Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
There’s a lot of media hype these days about the “coming of the metaverse” and a fair amount of hand-wringing about what it’s going to look like.
In computing, the term metaverse is defined as “a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.” This definition is both broad and vague. As a result, doomsdayers treat great sci-fi stories like Neuromancer, Snowcrash and Ready Player One as prophetic warnings of a dystopian future metaverse. Meanwhile, today’s tech visionaries have called the metaverse the future of computing and are promising a new VR / AR / IRL-blended reality and a total addressable market worth potentially $ 13 trillion by 2030. It’s easy to see why parents might fear for their children’s safety , attention spans and ability to socialize IRL.
As a tech strategist, investor and producer, I’m thrilled to be a part of this evolution toward a fully immersive metaverse. But with all of this hype, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that the metaverse has existed for decades in one form or another. Games like Linden Lab’s Second LifeActivision’s World of Warcraft and Zynga’s FarmVille are all metaverses given the definition above. (Full disclosure: Author was formerly SVP of Zynga’s global operations.) I heard a credible case made recently that Reddit and Clubhouse are highly engaging metaverses sans graphics. The argument is that the thousands of talented people who developed these products used software to create always-on virtual spaces for people to interact and express themselves in real time.
Ultimately, how we choose to define what is or is not a “metaverse” today will not matter all that much in a year or two. Why? Because technology ages in dog years and the software and hardware driving the future of the metaverse, including tool-enabled user-generated content (UGC), Web3, 5G and VR, are rapidly evolving and becoming more accessible.
Take, for instance, VR’s high degree of presence. “Presence” is the term used in VR / AR to describe the extent to which your brain cannot distinguish between real life and a software-generated reality. We now live in a time where a headset allows users to visit 3D immersive worlds that approach real life in visual richness and presence. We can also have new experiences (for most of us anyway) like the feeling of zero gravity (nauseating) or being in a bar fight (exhilarating) or meditating (TRIPP in VR has been a game-changer for me). Web3 technology has fostered the expansion of “play to earn” features and collectibles in games and promises interoperability of owned assets across all games (eg, my NFT sword is playable in any game). Thanks to presence, we can now have these experiences together in a way that is far more compelling than a Zoom call.
As culture creatives, we have an opportunity and a generational responsibility to try to build a solid foundation for what this new immersive metaverse looks and feels like. Collectively, we have the brainpower and resources to create something future generations will thank us for.
How? We can do our part to encourage creativity, foster inclusion and ensure accessibility of games to players of all ages and abilities. We can work to develop safeguards to limit the potential for bullying or abuse to occur and provide parents with the controls they need to prevent excessive play. It’s not always going to be easy to prioritize these features in our roadmaps, but it’s important as leaders in this space that we do.
We should aim to be good stewards of this technology and work to create metaverse destinations and games that deliver great entertainment value for the money in spaces that are safe (free of abuse and harassment) and fun. I hope to connect with others who feel the same way. Game on.