Metaverse is a word with a very abstract concept. It’s like talking about flying cars: it sounds like a beautiful idea, with a magnificent utility, but nobody really knows how it would work, if it will work, and if so when it will be implemented in everyday life.
Metaverse is a collective, shared virtual web ecosystem that is constantly connected and shares our physical experiences and relationships in the digital world.
First of all, one prerequisite of The Metaverse would need a single digital and online identification of people to come to fruition. Today, to access the different internet mediums like Facebook, Youtube, PSN, and Xbox Live, you need an identity, an account. Matthew Ball makes the analogy that it is as if every time you go to a bar or restaurant, they require you to have a different ID, and each establishment has its own standards, currency, and other entitlements. Although it seems – and probably is – a distant future, uniting all digital spaces so that each person has a single ID to access them would be one of the key points for implementing the Metaverse.
The Metaverse is already considered the next step in the evolution of the Internet, but even experts have a hard time explaining in words what this means. One takeaway, which we consider keen, is that today we are spectators in some of the more humane interactions on the Internet, such as a live broadcast on Instagram. We interact remotely with other people, chatting and exposing reactions, but immersion is still lacking. With the Metaverse, we will be able to add that immersion. Take Fortnite as an example. Geoff Keighley interviewed J.J Abrams inside the game about Star Wars IX, and players actively participated in a quiz game while the director answered questions in an avatar modeled after his image. This interaction was limited to the game’s technology but still gave more freedom than simply typing something or using an emoji. The Metaverse intends to promote even more ways to interact with other users on the virtual plane, using AR and VR to emulate a space and even enabling sensory signals over long distances. But for this, the technology needs to evolve to merely imaginative and not even treaded levels. Well, maybe not. After all, with scientists creating haptic holograms, perhaps the future is nearer than we imagine.
The economy inside the Metaverse
One thing that will fuel the Metaverse is cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens (NFTs.) We have premium services and exclusive items in many games that can be purchased with their respective in-game currency – ranging from gems, diamonds, crystals, coins, whatever. You use your physical dollars to buy this currency and, with it, purchase items or unlock earlier features within the game. However, once you invest money and buy this currency, there is no turning back. You either spend it, or you don’t, but you can’t get your bucks back.
However, with the rise of cryptocurrencies and NFT, the game has shifted. While your virtual currency was bound only to the game universe, we now have some games like Axie Infinity and the long-running Second Life that allow you to trade and use your virtual money in exchange for, let’s say, real-life money. Second Life, for instance, is a game where you create a 3D avatar and live in a digital world that resembles our own (that is if we could fly anywhere.) Although restricted to only a few high-rollers inside the game, some players can already sustain themselves in the real world by living their life in the digital world. Using Linden Dollars, the game’s virtual currency, you can invest in property, renovate it and sell afterward for Linden Dollars. Then convert it into, well, Dollars. Anshe Chung is a digital realtor who profited insanely from the game by doing this operation. Axie Infinity operates similarly. By buying the game’s NFT, Smooth Love Potion (SLP), you can get new Axies or breed them together to compete in pokémon-style fights. The higher your rank, the more SLP you earn, and consequently, the more you can trade in the currency your local pizza shop accepts.
Video gaming in the Metaverse
What does this mean for the future of the gaming world? Or even for our traditional world. Games have been dipping their toes in the layout that’s shaping up to be the Metaverse for quite a while now. In the old days, games were a form of interactive entertainment. Soon, it became something more full-bodied, with storytelling, captivating and memorable characters. With E-sports, gaming has evolved beyond a mere hobby, but still for an elite portion of players. Only now, with NFT, ordinary gamers are beginning to see games as a form of monetary investment, even though Few still live by this alone. The Metaverse comes further to enhance the entertaining experience of gaming into something just seen in movies or books.
Tim Sweeney of Fortnite has a more entrepreneurial view on the Metaverse. Fortnite has been responsible for uniting disparate brands within a single ecosystem. While DC and Marvel compete in various media, Fortnite allows you to put Thanos and Superman side by side, building a fort and shooting enemies to pursue victory. Trademark and royalties aside, it’s simple as that. More than unifying competitors, Sweeney wants brands to intertwine between the physical and digital worlds, releasing the same assets concurrently. If an automobile manufacturer releases a new car, Sweeney would like it to be embedded into the game so that players can test-drive it in the same way it was crafted in the real-life.
Anyway, we know that the gaming world can only evolve and ride with the technological wave. Metaverse is not a concept tied to VR, AR, XR, or any other R we have. But it is undoubtedly a medium that leans heavily on alternate realities when developing new IPs. And with these technological ascensions come new job opportunities, in which Gamesmith will indeed list all the video game jobs available, even if you have to do a digitally in-person interview with your eerily reality-like avatar.
Is Metaverse the final platform?
Movies like Ready Player One show an imaginative future where the Metaverse has evolved to extremes. People have a digital avatar that can simulate reality perfectly and expand upon it. But is the Metaverse the latest evolution of the Internet? And would this evolution be a good or a bad thing?
In a whimsical and slightly stretched example, we have the dystopian future of Wall-E. Humans are so dependent on technology that they have become disconnected from the ordinary plane, and the consequences have been disastrous for everyday people. But back to a more tangible reality, how much could this digital immersion detach us from our physical existence?
Let’s stick to the realm of gaming. Playing an MMORPG immerses us in a living, constantly evolving world where collaboration with other players is essential to progress and beget a satisfying experience. Now imagine if we could dive into this world, take on an avatar and experience an alternate reality that not only develops our physical and cognitive abilities but is also an escape from our reality, which may or may not conform to our standards?
How tempting would it be to live in this utopian ideal digital world and avoid the problems in the physical world? It’s not news to anyone that social networks have increased the anxiety of the population. As people scrolls into pictures of influencers, acquaintances, and even strangers showing a perfect life, this heightens your life struggles. However, life on the other side of the screen is not necessarily as it’s presented. Still, if just one photo can potentiate this mass social anxiety and create a cult of followers alienated by image editing software, what’s the negative facet of the Metaverse?
Not to mention the centralization of power of large companies that hold the technology and infrastructure of this digital space. If you live in their universe, you will inherently live by their rules. Metaverse seems to be, in theory, a significant step towards the progression of humanity’s craft. But if history taught us anything, it’s that with each evolution comes the abuse of it, and an unforeseen antagonistic front emerges.
As stated in this article’s opening, the Metaverse subject is very abstract, and no company can fully express its description. But let’s hope that when the Metaverse arrives, it will be used sparingly, consciously, and with the log-off button always close by. Because I don’t know about you, but I would love to live in a world where I could ride dragons, face wicked enemies and buy a castle. The problem would be to regain interest in my everyday life.