The Metaverse: A Virtual Playground for Modern-Day Homo Ludens

The Metaverse promises to fulfill the dream of a fully realized, living and breathing virtual world. By utilizing cutting edge technologies such as blockchain and VR, the Metaverse seeks to redefine digital peoperty and become the ultimate form of digital entertainment.

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HackerNoon Interviewer: First, tell us a bit about yourself. For example, name, profession, and personal interests.

My name is Dimitar Bogdanov and I work at LimeChain, one of the premier blockchain development companies in the world. I’m responsible for content generation for educational and marketing purposes.

I’m also very passionate about gaming, digital entertainment and storytelling, in general. This is why I’m extremely excited about the Metaverse, which promises to be a revolutionary new medium for all kinds of digital entertainment.

Please sum up what the metaverse is in 1 to two paragraphs.

The Metaverse is a shared virtual environment that leverages cutting edge technologies like VR, AR and blockchain to create engaging experiences for its denizens. It’s a virtual world, accessed via the Internet, where people can interact with one another and with the environment in a variety of ways, often through their own virtual avatars. Playing games, attending events like virtual concerts, creating and trading digital land, property and other digital assets – these are just some of the activities that are available to denizens of the Metaverse.

It should be noted that the Metaverse is not a single, monolithic entity. Much like the Internet, which came about from the merging of a multitude of disparate computer networks, the Metaverse is powered by various distinct applications and services all contributing, directly or indirectly, to the creation of something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. 

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Are you currently, directly or indirectly, working on building a metaverse?

As a blockchain company, LimeChain has perhaps more direct exposure to the Metaverse than many other tech firms and, as part of our projects, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to contribute to its development and expansion. One way we do this is by creating digital assets like the Polymorphs and Lobby Lobsters – two innovative NFT collections that we developed in collaboration with Universe XYZ. We also developed a token designed to support the virtual economy of IMVU, which is an online metaverse and social networking site where users can create their own avatars and use them to connect with other people in 3D virtual spaces.

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Going forward, we plan to increase our involvement in the space by increasing our focus on Metaverse games.

In your opinion, is the metaverse inevitable, or is it just another passing trending tech topic that’ll lose hype?

The Metaverse isn’t just another ‘flavor-of-the-month’ type tech fad. On the contrary, it might be one of the most enduring constructs of the human mind. Considering that pretty much all ancient civilizations have developed – often independently from one another – their own versions of the ‘afterlife’, we can conclude that the question of what lies beyond (or as the ancient Greek would say – ‘meta’) our world has been central for humankind for millennia. 

But one needn’t go down the existential rabbit hole to see how deeply rooted the concept of virtual worlds is in our modern pop culture. We can find it in Star Trek’s holodeck, Tron’s virtual dystopia, Ready Player One’s The OASIS, the simulated reality of The Matrix and in Inception’s shared dream spaces. Not to mention the existence of some sort of a ‘cyberspace’ layer is a well-established trope used in many works of science fiction, especially when it comes to the cyberpunk subgenre. 

All great works of sci-fi have a prophetic quality to them because their authors were able to extrapolate from the technology and social trends of their time to make informed predictions about the future. When it comes to the Metaverse, we have a prophecy in the making.

Massive multiplayer online (MMO)  and sandbox games, digital stores, chat and social media apps, shared VR spaces – these are some of the early building blocks of the Metaverse. And now, in blockchain technology we have the final piece of the puzzle. 

Why is the metaverse such a revolutionary concept?

The revolutionary nature of the Metaverse might not be apparent at first glance. After all, we’ve been dreaming about virtual worlds for decades and, thanks to the rise of computers and the Internet, we already live in a highly ‘digital’, highly connected world. What’s revolutionary about the Metaverse is the way it ties together several important social and tech trends and brings them to their natural conclusion: the idea of the Homo Ludens and the importance of play for the generation of culture; the rise of video games and other forms of digital entertainment; the gamification phenomenon that has taken over important aspects of our physical world; our love affair with information and communication.

The Metaverse is simultaneously a way for connecting people regardless of distance, a virtual playground and an outlet for our creative impulses. A genuine digital world – no need for quotation marks.

What can people build in the metaverse that we can’t build on the Internet, or in virtual reality today? What limitations of our current technology does the metaverse free us from?

We already touched on this in the previous question, but the biggest strength of the Metaverse is that it can realize the virtual world concept as a tangible place and instill a sense of belonging in its inhabitants. Nowadays we often say that our world is becoming increasingly digital, but in saying that, we usually refer to our growing reliance on Internet-powered services and technologies. The Metaverse represents the next – and perhaps, final – step in our journey towards realizing our dream of digital worlds. And blockchain technology is set to play a pivotal role in realizing that dream.

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How are the metaverse and blockchain related? Can we build a metaverse without blockchain technology?

