The term metaverse is relatively new, but then again, it is only new to millions who have recently been reading about it because of Mark Zuckerberg’s attachment to it. It has gotten widespread media coverage as the old Facebook corporation, recently renamed Meta, is the driving force behind all of the hubbub.
Metaverse was a concept originally explored in author Neal Stephenson’s novel, “Snow Crash”, back in 1992. The crux of the book was that people were using virtual reality as a means of escaping a dystopian society that allowed them the freedom to be who they wanted and what they wanted.
Fast forward to 2003 when Linden Lab created Second Life, a computer game that was platformed on Windows and Mac systems which forged a society that gave its users the license to be a digital rendition of themselves or someone quite different from themselves. The successor to Second Life, Sansar, never got off the ground and was sold to Wookey Search Technologies while Linden Lab continues to refine Second Life after years on the market.
Technology has advanced to the point where virtual reality through the use of headsets and, in particular, Meta’s Quest line of headsets can allow this to happen. Avatars can be dressed in a certain way reflecting the users’ character identity which may be starkly different from their own real-world persona.
Imagine going to watch the next performers in the Super Bowl halftime show and getting front row seats, via your VR identity. Or how about going to a Vegas-style casino and sauntering into their sportsbook to check out the sports odds on an NFL game or esports tournament and bet VR currency?
Do Esports Fit in the Metaverse?
If we are talking about high-level tournament competition by elite esports players then virtual reality or virtual augmentation probably isn’t happening at least for the near future. Those fast-twitch fingers could be compromised by the aesthetics of the VR realm and that would be unfair to those world-class players whose performance cannot be slowed for even a millisecond.
However, Fortnite is exploring the metaverse incorporated into its game for the regular folks who use it as much as a social tool as for actual MOBA competition. Speaking of Fortnite and its social aspect, one of the leading authors on the metaverse, Matthew Ball, wrote at length about his perception of this alternate reality and how it will come into play in a variety of applications.
Ball wrote specifically about Fortnite and said, “This is why considering Fortnite as a video game or interactive experience is to think too small and too immediately. Fortnite began as a game, but it quickly evolved into a social square. Its players aren’t logging in to “play”, per se, but to be with their virtual and real-world friends. Teenagers in the 1970s to 2010s would come home and spend three hours talking on the phone. Now they talk to their friends on Fortnite, but not about Fortnite. Instead, they talk about school, movies, sports, news, boys, girls, and more. After all, Fortnite doesn’t have a story or IP – the plot is what happens on it and who is there.”
He went on to add, “To this end, Fortnite is one of the few places where the IP of Marvel and DC intersects. You can literally wear a Marvel character’s costume inside Gotham City while interacting with those wearing legally licensed NFL uniforms. This sort of thing hasn’t really happened before. But it will be critical to the Metaverse.”
But in keeping with the metaverse theme and Fortnite’s growing presence in the VR universe, we should note that the title was the first to introduce a worldwide concert using avatars while the artist performed live through his digitally created character.
EDM artist, Marshmello, hooked up with the creators of Fortnite and performed in the digital realm on their platform back in 2019 and the success of the collaboration was stunning with 10.7 million remote viewers. Travis Scott broke that precedent with 12.3 million views on the first night of his virtual concert tour on Fortnite a year later.
Reports are that Justin Bieber will be the next to perform on the virtual stage through a collaboration with the virtual entertainment company, Wave, on November 18th and will be interacting with fans throughout the show. The metaverse, or the version of it that we have now, is alive and well on the music scene with more artists expected to join and cash in when the opportunity arises.
While many believe the alternate reality of the metaverse is simply the next stage in our technological evolution, others are less enthusiastic and feel it is just one more disconnect from the real world. Like it or not, the metaverse has arrived but what form it takes and how fast it grows remains to be seen.