Virtual worlds can be an alternative to the real life, like in Ready Player One. In that story a strong divide in power, wealth and resources paved the way for an alternative reality to thrive. In our current society we aren’t there yet, but the problems surrounding the Corona virus, the fall of the stock market, social paranoia, and rise of technologically and blockchain services could push us in that direction. Maybe we are closer to a scenario like Ready Player One than we think.
It’s a bit of a nerdy dream to think a virtual world like in Ready Player One can easily exist in our world. There are many factors that could become a problem for such a virtual world to succeed. Think about things like copyright issues, health concerns, not to mention any political oppression.
Armies of lawyers will jump in as soon as Super Mario and Mickey Mouse appear as assets within a virtual world. Perhaps we will something like this even happening pretty soon, when The Sandbox, Decentraland, Somnium Space and Cryptovoxels gain traction outside of the current blockchain space. In addition there are obviously health concerns, as people are sitting on their chairs all day instead of doing any physical work. While political oppression is something we’ve always been seeing on the internet: Governments want to control the narrative. This fight for power is even the main story in Ready Player One.
So yes, a virtual world like The Oasis seems like an utopia, and surely comes with several challenges. But I do believe we’re pretty close to realizing something that’s similar to that virtual world. This idea is driven by an increased social isolation (hello Corona virus) and continuous technological innovation.
Social isolation and working from home
Due to the Corona virus many people are forced to stay and work from their homes. Whether these people will be productive, remains to be seen. However, I’ve been working from home for the past five years, and generally consider myself very productive. This in turn made me wonder about the future of office work, or more particular about the future of working at home.
Issues arising from the Corona virus could spark a new paradigm in working and business relationships.
Teachers are motivated to teach students through video conferencing. Companies are having meetings through similar methods. Discord even upped its Go Live streaming and screen share limit from ten to fifty people for the next few months. This will allow companies, schools, and universities to keep working remotely.
Being forced to stay inside, underlines the need for a virtual meeting spaces. Governments around the world are asking people not to meet in public places. Music festivals are being cancelled, museums close, and football competition are on hold. In Italy there’s even a curfew, where people are only allowed on the streets when carrying certain papers.
Right now social isolation is forced on us because of a virus. It could provide a first real test into a new way of doing business for many people around the world. They might discover that working from home has its benefits, and that much is possible thanks to technology. There are already plenty of businesses, especially in the blockchain space, that work without a central office.
Technological innovation as a solution
Technology in general has always been something that reduces our need to use our body. The wheel made sure we didn’t need to walk anymore, while the internet gave us ways to access information. Blockchain technology allows consumers to regain control over their own data.
Right now we’re seeing lots of developments in the blockchain space that could make our lives easier. For example, decentralized finance (DeFi) could provide an excellent alternative for many services offered by banks, all powered by smart contracts and blockchain technology. A service like Rocket allows consumers to get loans by using their virtual assets as collateral. While Lend721 allows users to borrow virtual assets for a certain period of time from other people.
When we’re talking about virtual assets, you might think about a sword or a race car used in a video game. These can have serious value, but there are many other utilities for virtual assets as well. Any physical product can be tokenized. As a result these tokens can represent a share of ownership in real estate in Detroit, a rare painting by Andy Warhol, or a Ferrari F12 TDF.
But what does this have to do with Ready Player One and virtual worlds?
Simply put, we are a generation that understands the value of digital data.
We appreciate digital value
We are also all about gamification, in-game currencies, and digital trophies. Users who interact a lot online through gameplay or social experiences understand the time and effort others put into it. This understanding automatically leads to an associated value, perhaps even a financial value.
Watch or read Ready Player One, and you’ll see how the main characters makes money in a virtual world and spends it on real food, real products and digital items. The currencies he earns inside a game have a real world value. These digital currencies can be spend on other services inside the virtual realm, or on physical necessities like food, water, a new virtual reality suit, rent and so on. This is really not much different from the way how video games work. You put effort in a game, earn points, and these can be spend on an in-game upgrade.
The current rise of blockchain technology and blockchain gaming in particular opens up the possibility to earn money by playing video games.
Winning battles in Axie Infinity earns players Small Love Potions, which can be sold against a certain price. Gods Unchained let’s players tokenize digital cards, while Knight Story allows the sale of virtual weapons and armor. All these digital, virtual assets are tokenized on the blockchain and can be sold on an open marketplace.
What’s our Oasis?
It’s important to make the link between a virtual world and the real world. We can spend many hours in World of Warcraft and become a true legend, but this will hardly have any value in your real life. We can say the same about Second Life, and to a lesser extend about EVE Online.
However, blockchain technology allows video games to directly connect with financial services. Someone can sell something they earn inside a game on an open marketplace, and they can send earnings from the sale to a cryptocurrency wallet or to a bank account. There have been many advancements in this space, allowing for easier transactions between blockchain and traditional financial systems. Whether this is something we should ambition is a whole other discussion.
At the moment The Sandbox isn’t live yet. Somnium Space, Decentraland and Cryptovoxels are the virtual worlds stealing the spotlights for now. These virtual worlds don’t look anything like The Oasis, but show potential.
Users are able to buy items from within these virtual world, which could potentially also allow shopkeepers to sell physical products through their virtual stores. In addition these virtual worlds allow to implement videos, while actual live streaming is on the road map. This allows for actual news reports, television shows, and live shows.
Somnium Space already allows users to use VR headsets, like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. For Decentraland these hardware integrations are also in the works. Now imagine wearing a VR headset, translating physical movements into the virtual world, while you’re earning digital money through in-game actions.
This can be inside one or multiple virtual worlds. That doesn’t matter for now. However, players can earn tokens and invest them into a digital piece of land, which in turn could make the owner even more money. This could eventually lead to an investment into tokenized real estate in the physical world.
All this is already possible!
Even though our current version of the Oasis doesn’t look as gorgeous or omnipresent, its technical possibilities and building blocks already exist.
Mentioned in this article
Virtual worlds: Decentraland, Somnium Space, The Sandbox & Cryptovoxels
Blockchain games: Axie Infinity, Knight Story & Gods Unchained
Blockchain Investment Platforms: RealT, CurioInvest, Lend721, Maecenas, Rocket