Meta’s implementation of (its interpretation of) the Metaverse has become the butt of many jokes. Yet, you should be more worried about the possibility they may succeed. Now, you’re not supposed to bite the hand that feeds, although Epic Games seems to have bought into Meta’s vision, with Tim Sweeney announcing the Fortnite metaverse will be coming and the Epic career page beckoning with “Join the Metaverse”. By contrast, SchiZotypy Games proclaims: “Break free from the Metaverse!” But why?
Now, a quick declaration of interests here: When you – as a company – have made it into your mission to make great narrative-driven games with no micro-transactions, you are putting yourself open to be attacked by competitors who have a different vision. This rivalry is not really there with Epic Games, since they also supply – and make money from – makers of narrative-driven games. However, your main nemeses will be social media companies promoting the Metaverse, like Meta, because they are disrupting your bottomline. It only makes sense for us to do the same to them.
Forgot about the Oblivion horse armour controversy; forget even about Fortnite: Microtransactions were popularised by Farmville. Who benefited from Farmville (apart from Zynga)? Facebook (as Meta was then called) of course. Facebook popularised microtransactions. More generally, the decline of narrative-driven gaming coincided with the rise of social media (although it wasn’t exactly a coincidence). And this is why those who love narrative gaming should be worried about social media and the Metaverse in particular.
What is the Metaverse?
In Dreamfall Chapters, you will see people on the streets addicted to Dreamtime. Basically, to Dreamtime’s useds, Dreamtime is like a VR version of Roblox (hence, a Metaverse). Interestingly enough, this is an incredibly meta take on itself, because Dreamfall Chapters is a narrative-driven game with an Anti-Metaverse message.
A Metaverse is thus social media supported by Augmented Reality and/or Virtual Reality. The point of the Metaverse is to blur and eliminate the boundaries of social media “reality” and real-life. Dreamfall: Chapters (as well as the Matrix) depict(s) a VR-driven metaverse. An AR-driven metaverse is more rare in fiction but could potentially be used to depict those who opt-out as monsters or freaks. Meta is proposing to bring together the worst elements of the two types of metaverses and ahead of schedule too!
Why the Metaverse is bad
Now, I’m not a Luddite; AR and VR, being technologies, can be used for good or bad. The Metaverse – like social media – is best not thought of as a technology, but rather as an institution, and a highly oppressive one at that. Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida would have had a field day trying to deconstruct it. I could imagine totalitarian dictatorships like North Korea developing their own Metaverses to enforce their state ideologies more effectively. There is hardly any benign use for the Metaverse, if any.
To make a long story short: The Metaverse is bad because social media is bad. Social media is bad because it gives its owners the power the regiment social interactions, even as they are not responsible to adequately wield that power. Instagram ruined beauty standards. Facebook ruined gaming (and politics). And so forth. The Metaverse arms social media with AR and VR, making it the most advanced type of social media.
There is an antidote
The antidote to the Metaverse is the resurrection of Narrative-Driven gaming. Self-contained media like books, movies, stage plays and (yes) narrative-driven single-player games (let’s call them game plays) provide you with suggestions and inspiration. Thus, these only temporarily lapse the real world and allow you to come back to it as a better person. Indeed, these provide bildung – to use a fancy German word. However, whereas most writers and filmmakers are typically highly self-aware of that, most game developers aren’t. That SchiZotypy Games is, makes the difference.
To facilitate this mission, we are also rethinking the entire production logistics of game development. We can destroy the Metaverse, simply by not using social media. It is much easier to quit social media if the stimulating features can be derived from media. Media which do not have the potential to ruin friendships.
The “prepackaged” aspect of game plays, is not an obsolete gimmick, and rather an essential asset. Of course, to break free from the Metaverse is easier said than done. Given that its direct predecessors already appear lucrative, leading the charge against it may feel as a losing proposition. Well then, challenge accepted!