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When it comes to the metaverse, we see a lot of fog and hype there. Everyone seems to think they want it, but they’re not sure what it is or if it’s something that’s already been done or something coming in the future. Here are some of my own thoughts on what a metaverse should be.
What I would like to encourage is some imagination. If you remember the words of Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, he said in interviews and a speech he gave that the metaverse was overhyped and a lot has already been done. He called Second Life and its inspiration for virtual worlds an abject failure, and praised GTA Online for doing everything the metaverse is intended to do through gaming. It’s social, people play together, they get into their games.
But I think Zelnick fell into the trap of thinking we’ve already been there and done that. Why try again? It’s good to remember that before GTA Online and World of Warcraft, there were so many massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, like Eve Online. They built on each other.
In my opinion, the metaverse should be realtime. It should be snappy and you should be able to switch from one world to another instantly, without painful delays that take you out of the immersion of being anywhere.
My idea of an entertaining metaverse encompasses the work of a young writer who studied long ago as an English major and explored rich works full of literary references, such as The Wasteland by TS Eliot and themes of Heaven and Hell and the End of Civilization. .
He had the idea of building a series of worlds and characters and stories that were all connected. Each individual creation had its own meta-story. It was kind of like the idea of pairing books from Robin and Rand Miller’s original Myst.
He was inspired by The Lord of the Rings, Arthurian Legends and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. And he read Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came. The series was about his interpretation of what happened when a knight approached the Dark Tower.
I’m talking about Stephen King and his magnum opus, The Dark Tower series. King was often criticized for his horror works, starting from Carrie, and he was considered a literary schlockmeister who produced the worst pulp fiction.
But he started with this idea and then apparently had it buried for decades. But he was building the world, and he was creating backdoors in these worlds to a bigger meta-story. He had the idea of building a series of worlds and characters and stories that were all connected. With the ideas of parallel worlds and time travel, he made sure that these characters — like The Stand’s villain, Randall Flagg — could appear over and over in all of his books over decades of writing. He wove such works as The Wastelands and The Seven Samurai into the tapestry of The Dark Tower, which eventually became eight novels and over 4,250 pages.
I realize they made a critically panned movie about the first story. And Amazon has canceled a TV series based on that. But I’m one of those die-hard fans.
Linking together dozens of novels and other creative works and telling a really big story, King had the last laugh at people who felt his work never deserved the label epic. He created his own magnum opus. In my mind he built a metaverse. You could take all that and make it a digital metaverse of virtual worlds, linked together. You could use those links to trace the common thread between those stories. It wasn’t just any story. It was a whole collection of stories, all under one roof. It was like a franchise of franchises.
Or better yet, you could let readers and players take these worlds and make them their own. To me, this is the kind of imagination worthy of the term metaverse. I wish someone would build it.
What am I going to do in that metaverse? I don’t know. Hell, I could make up my own Stephen King-esque stories about The Dark Tower or maybe just connect with other fans. It would be a world built on worlds, and something I could sink my teeth into as a fan.
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