Fox's new competition show, Alter Ego, has the internet in a tizzy. Hey, those singers are using avatars! Wow, they look so ugly. The faces kinda resemble the lead 3D work in Ready Player One. That must mean the game show is a part of "metaverse culture", right?
Multi-users spaces have a problem with the VR tech crowd often co-opting what they see happening in games on a superficial level, then taking that perception and squeezing it out for mainstream consumption in broader media. It's a tale as old as time with plenty of other spaces in both real and virtual life, but now it's both wreaking havoc on the word "metaverse", as well as causing non-gaming audiences to have a poor understanding of what the phenomenon actually is.
The downside of a poor definition of metaverse culture is, it leads to bad business decisions. Your average CEO will buy a cobbled-together report sold by a marketing company for around $8000, and in it will be the most trite information that leads to unfortunate product development. Another effect is how this comes full circle: social platforms are run by companies. Eventually, the circle of bad decisions and perceptions come to affect the very game the misconception arose from. Who wants to suffer from that?
So, what is "metaverse culture"?
Metaverse culture arises from social platforms where...yes, culture is happening. It happens within the spaces. It doesn't happen outside of it, because then it's just plain culture.
Some examples of metaverse culture are:
- Memes and jokes arising from within a game, taking on a life of their own, and then escaping out of that game via social media to be appreciated by a larger audience
- A song that's been on repeat in virtual spaces because it was initially debuted there, taking off, garnering attention, and hitting your local radio station
- Fashion happening within a game (notice a pattern developing here?) that incorporates unique shaders you can only see...within that game. An example of this is Audiolink-enabled avatars that gives specific effects when music is playing on a map.
- A map put up for public download by its original creator, taken and re-downloaded, and re-uploaded by multiple people until it becomes a joke in of itself.
- A piece of furniture in a game getting overused to the point that users make fun of it for being present on a game map
Every piece of an example here happens within the game. It does not originate outside of it. It doesn't originate from an avatar creator who did not initially release that avatar within a game. If it wasn't known in a social VR platform, it isn't metaverse culture. That's the definition.
This culture is specific to social virtual spaces and it will never, ever originate from outside of it--no matter how much money you throw at it.
How do you properly research metaverse culture?
You gotta play these games, chum.
You can't develop VR content if you aren't on the platform you're developing it for. Likewise, a show like Alter Ego will always miss its mark because no matter how much Hollywood razzle-dazzle you dress it up with, it's still forced and badly represented. Even someone who has never been in VR before will find the concept silly and forced. It doesn't ring true in any relatable way, and so the viewer will ultimately reject it.
Companies often take as many shortcuts as possible when developing content for media that incorporates hot topics. When it comes to taking aspects of VR and putting them on TV, it has to be done with the right intent or it won't work.
There are plenty of people online who create work worthy of a television ad, music worthy of a commercial, and they're in these virtual spaces and looking to pay their rent. Hire them. You'll get your vision, audiences get their high-grade content, and these creatives get paid. Everybody wins when it's done in the right way.