“Hiro’s not here at all. He’s in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones. In the linkgo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse.” – Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
American fiction writer Neal Stephenson first coined the term ‘metaverse’ in his 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash. The story tells the tale of Hiro Protagonist and Y.T. (Yours Truly), a couple of hacking and skateboarding enthusiasts who traverse a three-dimensional, perpetually nocturnal metaverse, exclusively accessible through virtual reality goggles in escape from their dystopian, economically jaded homeland of Los Angeles.
In the real world, metaverse technology as we know it today is more analogous to computer-based video games Minecraft and Roblox than the fictional dramatisations of Snow Crash and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.
As Stephenson assessed in a recent tweet, this is partly the result of pioneering early-’90s video games such as DOOM which introduced the first-person shooter archetype alongside cutting-edge 3D graphics, drastically altering the trajectory of gaming experiences for the coming decades.
As a consequence, our current perception of the metaverse is primarily two-dimensional and browser-based, with the introduction of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) seen as a future iteration to the existing experience.
How far metaverse technology permeates societal culture beyond the realm of adventuring and gaming, and into the lives of ordinary individuals in their working, home and consumer environments, remains largely unexplored.
So what tf is actually going on up there? Sceptics say they don’t get it — or at least, they definitely can’t find it. Boomers may be able to use Facebook, but they seem incapable of finding a simple website link to enter a metaverse world.
The metaverse in 2022
When Facebook rebranded to Meta, virtual land in blockchain metaverse platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox skyrocketed. From Gucci to VICE Media, teams across the world assembled at light speed to enter a new digital ‘universe’, like a branded space race of the 21st century.
At the forefront of metaverse platforms sit The Sandbox, Decentraland and Yuga Labs’ Otherwise. Users register to these platforms by connecting an Ethereum digital wallet such as MetaMask.
These metaverses utilise NFTs and in-game digital currencies — like The Sandbox’s $SAND token — to house ecosystems in which users can buy, sell, trade and engage with virtual assets.
Akin to traditional massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), players can create avatars to roam freely through a globally connected landscape, build pixelated cubic infrastructures, attend events, engage in competitions and buy digital real estate on NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea.
The Chainsaw spoke to Sebastien Borget, one of the founding fathers of The Sandbox, to ask about the present state of the metaverse and what realistic potential they have considering the bleak times of the crypto market.
“The market euphoria of 2021 and early 2022 is behind us,” Borget noted, “and we are seeing differentiation among projects between the ones that were focused on the short term, and others that are building a solid community and ecosystem over the long run.”
Borget regards the metaverse as “a technology and content disruption that will impact sectors across every industry, create millions of jobs, and enable new forms of social interactions among users, businesses, brands and their fans”.
Within native crypto media, the fledgling sector of the metaverse is often shrouded in futuristic speculation, spatial hyperbole and biased financial agendas.
In traditional media, it’s the other end of the spectrum, with a perplexed incomprehension bordering upon ignorance of the subject, no less so than when reporting on Zuckerberg’s tempestuous endeavours with Horizon Worlds.
Despite such infancy, the metaverse is already a billion-dollar industry, with iconic brands including Adidas, Atari, Warner Music Group and Gucci having all purchased sizable plots in The Sandbox with the intention of cultivating digital communities and consumer ecosystems.
Can you ask Snoop Dogg if he has any sugar?
While you might not be able to knock on Snoop Dogg’s door to ask him if he has any sugar, you can definitely go to his house parties when he’s ready for a rave.
We tried to ask the last known metaverse neighbour of Snoop if he could ask for any sugar who gained viral notoriety in December after his near half-million-dollar digital real estate investment. But they revealed to The Chainsaw they had since parted with the asset and weren’t willing to share further details on the sale.
The legendary global hip-hop artist — famous for his lyrical prowess and sleek vocal flows — has quickly emerged as a prominent advocate and culturally respected spokesperson in the NFT space over the last 18 months.
Tha Doggfather himself has established strong roots in the wider tech industry after making progressive investments in startups Robinhood and Klarna, as well as Reddit, among others.
To express his love for his new-found metaverse, Snoop recently released a Sandbox-inspired single titled ‘House I Built’ in April 2022, shortly followed by an 11-track album titled Metaverse: The NFT Drop, Vol. 1 in May.
Later in the year, he collaborated with fellow icon Eminem on a BAYC-themed single and music video titled ‘From The D 2 The LBC’, the latter of which has racked up over 45 million views on YouTube in the two months since its release.
Through his artistic pseudonym Cozomo de’ Medici, Snoop has intentionally invested many millions of dollars in the burgeoning NFT art scene.
Medici has collected works from some of the most promising up-and-coming artists from DeeKay’s ‘Life and Death’ cartoon animation for $1 million, as well as SuperRare Neo-Precisionism artist Grant Riven Yun’s ‘gn’ and Yam Karkai’s inaugural NFT art piece ‘Two faces’, which was minted prior to the launch of World of Women.
The Medici Collection is a publicly accessible digital gallery located within The Sandbox and neighbouring the Snoopverse — a dedicated world designed to house Snoop Dogg’s metaverse ambitions.
Borget shared that “since Snoop Dogg has partnered with us to enter The Sandbox, he has shown dedication and passion in bringing his Snoopverse to life”, before revealing that the team is preparing to host a Snoop Dogg virtual concert in The Sandbox towards the end of 2022.
“We strive to always bring more value and utility for the avatars holders and fans of the major brands and celebrities that entered The Sandbox metaverse, and Snoop Dogg has definitely been one of the most involved artists sharing this vision,” Borget said.
But there’s more to going to Snoop Dogg’s parties. The Sandbox will soon see more than 90 experiences in their world, including major partners from The Walking Dead, Warner Music Group, Atari, Avenged Sevenfold, Rabbids, Steve Aoki and iconic multi-generational friendship crew The Smurfs.
Beyond The Sandbox, we’re seeing many more real-world players enter the space. Tokyo and Hong Kong have already started building the world’s first universities in the metaverse, for example.
The University of Tokyo is scheduled to open the Metaverse School of Engineering in September, while the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has announced a Metaverse Campus Launch.
But we can see just how far we have to go in terms of visual and spatial development. The future roadmap of the Web3 metaverse is also witnessing contention as of late. The ethos of the community stems down to the ability to transfer assets or digitally walk between worlds, but so far the lack of consistent standardisation means these worlds still sit separate from one another.
In the perfect world, we imagine Snoop Dogg, Sebastien, The Chainsaw editorial crew and maybe even an avatar of Hiro Protagonist will all be sharing sugar — on a journey across each metaverse with just a few clicks.