, Lumanare describes the original branch of VRChat Kmart as the team’s “best effort to emulate a Kmart from 1992.” It is “a 1:1 scale reproduction of the original store Ericirno worked at,” according to the official website(opens in new tab). I can completely relate to the strange nostalgia for a place where you were generally treated like garbage as a former service worker.
You can also visit a gigantic Super Kmart, a Kmart Express, and an alluring Punished “Venom” Kmart that seems to exist in a “alternative timeline.” I saw those hilarious videos of other people arguing with Master Chief rather than playing VR Chat, so I boomered my way through getting the game to operate and unintentionally started at the Super Kmart location.