The concept of the metaverse, a universal and immersive virtual world, has seemingly been on everyone’s mind recently. It’s not a new thing by any means. But from the time when the term was created (1982) to these days, a lot has changed. Neil Stevenson would never guess that 60 years after his novel, someone would buy a digital version of a Gucci bag in the biggest metaverse, Roblox, for thousands of dollars.
With curiosity and admiration comes scrutiny. Aside from privacy concerns, there are more and more skeptics expressing that the metaverse isn’t such a great idea. Let’s explore their reasons and decide whether metaverses are as good as enthusiasts say they are.
Reason 1: not that different from the internet
The internet arguably tops the list of the largest metaverses. So, why bother calling it something different if the internet already offers a (kind of) shared environment of real and digital worlds?
Metaverses draws inspiration from books written in the 1980s and early 1990s, which were the foundational visions of cyberspace. But these visions preceded the modern internet, and virtual realities seemed like a better idea. For now, screens are the most practical interface, and niche virtual worlds can operate online without VR tech.
Reason 2: more dystopian than you think
Even imaginary metaverses aren’t as fun and positive as they’re made out to be. In Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, most of America was carved up into corporate fiefdoms, and the main character worked for a pizza monopoly. Years went by, and forgetful readers turned it into an awesome vision of future technology.
Meta is already having a dystopian problem. Some avatars stand on virtual street corners and shout about the latest horrible news, being paid 0.00000000001 BTC.
Reason 3: cross-compatibility doesn’t work
If you were to travel between games in a metaverse, this needs to be addressed in development. Imagine the simplest items you could carry between games. These items can only be cross-compatible if they follow the same standards, which naturally limits what they can be.
What if someone hosts a festival in a survival game? What if you carry food to a new world that shouldn’t be there? Expect tremendous narrative challenges, too.
Now, factor in the different types of metaverse models, which would tolerate creativity and novelty even less.
Reason 4: the value is unclear
Mark Zuckerberg wants his metaverse to be an embodied internet where you’re in the experience rather than an observer. But anyone who’s ever used the internet would agree that experiencing the dark online corners sounds like a nightmare.
There may be different metaverses that you would genuinely enjoy being in. But remember that it’s something that’s designed for complete sensory immersion. Trolls and generally hateful people eventually find their way into the most fun, innocent, and welcoming online communities.
Final thoughts: are metaverses worth all the hype?
Metaverses are trendy, but they are more than hype. There are certainly a lot of people who genuinely believe in the concept and enjoy spending time in metaverses. The top metaverses, Decentraland, The Sandbox, Roblox, Axie Infinity, Sorare, and Illuvium, have millions of monthly users combined.
The arguments above are valid. But they don’t seem to shift the tide, considering that tech giants like Meta, Apple, and Microsoft are all setting their sights on the metaverse. Whether someone likes it or not, it could be the next big thing in tech.