Your New Best Friend Could Be in the Metaverse
How to make friends and influence people in the metaverse. Spoiler: it’s a lot like real life (except with pixels!)
Let’s get one thing clear: the friends (and enemies for that matter) that we make online are real and actual relationships. And since the metaverse is the next big thing after the internet, then it would only make sense that the people we might meet on platforms such as Decentraland or even while playing Roblox just might end up being our friends for life.
The metaverse is an entire virtual universe meant to exist alongside our world in real life (or, as sci-fi writers out it, in “meat space”). It may be a virtual environment, and we may be interacting with virtual avatars, but everything we interact with in the metaverse has real-world implications and real-world value. NFTs have attached actual monetary value, as do virtual land and real estate.
(Also read: Real Talk: Is Virtual Estate Real?)
It would only make sense for relationships and connections made in the metaverse to have real-world implications and real-world value as well. After all, where’s the fun in inhabiting a virtual world if there’s no one else there?
Socializing in digital environments is nothing new. We’ve been using the internet to connect with people from all parts of the globe since our homes and offices have gotten hooked up to modems in the early days of the information superhighway. Today, it’s more unusual for anyone not to have met anyone else thanks to the internet. Logging onto our favorite social media sites has connected us in many ways with like-minded individuals who have ended up becoming our friends.
Socializing is baked into how we as humans use the internet. Online gaming has a very strong social component. Those who play World of Warcraft, DOTA, and Starcraft know what it’s like to log onto a game and play with someone from another country. Gaming communities have given rise to platforms such as Discord and Twitch to keep in touch with their online gaming communities.
Being social is a currency in the metaverse
Being on the metaverse means interacting with virtual environments, structures, and yes, other people. Brands on the metaverse see many benefits of people forging connections, and building relationships and communities in the virtual space. According to a report by Accenture, 84% of gamers use gaming as a socializing tool.
Games such as Call of Duty and Starcraft, which have very strong social components can sustain players longer than casual mobile games that offer little to zero interaction with other players.
Games that build communities around them can last for years. In turn, these communities are often made up of very loyal individuals who provide feedback on what they expect from the creators of these games. The audience is built-in for future projects from these creators, which translates to the game’s profitability and sustained shelf-life. Other monetization opportunities also open up, such as movie or series adaptations.
This is your brain in the metaverse
Science Translated presents an interesting deep dive into socializing in the metaverse. What is about virtual reality that makes connecting with other people so alluring? According to the piece’s interview with Dr. Justin Hart, Assistant Director of Robot Consortium at the University of Texas in Austin, “Virtual reality may even be able to create a stronger feeling of connection between users, as they are all experiencing the same system at the same time.”
So even though our virtual selves are represented through blocky avatars (at least for now), the connections we create in VR are no less satisfying and are no less real than how we make connections on social media platforms such as Twitter, except on a “higher level” because the avatars being used in the metaverse feel “more real” or are more comparable to what we usually experience in meat space. Our VR selves walk, talk, and look (pretty much) like our human selves.
Are we ready for our virtual selves to resemble our actual selves? We’re not there yet, but as VR avatars become more developed and more photo-realistic, it could be a slightly unsettling experience for us. This is tied to the “valley of the uncanny”, the uneasy sensation we get when interacting with objects possessing human-like qualities such as robots. Maybe blocky avatars in VR are what our brains can handle at the moment without messing with our brains.
Old challenges on a new platform
While the metaverse may seem like a bright and shiny interactive toy right now, some are less than excited. Wired Magazine called it “a deeply disturbing worse version of Zoom”, an observation made funny only because it rings true. The metaverse must be hellish for some people who find socializing a challenge in real life.
In every new platform, it seems there are those determined to make it unpleasant for other people. As a space, the metaverse is no different from the real world and even from its regular internet counterparts. Bullying, abuse, and harassment can run rampant in the metaverse.
There have been reported cases of racial and sexual abuse in the metaverse, proving that old challenges can get even uglier on new platforms.
As a company, Roblox is currently working on solutions to address these concerns for its users. The company wants to make its environment less toxic for users by coming up with a few fixes such as monitoring interactions using AI technology and providing its users more tools to self-regulate and look out for their safety while on the platform.
How do we play nice in the metaverse? Part of the solution may lie in awareness that there are human beings and actual people behind every virtual avatar, not lifeless beings floating around the internet. For every VR avatar and every Roblox character, there’s an actual person behind it. It’s sound advice in the metaverse and real life, one that’s sure to win anyone new friends no matter what platform they choose to go on.
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