“Metaverse” is a buzzword that has become quite popular in the last two years. Fortnite is a metaverse. Web3 and blockchain will help power the metaverse. Maybe cows will even be a part of it? However, nobody seems more invested in shaping our collective notion of what the metaverse is than Meta and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg. Unfortunately for anyone eager to experience our glorious virtual future, what Zuckerberg has shown off of his vision of said future looks boring, drab, generic, and really shitty. It also serves as a nice reminder that rich tech bros shouldn’t be in charge of the future.
Earlier this week, the alien-wearing-a-human-skin-suit known to us as Mark Zuckerberg posted a VR selfie from inside his company’s metaverse project, Horizon Worlds. The selfie showed off the Eiffel Tower and was meant to announce that his metaverse is expanding to more countries. Instead, however, people immediately began dunking on the terrible picture, the ugly avatar, and how it all looked like it fell out of a 2005 edutainment game.
And oddly, this isn’t the first time Zuck’s showed off hideous avatars of himself in an attempt to lure people into his virtual-reality-powered nightmare world.
Back in 2017, Zuckerberg demonstrated the VR app Facebook Spaces using an ugly-as-sin avatar that vaguely looked like him, if the goal was to recreate the billionaire CEO as a smooth, cartoonish avatar you might see in a fever dream. Oh and for some reason, he decided the best way to show off this app and his awful avatar was to visit Puerto Rico via a video after it had been slammed by a powerful hurricane, killing thousands and destroying many of the island’s homes and businesses.
In 2021, ol’ Zuckie returned with an avatar that looked better than before. However, this avatar, which appeared in a video showcasing Facebook and Meta’s grand metaverse plans, isn’t actually real. It was instead created as part of a larger concept video showing what Meta was working toward. Still, even this avatar looks like someone who fell off the Polar Express.
And that brings us to 2022, where Zuckerberg’s avatar is a legless knock-off of a Nintendo Mii with some really weird buttons and the eyes of a corpse. And this isn’t just how Zuckerberg looks, this is the way all avatars appear in Horizon Worlds. I’ve played enough Horizon Worlds to tell you that the missing legs quickly cease to matter. But the lack of style and the cold, dead aesthetic never goes away.
Sure, part of the reason these avatars and worlds look simple and ugly compared to modern video games comes down to the limited VR hardware in Quest 2 and Facebook’s desire to make VR content that can run on as many devices as possible.
On the other hand, I can find Nintendo DS and Sony PS Vita games with better, nicer-looking art and models than what we’ve been shown so far in Facebook’s metaverse. I also don’t think you can blame the people making this stuff, as I assume they are more than capable of doing better and more vibrant things. But more and more, it seems that isn’t what Meta and Zucklehead want. Instead, they are focused on making a product that can be consumed by the masses and which lacks any defining characteristics in an attempt to get more people to dive in.
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This is the exact opposite approach we see in more community-driven VR metaverses like VR Chat, which looks better and feels warmer and more inviting. In comparison, Horizon Worlds looks like an animated video I’d walk by in some fancy hospital while I look for the bathroom.
And if this bland and ugly metaverse is the future Mark Zuckerberg wants and is investing billions of dollars into, I’m worried that it could end up winning out over other, better alternatives simply because he has the money and resources to squash or buy up competitors. Well, if it does win out, at least I’ll be able to skip it and not buy a new VR headset.