Video games are a huge part of entertainment culture. According to Statista we spend a global average of 8.5hrs a week gaming. The amount of time we spend in digital experiences is expected to rise much further as virtual reality and cryptocurrency combine to create digital worlds where we do much more than just play games. Welcome to the Metaverse.
If you’ve seen the Steven Spielberg directed film ‘Ready Player One’ you’ll have a pretty good idea of what a Metaverse is. The story revolves around a competition within a parallel digital world called the Oasis, experienced via a Virtual Reality headset, with its own culture, money and set of challenges, that form the basis of the plot.
This is the Oasis. It's a place where the limits of reality are your own imagination. You can do anything, go anywhere - Wade Watts, the central character of Ready Player One
Set in 2045 ‘Ready Player One’ exaggerates and projects existing technologies for dramatic effect, but the ideas aren’t new. So-called city-simulation or life-simulation games like SimCity or SecondLife are over 30 years old, showing how enduring the idea of creating new digital worlds is, compared to our own mundane realities.
Making money from gaming is also fairly commonplace now, whether it is playing for a professional Dota team, trying to trade skins from CSGO or monetising your Minecraft skills by streaming on Twitch.
What is so exciting about the concept of the Metaverse in 2021 is pulling these two strands together using the power of blockchains to create new virtual economies that combine gaming and commerce with the new ways of proving and asserting control of the value generated within the game, as well as trading it in marketplaces.
Blockchain based life-simulator, Decentraland, is a great example.
Create, explore and trade in the first-ever virtual world owned by its users - How Decentraland markets itself
The last three words of that tagline are the most important. What happens in Decentraland is owned by the users.
The value created within existing video games is centrally controlled. You might spend years levelling up, but the platform can decide to change the rules or remove your access and there is little you can do other than complain on Reddit or Steam.
Blockchains have no central authority so the appeal of new Metaverse type experiences like Decentraland. is that you are building value that is immutable and tradable.
The rules are created through something called a DAO, a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation where all users can vote and establish the governance for the game.
You build and sell virtual plots as well as operate actual businesses by creating game items such as wearables for characters, or import NFTs to create a gallery.
Atari the classic arcade game brand, have created a Casino within Decentraland on a 20-parcel estate, situated in the Casino Quarter of Vegas City, where you can gamble Decentraland’s native token - MANA - within the virtual environment.
This might be partly a publicity stunt to promote its ambitions to operate a bricks-and-mortar casino in Las Vegas, but it has certainly captured people’s imagination.
Axie Infinity is another Metaverse example. Inspired by Pokemon players to collect, breed, raise, battle and trade token-based creatures known as Axies which exist as NFTs. Axies can combine 500 body parts each with four degrees of rarity creating endless collectible possibilities.
The enthusiasm for Axies can be seen by the 100x increase in the price of its native cryptocurrency, AXS, in just 18 months. Such is the value of the in-game economy that players are able to battle/trade full-time or even rent out their skills to play on behalf of others.
Though games like Decentraland are pushing boundaries, they are still just games, with elements of commerce woven into the gaming experience, but there are signs that your regular desk job might migrate to the Metaverse.
The Covid Pandemic has dramatically changed the nature of how many people work. Remote is the new norm, so remote via virtual headset could easily be the next step. Facebook Reality Labs are, for example, looking at developing virtual offices while most of the other major tech brands are investing massively in virtual reality.
So much of science fiction has predicted that humans will migrate from the physical to the digital realm, and it seems we are getting closer to that reality. More of our lives will be experienced within some sort of Metaverse and right now blockchain-based games are blazing the trail