A large crowd of unmoving clones standing still in a mostly empty world amid tinny-ass beats that’d sound weak coming out of a Game Boy. It almost seems like they’re waiting for something to happen. But nothing does. They remain largely still, shuffling slightly, perhaps rotating a bit as the music drones on. Odd human-like statues surround them all. One person glides leisurely into the air. This isn’t a horror film or some weird art project. This is, apparently, a party in the so-called “metaverse.” Sounds terrible, no?
Decentraland is a 3D online virtual world that is built around the minting, buying, and selling of NFT items and digital land. It’s technically a game, but it seems about as fun as hanging out in a doctor’s office. So earlier today, when an NFT-lovin’ CTO shared a clip of this boring world and one of its odd, dead-looking raves, the internet reacted as you would expect, collectively dunking on the terrible-looking simulacrum of a party. The tweet’s ratio is actually incredible, approaching 20:1 retweets to likes.
But there’s so much wrong in the clip tweeted by self-described “#NFT enthusiast” Alex Moss. For one thing, I’ve never been to a rave or concert where people don’t move or dance. Instead, in the metaverse, everyone is just standing near each other like creepy robots. There even seems to be a distinct lack of dancing emotes, a thing that has existed in other online games for well over two decades now.
It’s also hard to miss the general cheap, cluttered vibe of it all. This glimpse of Decentraland makes it look like a fictional game that was tossed together in a few hours for an episode of CSI: Whatever City, in which the investigators are trying to solve a murder that involves some “new” and “popular” online world. I can see a character actor playing this and going “Yeah, this is where I last saw Sally. Or someone who looked like Sally, we all look like the same crappy digital avatar in here.”
Compare this to any of the Fortnite concerts that have happened over the last few years. These involve incredible visuals, fun gameplay mechanics, talented musicians, and huge cinematic moments of excitement. Hell, I went to a Korn concert in Adventure Quest 3D that was 10x better than any of the Decentraland parties or concerts I’ve seen, including the one in Moss’s tweet. People danced while Korn played and enemies were killed by partygoers. Good stuff. And while sure, Roblox is a nightmare that is using kids as cheap labor to fuel its content mill, at least its parties look silly and fun, not boring and bland.
And that’s not even considering VRChat, a game whose virtual rave / club / dance scene, rendered via high-end VR graphics and actually-innovative technologies like full-body tracking and haptic clothing, continually sets new high-water marks for what virtual embodiment and online community events can be.
Perhaps the weirdest part of Decentraland and the ongoing metaverse fad is that none of this stuff is new. Everything in it has been done before (or is still going on) in numerous, previous online games. Second Life, World of Warcraft, GTA Online, Fortnite, and countless other popular virtual venues have been holding parties and concerts, selling players items, and letting them build homes for decades. But because a bunch of grifters, tech bro con artists, and celebs smell a quick way to make some cash, we’re all going to be subjected to watching people get excited about boring shit that most people reading this site have already seen, experienced, and played many times over. The future is, as always, terrible.