Wondering what the Metaverse is? Chances are you’ve been there before. There is no perfect description of the concept, but in general it involves digital interaction and human decision making in a few key aspects. The term “Metaverse” comes from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, but has since taken on a much broader meaning.
There have been similar games before, but the release of Second Life really struck a chord with pop culture, in a way that still holds true today. As Dwight said in The Office: “Second Life is not a game, it is a virtual environment for multiple users. There are no points, scores, winners or losers†
Dwight explains Second Life well, which is a very rudimentary gateway to the Metaverse. In addition, the second passage about his way of playing Second Life is important in explaining the difference between classic games and the Metaverse. Dwight says he created a version of himself in Second Life that was exactly the same as in real life, except he could fly.
The Metaverse can be that simple, it doesn’t have to be as wild and crazy as what we see in Ready Player One.
The Metaverse and Its Current Environment
Ready Player One’s story and film is about a future where the idea of the Metaverse has become so widespread that people care more about their lives in the machine than they do in real life. In what the book and film call the Oasis, we see a Metaverse housed with an idyllic (and possibly impossible) sense of freedom and openness.
At the same time, this rendering of the Metaverse suggests that only one universal software will be available to anyone who will host anything and everything. Outside of the reality we live in today, fingers crossed and pray that no other unique universe like this will dominate our digital world in the future. The implications would be nightmarish.
The first time you play Minecraft, you realize that you have entered a new realm of “gameplay”. You are represented by an avatar who has the ability to dig holes, harvest materials, build things and live a life the way you want. You can also play games and fish there.
In Minecraft, creativity comes from a careful balance between limitations and functionality. You have control over the blocks and you have a sense of achievement in achieving goals in an environment with clear rules. Minecraft was created as a game and became a platform as soon as its potential was revealed.
Built like a platform, Roblox has been a gaming platform for creators from the start. Roblox was created as a place where content would be generated by users with very few restrictions.
Despite what the very whimsical trailer above shows, the Roblox platform isn’t quite as immediately aesthetic as Minecraft. Due to the relative lack of control by Roblox administrators, it’s not hard to find bugs and games that don’t work.
The important elements of Roblox and Minecraft lie in their creative potential. Both titles are immersive and both allow you to create and change the environment in which you exist.
The Metaverse is not new
The foundation of the Metaverse has been around since the early days of the internet† From the moment we gave each other personal usernames, used funny icons and created our own web pages, we’ve been in the Metaverse for a while.
Only now are we reaching a point where the description of these creative environments has become necessary. We have come to a point where a fully digital environment can offer more than just a game: it can be where we work, where we meet and where we actually live a second life.
When Niantic describes the real Metaverse, we see the phase we are now entering. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) represent a way of seeing digital assets as “real” as physical assets. An experience like Pokemon GO shows us how linking digital assets to our real world can make a platform more than a game.
The potential of the Metaverse is huge† Metaverse apps will drive billions in consumer spending from now on. Companies that manage to forge a place for themselves in this creative digital landscape will find monstrous room to grow.
There is not a single Metaverse
As an individual it is important that you remain aware of the dangers of this new reality. As with any phase shift in our human experience, there is room for profit and power, but also for malicious actors and all kinds of malicious people.
There will be many liars. Liars who will lie that their vision of the Metaverse is the ultimate platform for this Metaverse. There is no such thing as a single “Metaverse”, even if a company has designated its ecosystem as such†
As has always been the case with the Internet, so it is with the Metaverse: there is no single authority, only entities. There are many entry points to the temporary environment that is the Metaverse, and not all elements of this future are compatible. Whichever path you choose and whoever you communicate with, be careful – and have fun!