November 9, 2022

Why 'The Metaverse' risks dragging down the very thing it stands for

Mark Zuckerberg looking pensive

As reality bites for Meta, what is the risk for the rest of us seemingly caught up - whether we like it or not - in 'The Metaverse'?

"You're doing metaverse stuff aren't you?"

This is a question I get from friends and family on a fairly regular basis.

The answer is always, "well, sort of", and then I try to explain that the word represents different things to different people, that no-one really knows what it means, that it's all quite confusing, but that ultimately, whether it has a label or not, the kinds of three-dimensional digital experiences that we create are all about being exciting, effective, playful and as utterly brilliant as we can make them.

But by then they've stopped listening because it's not simple, memorable and short. Bloody metaverse.

Is the honeymoon over?

There's no denying that the popularisation of the term 'metaverse' has been a big driver of interest in digital immersive experiences over the past 12 months.

Even those of us that have remained staunchly cynical about the word (like us at Arcade) have benefited from the surge of interest in the immersive space. This trend was arguably already happening, triggered principally by the pandemic, but the m-word and its billionaire supporter(s) unquestionably gave us all another boost of acceleration.

The flip side of that same coin, though, is that when it is increasingly associated with negative news stories - plummeting share prices, people losing their jobs, as is the case right now - then we have to expect the hype we have seen amongst partners, clients and the general public to turn, justifiably, to concern.

Reality bites for Meta, its staff and shareholders, but that doesn't mean the immersive revolution is over

"So is the Metaverse over then?" might well be the response to these latest headlines. And this raises the possibility that the really good, solid gains our sector has made over the past 12-18 months, as more and more of society has seen for themselves the tangible benefits of immersive technologies, could disappear in a puff of metaversal smoke.

We Are Not The Metaverse

But three-dimensional digital experiences are here to stay.

AR and VR applications in entertainment, arts & culture, retail, marketing, training, healthcare - frankly, pretty much everywhere - are proving their worth as new and effective ways of engaging audiences.

The technologies we use have matured beyond measure since Arcade started back in 2017, and can today deliver the kind of robust, reliable and persistent experiences we could only dream of.

Irrespective of what we call it, it's an exciting time to be at the centre of this space. As a strategist I have a fundamental belief in the power of language, but in this case it makes no sense to be reliant on a word. The things being created are too good, too important, too impactful to be made or broken by a name.

The m-word has burned brightly. Like all big fires it draws people towards it. Some perhaps got a bit too close and are suffering as a result. And just maybe the fire is starting to die down - or even going out completely.

But please just remember: a name is just a name, and not the thing itself. What we and others in our industry do is wild and precise, thrilling and practical, persistent and ephemeral, and all the more exciting for its mind-boggling variety and resistance to any singular definition. Any attempt to pin it down or wrap it all up in one convenient little box is perhaps always destined to fail. And maybe that's for the best.

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