Hey, Metaverse. Who Are You?
It’s still relatively early 2022 and the metaverse is suffering from a massive identity crisis. It went from being a brave new concept in 2020 and 2021 – when everybody had an enforced locked-in syndrome at the height of the pandemic it was the great tech hope, masks off, and kicking off what feels like an entirely new world – to now getting washed up into nothing more than a Brocoin Emporium for douchebags to turn around fast money and scam the life of people with NFTs.
How in the name of Adam Smith did we get here?
If you don’t know what NFTs are, it is probably a good idea to get a primer from one of my previous articles on how I compare NFTs to turnips. If you are an NFT aficionado, then you should probably be as pissed off and tired as I am with explaining what-is-an-NFT.
What is for actual sure is that the metaverse and NFTs are not the same thing – only bellends with potato servers selling crapware lump the two terms together. But it’s easy to see where these ideals cross over and therefore why we might think they are one and the same thing; the homogeny of big tech is putting PB and J on the same sandwich. Okay, okay, that’s tasty. But a pork pie with custard? Not so much and you never know whether you’re getting the PB and J or the big greasy pork pie with sweet eggy custard. Get it in you.
Here’s the metaverse for dummies: A persistent interoperable space. This means that we do stuff simultaneously on devices whilst living in a technologically created world that exists even when we aren’t there.
And NFTs for dum-dums: Non-fungible Tokens behave like in-game items and objects except they are exclusively made for a limited run and have no actual value unless someone says they have.
The 419 Machine
For the next few months, and with some great frustration, we will continue to wade through treacle where we will receive countless opportunities to connect with the most exciting NFT in the history of NFTs. Wait, this feels eerily familiar. I had Hotmail, Amazon Books was a thing, and I was invited to share my bank account details with a Nigerian prince.
The sophistication comes from, to some extent, the same etymology as the 419. It’s the freakonomics of wanting something presumably because everyone else has it (and you can even climb on some imaginary vessel for a party with your massive’n’crew) to creating something without value and rallying the value of $0 up to $100. Yeah, really bullish. Also, if you’ve ever bought a PlayStation from your local online classifieds, have you ever really bought a PlayStation? It’s not a trick question, but a real scam, you can easily purchase an empty box from your local online classifieds (we’re calling it the NFT for the purposes of this discussion).
Yeah, I’m salty about it. But I’m salty about it for a couple of reasons: 1) what is the standard for protecting the end-user here? 2) what’s the use case for an empty box (it has some lovely artwork on the outside but it’s just an empty box)?
There are a lot of ponces in this space, who back in the ’80s would be carrying cocaine around in their little neck chain pendants. These days they’re carrying NFTs around on their stupid watches. And that’s not interoperability. That’s just flexing; there is no joy to be gained from looking at someone else’s metallic cube. But there is a lot of joy to be gained from being in an experience with a bunch of people who you like – okay maybe some you don’t like, but at least you have an opportunity to gain or connect, perhaps even marry (yikes). There is literally nothing worse than an echo chamber.
I’m actually angrier that, to use the ’80s wide-boy analogy, this NFT scene has become something of an elitist playground which is why the scammy empty box creators are such ass clowns. If the tech dudes and their Fyre Festival-loving bros had the foresight to create an equitable model where everyone could create, mint, and afford would the whole NFT situation be such an arseache? Probably not. I would also go as far as to bet that not a single NFT owner/purchaser/creator has even looked at the impact of gas on our already fragile planet.
Do we need NFTs at all? Well, yeah. But we need digital sustainability above all else, I would argue, and that is coming no time soon.
AKA Life, Death And Homogenised Tech
So, what happened to the metaverse? You know, that metaverse I just described above. And what can we expect from the metaverse in 2022? I would like to give you, dear readers, a guarantee that everything is going to be just great but, the reality is that the metaverse doesn’t know who or what it is anymore. Is it an interoperable platform? YES! Is it a sales funnel? YES! Is it a bunch of cheap ass ideas Frankensteined together like Spiderbaby in Toy Story? A grim vision indeed. But even mutant servers need love.
I tried to find good examples of how the metaverse was the interlocution for everything life, death and tech and I drew a blank after Avakin Life. Even after the death of Playstation Home and the demise of Kaneva and Second Life (back from the dead for ‘22); Avakin Life rose from the ashes like a multi-plumed phoenix. And thank the universe for a benchmark.
