Growing up in the Metaverse
By Spiros Pissios, Decasonic Intern
How the Metaverse has Grown with its Biggest Consumers: Gen Z
New jobs, virtual reality, cryptocurrencies, and more have caused mainstream consumers to surge towards the metaverse. Talked about as though it has just emerged, the metaverse has been in society for years among the younger generations such as Generation Z. Gen Z or the “iGeneration” grew up in a time of technological boom with mobile and social media platforms that have changed the way we communicate. Through these mediums combined, the metaverse has developed with gen Z at the forefront of its evolution.
What is the Metaverse?
It is generally seen as a virtual world that still exists even when people are not playing on them. In the metaverse, people can interact with one another and other physical and non-physical items through an avatar, our digital representatives in the virtual world. Virtual reality or augmented reality are other forms of the metaverse most people think of, yet the metaverse includes many video games as well. When using the term metaverse broadly, it encompases a large market. Experts predict the total addressable market (TAM) to possibly reach anywhere between 8 and 12 trillion dollars. However, the only way to get there is through expanding the usage of the metaverse and making it more accessible. In 2019 there were an estimated 440 million users of the metaverse. Today, that number sits at roughly 1.07 B users and by 2024 it is estimated to grow to 1.73 B users with an estimated “cap” of 5 B users. A large reason for this disparity is insufficient accessibility.to either 5G, broadband, wifi, or technology which is necessary or enhances the experience. However, as the world infrastructure keeps growing and building, the metaverse will hold a heavy hand in society.
One particular video game that was one of the “founding fathers” of the metaverse is Roblox, formerly known as DynaBlocks. Roblox consists of various
worlds where avatars, made of blocks, interact with each other and the surrounding blocky-environment.
When the game’s beta first launched (2003), player’s abilities were very limited. They could build on the digital playground, create new games, solve puzzles, and do lots of other single-player focused activities. As the game started to grow, the contests and multiplayer game modes started to become more popular and more refined. And in June 2006 (a couple months after the official launch) a chat function was installed.
Today, there are over 40 million user developed games that focus supremely around the Roblox multiplayer interface. In one game, players can play football with each other in a semi-realistic stadium and in others they can simulate being cops and robbers. Even so, players are able to simulate a day in the life of a family member in a household. Playing as the daughter, father, mother, or son, players choose to do the tasks a real life version of those avatars would do: go to school, work, cook dinner, drive, sleep, etc. In recent years the game has started to focus more on real life applications that players can participate in digitally instead of physically. Today, people are trying to turn this game into reality by creating a consumer market within the metaverse for virtual real estate, jobs, and even cars that can be purchased using cryptocurrency. Consequently to develop their metaverse, Meta alone is expected to hire 10,000 people in the E.U. over 5 years.. CNBC believes that the real estate market in the metaverse will grow to 1 billion by the end of 2022, doubling the market in 2021. The growth of Roblox exemplifies the power of the youth. In 2006 the game had a mere 11,000 users and today that number sits at 934 million. Of these 934 million, 67% of users are under the age of 16. That means about 31% of all children globally under 16 have been on Roblox at some point and have experienced the metaverse. The future of the metaverse lies in the hands of these children who will one day be a part of the endless capabilities it has to offer.
Roblox has set up its own economy within their game. In Roblox, U.S. dollars have no value, rather only Robux do. Since the game is free, there is no need to actually pay money for the game. However, Roblox offers both vanity and resourceful items for purchase that can help players throughout their time in game. Effectively since May 2007, Roblox has been operating under their own virtual currency that they control the value of. It is not considered a cryptocurrency because Robux are not decentralized nor normally traded/listed on an exchange. This idea of taking paper money and trading it for virtual money to purchase items in a virtual world has been growing in popularity and started on Roblox and other “founding fathers” of the metaverse. However Roblox is not the only one. Hundreds of games, especially mobile games, have created their own virtual currencies that also hold value in a virtual world.
The metaverse has changed a lot over the years. As rapid globalization and technological developments ensue, the metaverse becomes more and more refined. Being born at the same time as the metaverse, I have first hand experienced the scalability potential of the metaverse. Some of the first metaverse video games were Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, both of which have released multiple more games. As time has progressed, the multiplayer interface in these games has become more accessible through cross platform play, live chat, and party chat. Sizes of the virtual worlds in the metaverse and the detail of the graphics have also increased tremendously along with making the user’s avatars more realistic. However the most interesting development of the metaverse has been the exponential growth of virtual reality users and the quality of the headsets themselves. When it came out in 2014, I purchased the gogglebox, a cardboard VR headset. At 11 years old I would slip my mom's phone into the headset and then play VR roller coaster videos on youtube. Since then, I have experienced and purchased multiple VR headsets. As time has gone by, the multiplayer interface and graphics have increased tremendously. Today I can sit in a virtual room with my friend and play video games, watch tv, eat, and so much more. As time passes the metaverse becomes more interactive and more realistic with endless opportunities.
In sum, the younger generation is going to bear the burden of taking beta technologies such as the metaverse and developing it into truly a second world that will be accessible to all.