The metaverse is not new. It’s a rebranding of multiuser environments, from massive multiplayer games, through the likes of Second Life, which can be looked at as enhanced chat environments, virtual realities or online virtual worlds.
Connect people up with computers and that is what you get, computer contained environments where people do what people do: chat, trade and generally socially interact. Graphics, 2D or otherwise, are not required to make this happen, nor is cryptocurrency or even any currency at all.
However, as soon as you add graphics a wider audience is attracted. The nicer the graphics the more people engage, and since the pioneers linked up people in multiplayer games, the ever-increasing graphical loveliness of metaverse environments have attracted ever-increasing audiences. Millions of people play massively multiplayer games, the major genera, ever day.
For a significant group of people, particularly young people, these environments are as important and sometimes more important than the ‘real world.’ This is why China has banned young people from playing multiplayer games apart from a few hours on the weekend.
Online environments, even the vaguest ones, are compelling, and games are the most compelling of all of them for the audience prepared to give them a lot of attention. The trouble is games need huge investments of time and focus, something most of us can’t muster. Most people don’t want a life inside a computer reality, they want one outside. That is not to say they don’t want to play, they simply don’t want to invest a huge block of time into playing. Most people also do not enjoy working hard at a game to get anywhere. Hours and hours of slaying minor characters is not most people’s idea of a good time and this has lead to a new breed of games that are typified as “pay to win.”
In pay to win games, players prepared to spend big money can beat all comers by buying advantages. Such games tend to rely on “whales” who are prepared to spend thousands to play and win, with game makers developing frustration engines to torture players into paying up big sums to go further into a game rather than let skill determine progress. As such, mobile games have developed into monsters psychologically tuned to rip thousands out of players vulnerable enough to be operant conditioned into a game addiction. This has become an unethical billionaire dollar industry.
So you have played for months and spent thousands on a game and built up an inventory of powerful game goods. They are worth exactly nothing, unless you somehow can manage to sell them in the shadows of eBay or some arcane marketplace. In effect, if you spent your time and earned or won an item, it is worthless because there is no mechanism to sell it for real money. Game points and objects only have “value” in the game. With crypto that can all change.
If you win a game item it can be exported from the game into your crypto wallet, via, for example, an NFT (non-fungible token) that could then be sold on an NFT market. The game can sell items to players and run a market economy where players sell amongst themselves. Suddenly a game gets a real money economy.
With crypto, the metaverse goes capitalistic. As a child I used to sell my toys to the neighborhood kids. It was my father’s idea. He said, “If you want to buy new toys why not sell your old ones that you don’t play with anymore?” It was great fun as a 7-year -old watching a friend, coins in hand, make a intense decision on what to buy, then take some boring toy in exchange for his exciting cash. I never looked back.
Now this idea is going to sweep online games and all that value of work locked up in illiquid digital assets will sudden create real wealth, because the value of those items is real, but until now have not been monetizable. It’s a huge development and already the early players like Decentraland, Sandbox and Aavegotchi (a token I own) are highly valued.
So now Facebook is rebranding itself as Meta. Its new logo is an infinite loop, a metaphor that nearly sunk Apple, back in the day. The video of its intention to turn itself into a metaverse is clearly a reference to the Ready Player One dystopia of Cline’s book and Spielberg’s movie.
Metaverse tokens mooned.
So here we have the fourth generation of the crypto revolution. First came currency, then came DeFi, next NFTs and now the metaverse. Crypto will x100 the established VR landscape and while it most likely won’t have us running around on treadmills, VR screens strapped to our faces covered in latex body suits like the Lawnmower Man; it will enable financial flows to and from the audience via passive and active engagement.
Like Edison’s recording of sound, crypto enables the monetization of an ephemeral asset, one whose value is hard to grasp before the process of monetization is well underway. However, with most of us interacting everyday through the window of our monitors into the virtual world we increasingly live in, the scale is gigantic.
It is not going to be the world of Ready Player One, The Lawnmower Man, The Matrix or Tron and it’s also not going to be anything but another step of the crypto revolution, with the next big thing just around the corner then the next and then the next.