What the metaverse isn’t doing at the moment is providing practical solutions to a problem whilst big tech companies and giants are buying up smaller, medium-sized businesses with a very realistic view of homogenising tech. The last time something like this happened, it ended in a bunker. A homogenised view of tech means that we can’t see the wood for the trees and that will simply go into a big homogeneous pile of digital waste.
“Be Water, My Friend”
I think the time for talking about the metaverse is probably over. And the reason why so many businesses are hamstrung about the metaverse is because everybody’s trying to be first. It’s not important to be the first but it is important to be the best. So while there’s a maelstrom of bullshit that’s literally flying around everyone’s heads, you should try if you can, as a developer, to lift your head above the parapet and bring with you a product that is interoperable.
Interoperability means that something can be carried across various devices and platforms and not just be carried between platforms. A bit like wearing a Fitbit, logging into the Fitbit website, and monitoring your stats or opening up the app on your phone. That kind of compatibility. That’s more than compatible, that’s interoperable.
We can completely lose the focus of the metaverse whilst we’re vomit-screaming into an echo chamber, because it sounds so nice when our LinkedIn friends are complimenting us on our posts. That’s not the metaverse, that’s your ego. Your ego is not the metaverse. So why don’t you make something instead of talking about something? How do we get started? I’ve talked about this a lot but I’m happy to recap:
1. Do your homework. Who does it well? Who is making utter dog poo? Who gamifies? Who monetises for the sake of nothing at all? (Repeat after me: you are not an idiot sandwich)
2. Plan what you want to do/make/be. This should not take a year to ideate – and yet, here we are.
3. Team up. Collaboration makes that idea come to life. Get yourself a dev team or bring your world to life in something user generated to get started and start testing NOW! Not tomorrow, not next year. Take a leaf out of Delz’s book. He got the user tests underway from day 1 for Astra. The metaverse demands it.
4. Ship it! The only way to know whether something is above the hype is to get it out there. Aren’t you sick and tired of telling your mum you will get a real job soon? Here’s your big chance.
Repeat stages 1-4 until you learn. Be water, my friend.
Are NFTs going to fade out? Will NFTs shut up and go away? Nope. 2022 suggests something different from the business model though, so that’s exciting, right? To sustain, NFTs need more of an interoperable focus to them – wait that sounds like the metaverse doesn’t it?
Let’s break down how an NFT should behave on a metaverse platform. Imagine for a sec that I have created, minted, gassed an NFT of Elvis Presely’s beloved Graceland. You know: that swanky house with the jungle room and the PB and J bar. In today’s narrowed vision of NFTs and what they are, I can buy an NFT of Graceland and, well, just admire it in spatial.io, or in my Metamask or Enjin wallet (provided it’s compatible).
Here’s the thing: most NFTs are incompatible with the Ethereum standard they’ve been created in, let alone anything else, so let’s start there.
Okay, well let’s now say it is a standard NFT. If I buy it right now, and today, unless it’s The Sandbox or Decentraland compatible, I can’t use it on those platforms. So I may not be able to utilise it as my NFT apartment in Avakin Life because it’s simply not compatible with Avakin Life’s tech stack. Also, we don’t even know how safe NFTs are in games and gamified platforms in the metaverse yet, except for what we know in The Sandbox or Decentraland, Mozilla Hubs or to some extent Yahaha because these have some openness in their construction to develop with more freedom.
Take Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth (I Am Kissing You Goodbye)
This article, regardless of the fun stuff, is about cutting through bullshit. If you’ve stayed and hung on to the end, you’re now in the Marvel Avengers/X-Men/Guardians of the Galaxy end credits and, well done, you made it this far.
But here’s where, for me at least, I wrap up by telling you that the metaverse still doesn’t exist except in the minds of scammers and Linkedin adoration seekers. The metaverse can and should exist (we don’t have to wait for 30 years, Tim), we just have to be sensible about it.
We don’t need to buy huge swathes of amazing game franchises and studios to rebrand them into a tech gloop. We need individuality to survive the metaverse. I might like your close-shaved Grant Mitchell head but you probably don’t want my dusty old pink wig. You might like my branded t-shirt NFT but you’ve got to know where you can wear it, how you can wear it, and when, and that’s not open, it’s not inclusive, and it’s not the metaverse we wrote about in 2021.
Getting your head in the metaverse 2022 game means fighting the homogeny and reaching for compatibility and interoperability in the short, sharp stings of content. Use regeneration and safe and lawful ownership, and I promise you that with solid functionality the metaverse will live through this arsehole landgrab and narcissistic vision of shilling for the sake of quick money.
The metaverse is here to stay but only if you’re prepared to stay with it, be a part of it, and move towards the message, not the mind games.