I've been creating digital avatars for the better part of my life. It was probably not the first one, but the one I clearly remember: my alter ego in the MMO Guild Wars around 2005. Later for Star Wars Galaxies and Star Citizen.
Being fascinated by the immersive nature of games, I fully understand the notion of re-creating oneself in a digital world, joining people from around the world and going on adventures.
For me, born in 1990, the internet and digital spaces have been a welcome escape from Switzerland's conservative and boring countryside. And some of my oldest friendships trace back to those intense gaming times, although they trickled into "real life" now.
I also strolled around in Second Life for those who can remember the first actual attempt to re-create the world in the digital realm. However, when I tried the simulation, the initial hype had already passed, and the concept didn't capture my mind. The main problem: Second Life was like real life. Everything cost "Linden dollars", which could be purchased for actual dollars, diluting my escapist desire.
In 2015, I first put on a VR headset. It was an Oculus Rift Development Kit II, even before the company formerly known as Facebook bought the enterprise.
Since then, VR technology has come far. First, the resolution and general experience improved to make virtual reality access consumer-ready. Combined with the astonishing progress in video game graphics, a second attempt at creating a metaverse seems inevitable.
Given my previous gaming experience and general affinity for technology, I should be excited about the current efforts around the metaverse. But I'm not.
What Is The Idea Behind The Metaverse?
"The metaverse is defined as a unified 3D virtual world where users can conglomerate via their digital selves (i.e., avatars) and perform complex interactions," writes XR Today. It's pretty vague, to say the least.
But the hype is real. Billions are invested in creating the technological foundation for the metaverse. Most famously, Facebook announced its move with a silly rebrand into Meta. But also Epic Games (the makers of Fortnite and the Unreal Engine), Chinese tech giant Tencent, Microsoft, and even Apple are working on it.
Despite its vague definition, I have little doubt that the companies involved in building the metaverse have the financial resources and technological capabilities to create an excellent experience.
Meta's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, stated in his manifesto: "When you buy something or create something, your items will be useful in a lot of contexts, and you're not going to be locked into one world or platform."
Public perception of the metaverse is precisely that: People and companies pouring metric tons of marketing money into the idea are expecting a single platform. And Meta repeatedly said that no single company would own the metaverse.
I call bullshit.