Many conventional games and online services have managed to foster thriving communities and make their users feel at home. Games like Minecraft and Roblox already allow players to build unique worlds and experiences, people form bonds and friendships in multiplayer online games and Fortnite is trying to leverage its immense popularity to launch some sort of a metaverse on its own. However, at their current state, these are still very much separate entities doing their own thing. The introduction of blockchain changes all that.

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One obvious benefit of blockchain technology comes from its ability to guarantee and preserve ownership of digital assets. A cosmetic item in a traditional game can be stolen, but a blockchain-backed NFT always contains verifiable and tamperproof information about its most recent owner. 

Blockchain also paves the way for digital assets to be moved freely and used across various applications, which is not the case with the current model. But with blockchain technology acting as a connective tissue, we’ll eventually be able to have one unified Metaverse.

Perhaps most importantly, blockchain technology frees the Metaverse from having to depend on central authorities. Imagine, for example, a (admittedly, highly unlikely) scenario where Epic Games go out of business. Barring an outside intervention like an acquisition from another corporate (and centralized) entity, that would also mean the end of Fortnite. But thanks to its decentralized nature, blockchain technology can support truly persistent digital worlds that can’t be affected by a company’s bottom line or the whims of its top brass. By leveraging the strengths of blockchain technology, decentralized apps like Decentraland and The Sandbox have been able to change how we think about digital property and its value.

None of this should come as a surprise, by the way. Given that blockchain technology is facilitated by computer networks where a multitude of participants share a common history, it’s only fitting that it should provide the foundation for the ultimate shared experience – the Metaverse.

How quickly do you think the metaverse will be developed? How much can we expect metaverse tech to grow in the next 5 to 10 years?

I think that the Metaverse is the type of technology that can grow organically, as developers gradually build more and more tools and products around it. At the same time, much of its growth will likely be driven by corporate interest, as companies – especially the big ones – are always on the lookout for promising new markets. In this respect, the Metaverse’s journey will likely resemble that of the Internet, which also rose from humble beginnings to become the connective tissue of our modern world. 

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So if we take the development of the Internet as a benchmark, we’ll see that even the most transformative technologies need a period of maturation to truly unlock their potential. Twenty years ago my every visit to the online world was heralded by the screeching sound of my modem. Today, I can have an Internet connection practically everywhere.

In the case of the Metaverse, we’ll likely see a similar process of maturation of its base technologies. After all, it was only this summer that the allure of NFTs became apparent to the mainstream. Similarly, AR and VR are still considered niche products.

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So in five to 10 years, I expect that we’ll have a great early version (an alpha, if you will), of what the Metaverse will ultimately be. Much like how many of today’s most popular online services were already up and running 10 years ago, but needed more time and technology maturation to reach their current level of sophistication and utility. Similarly, in five to 10 years we’ll already have a fully functional Metaverse that will only become more elaborate with time.

Keep in mind that this timeline might be significantly accelerated by the introduction of big corporations. With the likes of Microsoft, Epic Games and, most recently, Facebook, having openly expressed interest in the Metaverse, you can be sure that there’ll be plenty of resources dedicated to building our future virtual world.

What is your hope for the metaverse? Do you have any worries or does the concept pose any threats?

The involvement of big corporations can be a double edged sword, however. It could spur a flurry of development and drive growth in the sector. But on the other hand, it could result in the whole sector being hijacked by Big Business. Let’s not forget that the Internet started out as a way to connect people and provide easy access to information, but has given rise to plenty of ‘walled garden’ type services along the way, especially in more recent times.

The Metaverse should remain free and open to everyone that wants to use it. This is, above all, my biggest hope for that exciting new space. And with blockchain as a foundational layer, I believe that this is entirely possible!

Thanks for your time! Any final words?

Sometimes, it’s easy to get lost in a debate over the utility of something or dismiss a revolutionary idea because its value to the world isn’t immediately apparent or quantifiable. But we must remember that we’ve been sharing stories and experiences with each other since the dawn of time and not because there’s much utility to it (although there often is), but because it’s an essential part of being human. And we’ve always been able to utilize our latest technology to tell better stories, create better experiences and play.

Now we have a new virtual playground and soon ther will be a world of limitless possibilities to enjoy. Let’s start exploring it!

See you in the Metaverse!

The metaverse is quite possibly the future of the internet. To help our readers learn more about it, we’ve started this metaverse interview series.

These are the questions we’ve compiled to ask experts in blockchain, DAOs, NFTs, and game development, within the HackerNoon community. The series is intended for tech professionals to contribute their insights about the current state and the future of the metaverse.

If you too would like to start contributing to Hacker Noon, you can do so here.

If you also want to publish your thoughts about the metaverse, answer the template here.

This article is part of The Gaming Metaverse Writing Contest hosted by HackerNoon in partnership with The Sandbox.

Submit your #gaming-metaverse story today for your chance to win up to $2000.

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