Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled his vision for the future of his company, now called Meta. He appeared very optimistic about his ideas despite Facebook’s popularity crashing to abysmal levels in recent years.
In his rose-colored plans, he extols the benefits of his new Metaverse, a hybrid virtual-augmented reality world in which he envisions the general population spending their daily lives. This technology uses sophisticated machinery that includes an Oculus-style headset owned by Meta and a series of complex biosensors that track your body’s movements. This gives users a personalized experience as their avatars navigate the Metaverse.
Zuckerberg eagerly walked the viewer through a tour of all the seemingly exciting opportunities the Metaverse has to offer—like working in cyberspace offices, hanging out with friends in three-dimensional Zoom calls and attending business meetings.
Vocal critics of the Metaverse have quickly aligned its premise with similar concepts from science fiction works, such as Snow Crash and The Matrix. The fear is that eventually all of us will have to plug our conscious minds into the matrix forever. However, few people have mentioned that the Metaverse really isn’t as dystopian as warned by the media.
The core idea of the Metaverse is already ingrained into our everyday lives and its prominence has slowly bloomed for decades. Since the inception of the internet, forums and chat rooms have occupied the majority of a person’s typical internet usage. Humans are social by nature and will always manifest new ways to connect with others to share ideas and information. The old AOL chat rooms planted the roots of current social media sites, such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
In discussions about the quickly-blurring line between reality and virtual reality, video games are often omitted from the conversation. Typically, social media sites catch the majority of the blame for distorting teenagers’ perception of reality and virtual life when video games embody the essence of what the Metaverse is desperately attempting to be—an immersive virtual reality experience that is designed to entice you into spending most of your time within its coded walls.
Zuckerberg neglected to account for the ‘secret ingredient’ that makes video games far more enriching of an experience than what his sterilized digital version of Earth has to offer. The sole purpose of building the alternate-reality experiences of video games has always been to transcend the limitations of the real world. But given unfathomable amounts of money and resources to design the Metaverse—the virtual universe that he proclaims will replace our physical spaces—he recreated the exact universe we already know.
It then calls into question what role the Metaverse fills when, essentially, its aspirations already define various aspects of our daily existence and achieve the Metaverse’s goals with far better results. Right now, the video game industry is thriving. Each new release offers rich worldbuilding and hundreds of hours of content between campaigns, seasonal events and multiplayer adventures. In the time it takes for the Metaverse to become accessible, which could potentially not be until next decade, video games will continue to advance mind-boggling capabilities for users. The biometric technology required to access the virtual offices of the Metaverse will likely be emulated by other non-Oculus companies as part of the game experience first.
Above all, it’s painfully evident what Zuckerberg is trying to achieve. Facebook has never been more reviled than it is now in 2021, after years of failing to adequately address its systematic problem as a fertile ground for terrorism and cyber warfare. By changing the company’s name to Meta and unveiling the Metaverse, he is hoping to bury the venom associated with the Facebook brand and attempting to force his project’s relevancy deeper into daily life now that users are retreating en masse.
Ultimately, the Metaverse will likely fail to ignite on the launchpad. Its current iteration as Facebook is far more dystopian.