When Facebook’s parent company changed its name to Meta, it planted a flag that would come to symbolize the evolution of the internet or the “metaverse.”
According to Meta, the metaverse is “an aggregation of digital spaces to interact in a variety of ways, including for learning, pleasure, and more.” The first significant attempt at creating a virtual reality environment, Horizon Worlds, was so dull and content-free that it made people question whether or not the metaverse was actually an improvement.
Happily, it seems like it won’t make a difference
Though it predates Facebook by a long shot, the idea of a “metaverse” is very much in vogue right now. Existing and promising implementations include games like Fortnite, platforms like Roblox, and online communities like Discord. There is no way to initiate the metaverse or make it come on. Whether or not you realize it, you have already been confronted by some of it. You’ve begun to conflate your online and real-world identities. Online to offline and offline to online.
Despite what Meta may think, the metaverse is not quite what it seems.
A more accurate description of today’s apps and games would be “a set of digital spaces to socialize, learn, play, and more,” but this abridged definition has made the term “metaverse” synonymous with stale software like Horizon Worlds, a painfully unimaginative 3D world with graphics from the early 2000s and plenty of room for advertisements.
When we talk about the “metaverse,” we’re referring to how our perceptions and interactions with the digital world are shifting. It’s not quite a 3D world, but it is a step toward one in which our digital and physical selves interact in ways that feel more natural and genuine. A metaverse is an advanced form of the revolution brought about by the mobile internet, which has led to a merging of the real and virtual worlds.
That’s why it stands to reason that the metaverse can’t thrive in Meta, a place so cut off from the rest of the world that it has lost any sense of humanity. Decentraland’s attempt to construct a virtual world won’t succeed either, despite two years and billions of dollars in investment.
In the same sense, Facebook has expressed a desire to destroy Web3 and the metaverse.
It’s hardly surprising that Horizon Worlds and Decentraland face competition from other forms of digital entertainment such as games, movies, and social media.
They also face imminent competition from the rest of the world. If you’re going to tell people they’re going to work and play in the metaverse, you better give them a reason to get excited about it beyond just the novelty factor. At this time, we are still living in the meatspace. You have a long way to go.
You can’t survive without magic in the metaverse
For as long as there have been games, they have had a magical quality. Seeing a legless coworker at the conference table in Horizon Worlds is much less exciting than seeing a cat neighbor in Animal Crossing. Making immersive experiences engaging requires magic, and it can be difficult to cultivate an enjoyable business culture when revenue is generated from increasing the number of clicks (or whatever call to action exists in 3D). This may be completely out of reach.
Instead, producers now have a narrow channel thanks to 3D platforms such as Roblox and VRChat, where they can add their own magic to the mix. Spending time in VRChat versus Horizon Worlds illustrates the difference between a user-created world and a corporate one. The first is approachable and unanticipated, whereas the second is gloomy and expected.
However, artists need to be supported and encouraged in their chosen medium. When it comes to fostering creativity and originality, sponsorship has shown to be a toxic and decreasing tactic. Creative individuals despise having their ideas limited by commercial concerns or their freedom of choice by technological constraints.
We can take heart in the fact that there is an option other than this one.
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