Whose Ideology Will Define the Gaming Metaverse?

Whose Ideology Will Define the Gaming Metaverse?
| July 26, 2022

Most of us have heard a lot about the metaverse recently. Indeed, over the last six months – ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook (now Meta) would be building the metaverse – billions of dollars have been pouring in to fund metaverse projects, many of which focus on gaming. A case in point is the $2 billion investment given to Epic Games (creator of Fortnite) by Sony and LEGO to build a gaming metaverse designed to be “child-friendly”.

There are several huge metaverse gaming metaverse projects ongoing at the moment, not the least Meta’s flagship project, Horizon Worlds. There are many theories as to what the final results will look like, and as to how we will experience these brave new virtual worlds. However, we wanted to look at something that has been a little less discussed – the ideology in these spaces.

Many Metaverses

To explain, we need to go back and examine what we mean by the metaverse. As most are aware, Mark Zuckerberg was somewhat misleading when he said Facebook would be known for building the (singular) metaverse. It’s better to talk about metaverses, plural. However, leaving that aside for the moment, it’s also important to say that the concept of the metaverse is linked to the web3 movement, i.e., the growing consensus that we will move to a decentralized internet.

As with the metaverse, web3 is broadly misunderstood, and its goals are disagreed upon. In its most basic form, the web3 movement sees an internet that is no longer controlled by Big Tech (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and is largely out of the control of governments. Those are centralized powers, and the web3 movement sees iterations of the metaverse being decentralized.

Of course, such an ideal creates an issue for metaverse gaming. The idealists of web3 might say that technology like the blockchain and cryptocurrency that powers the movement will be able to ensure that gaming does not need any central control. However, that’s arguably not going to be the case in practice.

Regulation Always Follows Money

To take a typical example, let’s look at an industry that seems ripe for metaverse experiences – the online casino sector. Right now, games like blackjack online can be played both as software games and with live dealers. Looking at the latter, you can easily see a future scenario where the player uses VR hardware to take a seat at the table in a virtual casino and resume the battle against the dealer.

However, online casinos today are heavily regulated and audited, and that’s a good thing for players because they know the casinos are playing fair. But if that regulatory control is taken away, how would you know that the games are fair? Again, blockchain technology can provide solutions, but there is still a level of trust that needs to be put in the system without the presence of an independent overseer.

Whose Ideology Will Define The Gaming Metaverse? 1

Governments Will Step In

And that’s part of the problem the metaverse purists are facing. On the one hand, it’s nice to think of a world outside central control, even if it is a virtual one. However, what happens when things go wrong? We have already seen evidence of people being abused in Horizon Worlds, and that’s the scenario where most right-thinking people would want a central control, i.e., Meta to step in and take action.

Going further, it’s not abundantly clear whether any metaverse gaming platform would be allowed to have truly decentralized governance. Today, it’s normally the case that, for example, misinformation is not supposed to be spread on social media: gaming metaverses will not get a free pass if the same thing happens on those platforms. Governments will step in as regulators.

Of course, not every metaverse game is going to want to have a decentralized ideology at its heart. Whatever Epic is building for the kids will need to have central control, and you can be darn sure that Meta will want to rule Horizon Worlds: Even if it doesn’t, it may well be forced to do so. But many other metaverse gaming worlds, such as Decentraland (the hint is in the name), do aim for that utopian world of decentralization. As they grow in importance and start to have real-world consequences, it’s not clear that such a model can last.

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