The Metaverse seems to be an immensely huge concept that’s been riding the media wave of hyped topics at the moment. From Facebook’s rebrand to Meta, Microsoft’s pivot into the Metaverse for corporate uses, and the rising number of decentralized Metaverse games, the concept of the Metaverse appears to be the medium for connecting elements of gaming, sociality, finances, blockchain, work, art, and crypto together.
Announcing @Meta — the Facebook company’s new name. Meta is helping to build the metaverse, a place where we’ll play and connect in 3D. Welcome to the next chapter of social connection. pic.twitter.com/ywSJPLsCoD— Meta (@Meta) October 28, 2021
Journey to the Metaverse
In our introductory explanation of the Metaverse, ’The Journey towards the Metaverse’, we outlined the origins of the term as one that emerged from the writings of Neal Stephenson in his science fiction novel ‘Snow Crash’. In his book, the ‘Metaverse’ encompassed a 3D digital world in which people could step in and out of at will, and in which they led a life contingent to their own in the physical world.
While the Metaverse in Neal Stephenson’s book was one of fiction, a world in which we will be able to do the same is becoming less of a science fiction wet dream, and slowly turning into a reality.
With the development of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology, the Metaverse of tomorrow will be accessed via different headsets like the Oculus VR headset or Microsoft’s Hololens. These devices, combined with the uses of games, crypto, and NFTs will soon be able to bring the virtual and physical worlds closer together in easy and accessible ways.
Gaming sets the precedent
In the realm of the Metaverse, the gaming industry occupies the largest portion of integration by far, providing some of the most immersive Metaverse experiences for its users. Catalyzed by the pandemic, online video games and social metaverse games offer up opportunities to interact with one another in ways that weren’t possible during lockdowns. Online video games aren’t just one-dimensional platforms for you to just fulfill quests, accumulate points, or fight monsters anymore. Game players in cyberspace can now delve into many other online activities in-game such as social meetups and events. One example is the recent Ariana Grande Fortnite concert, which allowed users to get up close and personal with Ariana’s avatar while she “performed”. Players could also buy in-game treats linked to the event, like purchasing “skins” of Ariana’s avatar, so you can play the game as a version of Ariana.
In the future, the Metaverse and gaming will be inexorably linked, radically altering our relationship with work, to our online personas, to socializing, even down to the clothes we wear and the things we own in the Metaverse. In a tweet by Andrew Steinwold back in February, he called the advent of the Metaverse and all things that could be created to own in that space “the internet-of-goods”, further elaborating that if cryptocurrency was the “money of the Metaverse”, that NFTs would be all the “stuff” that would be in Metaverse.
Quite simply, Andrew’s tweet outlines the elements of blockchain and NFTs as means to the holistic development of the Metaverse, one that will bring our IRL lives seamlessly into the online world. In the Metaverse, crypto offers currency for participation, NFTs offer ownership opportunities for digital assets and items, while blockchain underlines the fundamental architecture and technology needed to safely transact and transfer these items in the Metaverse.
What do NFTs mean in the age of the Metaverse?
Just like in the real world, owning digital assets and goods is part of experiential activity, and it gestures to the way in which we interact with our surroundings and each other. NFTs are the key to which these items can be proliferated in the Metaverse, and it spans across digital land, art, wearables, names, etc, estimated to be worth $82 Billion by 2025.
The premise of NFTs in the Metaverse serve to facilitate 5 essential things within the Metaverse development project:
1. Ensure scarcity and authenticity of digital assets
Because NFTs are unique and cannot be copied or forged one to one, they can be used in the Metaverse to establish ownership of a particular item, helping to ensure that what users buy digitally is the original.
2. Provide digital proof of ownership
Owning digital assets will be key to accessing the Metaverse at its full potential. The ownership of any digital item can be proven using NFTs, as every NFT is non-fungible and unique.
3. Safety and transparency of exchanges
Transactions and exchanges made in the Metaverse should be safe and secure for everyone. Exchange of goods and any transaction made on the blockchain is logged and visible for all to see.
4. Ease of transaction
On top of safety and security, easy and accessible transactions are essential. With no need for 3rd party service providers and with everything processed on-chain, NFTs are perfect for ease of transacting in the Metaverse.
5. Decentralized governance
Having the freedom to make decisions about your environment in the digital realm is just as important as it is in real life. Blockchain and NFTs have made this possible through a number of ways – like a voting system written into the blockchain and votes represented by tokens.
You in the Metaverse
In Decentraland, a user-owned Metaverse game similar to many, (e.g. Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space, The Sandbox) players can own land, build environments, play and interact with other users through games and activities, as well as vote on the governance of the Metaverse through the Decentraland DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization.
For you to access everything in the Decentraland Metaverse, there are 3 native tokens – MANA, LAND, and Estate. MANA tokens are ERC-20 tokens, while LAND and Estate are ERC-721 tokens – NFTs.
When you’re in Decentraland, you explore the Metaverse using an avatar, make decisions, or use tokens to vote on governing decisions. If you’re someone who enjoys fashioning your avatar into a representation of yourself, then you can buy some fancy digital wearables on the Decentraland marketplace using your ERC-20 MANA tokens. Once you’ve decided that your avatar reflects your style, you can stroll around and explore different locations on the Decentraland map – made up of digital land bought and built by different users. Digital land in Decentraland is represented by ERC-721 LAND tokens that you can buy, sell, design, and customize to enhance the experience and entice users to visit. As tokens are unique codes written into the blockchain as smart contracts, your digital wearables, land, and assets will all be available and trackable either in-verse, in your wallet, or through a record of transactions visible on the network.
What’s on the digital horizon?
Decentraland is just one example of an immersive Metaverse ecosystem, where you can travel to different places and buy wearables and assets just like you would in real life. With the drive to create a holistic and unified Metaverse echoed across the tech industry, it will be interesting in times to come to see how mass adoption of the Metaverse will facilitate the merging of binaries between the physical and digital realms. If one looks at gaming as a point of departure for conceiving of the Metaverse, then it’s clear to see why something like a digital world can take hold of our imagination for the future.
Games, especially Metaverse games, have provided spaces for us to morph our identities and empower connections with one another, and NFTs undeniably play an important role in that. In-game items like skins and avatars pair nicely with the functions and utility of NFTs to allow us agency over how we appear and move around in the Metaverse. With NFTs, people will be able to also own and design virtual land for which to safely reel experiences and draw us closer to one another. If we consider the other complementary technologies being developed, like haptic technology and brain-computer biosensing technology, there’s no telling of the richness these virtual environments can be made to inhabit, and the gradients of enjoyment they can bring in the near future.
Read our introduction to the Metaverse here.
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