UPDATED! The Wall Street Journal Launches a Four-Part Podcast Series on the Metaverse and Second Life

The Wall Street Journal has launched a four-part podcast series called How to Build a Metaverse, with the introduction posted on September 19th, 2022:

We’re in a metaverse déjà vu moment. Companies are spending billions of dollars creating new metaverses, imagining a 3D virtual future. But there’s a metaverse that’s already been around for decades. In this world, people have started businesses, built homes and fallen in love as avatars.

In a new four-part series from The Journal, producer Annie Minoff heads back into that largely forgotten metaverse – Second Life – to tell the story of the metaverse we already have and what it can reveal about the one that’s coming.

Start listening to How to Build a Metaverse on Friday, September 23rd.

You can listen to this podcast via The Wall Street Journal website for the podcast The Journal (here’s a link to the first episode), or via your favourite podcast service, such as Apple, Spotify, or Google. I will definitely be listening in!

As I often say on this blog, Second Life is the perfect model of a mature, fully-evolved metaverse, which newer companies entering this marketplace would be wise to study, learn from, and emulate. This seems a rather appropriate time to share an image which I discovered while browsing on the r/SecondLife subreddit over on the social media website Reddit, directed towards all those newer metaverse wannabees (looking at you, Meta!):

UPDATE Sept. 27th, 2022: I listened to the first instalment of this podcast on Sunday, and I can recommend it highly! Annie Minoff interviews many different people—including former Linden Lab senior staff like Philip Rosedale and Cory Ondrejka—and it’s clear that she has immersed herself into Second Life and its culture a lot more than most reporters! I look forward to listening to future episodes of this podcast.


Thank you to Zella Jane for the heads-up!

I Pay a Visit to The Sandbox: My First Impressions of Alpha Season 3

I have written about The Sandbox before on this blog (here and here), and mentioned it in passing in other blogposts, but this weekend I decided to actually pay a visit to the third alpha test of this blockchain-based flatscreen virtual world, to see what all the fuss was about.

The Sandbox (a subsidary of Animoca Brands, a Hong Kong-based software and venture capital company) describes itself as “a community-driven platform where creators can monetize voxel assets and gaming experiences on the blockchain.” It is what I consider the fourth major blockchain-based metaverse platform, after Decentraland, Somnium Space, and Voxels (formerly known as Cryptovoxels). Please note that I am only referring to those projects which have already launched an actual platform, which you can visit and explore as an avatar! There are, of course, countless other blockchain-based metaverse projects which are still in the pre-launch stages (some of which may never launch during the current crypto winter!).

The Sandbox is currently running a series of alpha tests; the current one is called Alpha Season 3, and it is open to anybody who wishes to come kick the tires on an interim version of the product. Alpha Season 3 launched on August 24th, 2022, and will apparently run for ten weeks. According to the detailed FAQ documents:

The Sandbox Alpha Season events will allow players the opportunity to be the first to experience gameplay, social hubs and play-to-earn in The Sandbox’s metaverse.

Alpha Seasons will be multi-week events, where players can potentially earn $SAND rewards – and possibly NFTs (non-fungible tokens) – just for playing games. Players will have the opportunity to explore The Sandbox Metaverse for the first time through the experiences and social hubs available for the period that the season is running.

Note that Alpha Seasons are not the official full release of The Sandbox game. They are Alpha testing events whereby The Sandbox can collect community feedback and so on to determine if any changes or new features need to be added to The Sandbox metaverse.

All you need to do is set up an account (i.e. a username and password), connected to a crypto wallet (the four options supported are MetaMask, Coinbase, Bitsky, and Venly). According to the FAQ:

The Sandbox utilizes blockchain technology and therefore a wallet is required in order for you to be able to interact with this blockchain technology. Your wallet will securely authorise your access to the website and help you to keep track of any transactions that you perform.

It will also act as storage for any ERC-20 tokens that you have from The Sandbox, such as $SAND and GEMs, as well as any virtual goods that you own (ERC-1155), such as LAND and ASSETs. For example, you might earn some $SAND via The Sandbox’s Play2Earn features and will need a place to store it.

A cryptocurrency wallet provides you with true ownership of everything that you purchase, earn or win on The Sandbox’s platform. You will always have control and access to these virtual goods as long as you remain in control of your wallet.

Aah, yes, the famous “decentralized” aspect of NFT-based metaverse platforms! Of course, in the unlikely event that The Sandbox should ever fold, your “LAND and ASSETs” will probably not be transferable to any other blockchain-based metaverse.

Having just moved my MetaMask wallets over from my old personal computer to my new one (one for Voxels and a second one for Decentraland), I chose to link my Voxels account to MetaMask, even though I am not planning to purchase any of their cryptocurrency (called SAND), to buy NFT-based avatars, assets, or land from their Marketplace.

The Sandbox’s NFT marketplace

If you wish, instead of a generic avatar, you can choose an NFT you already own from a number of compatible NFT projects, such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club, the World of Women, Snoop Dogg, etc.:

The Sandbox has a downloadable client for both Windows and Mac users, but there’s also a web-based component (for example, the map of the Alpha Season 3 land, and the avatar customization tools):

The Sandbox map for Alpha Season 3
The (non-NFT) avatar customization screen

The first time you enter The Sandbox, you are automatically dropped off at a place called Start Here (or the Alpha Lobby), where you are given several quests to complete in order to gain Experience Points. You use your W, A, S, and D keys to move around, your spacebar to jump, and the E key to interact with NPCs and various objects, and receive quests.

The first two quests I did were to collect a series of bathroom plungers with rabbit ears (?!), and to “inspect” a collection of ten Bored Ape yacht Club NFTs in a gallery, which consisted of walking to each picture, then pressing the E key when standing in front of a pedestal placed in front of each. I found it a rather underwhelming experience.

The Sandbox style is Minecraftesque, and a bit of a mix of those of Roblox, Voxels and Decentraland. Here is my avatar standing in front of an amusement park ride in the starting lands. The lighting is good, and it gives everything a crisp, clear look.

It’s clear that a LOT of hard work has gone into the design of the worlds I visited! Here’s another look at the Start Here lands, showing a variety of fantastical animated creatures:

As I mentioned, there are Non-Playing Characters dotted through the landscape, with whom you interact using the E key, to roleplay through a pre-scripted conversation, or perhaps pick up a new quest. Here’s a selfie of me with Snoop Dogg (no, not the actual celebrity, just an NPC!).

To travel to other lands, you need to pull up the web-based map and click on a destination, which then teleports you to the new land you have selected (there is a noticeable delay in the client as the new land loads; the topmost image in this blogpost is an example of what the loading screen looks like in your client software while you wait for everything to load, before you can enter).

The South China Morning Post experience plunks you down in Hong Kong harbour (note the beggar and his dog on the right)

The Sandbox has numerous partners listed on its website, a real hodge-podge that ranges from celebrities like Snoop Dogg and the DJ deadmau5, to corporations like Adidas and Atari, to publications like the Tatler and the South China Morning Post! The Sandbox has also partnered with well-known children’s brands like the Smurfs and the Care Bears!

I found the juxtaposition of PG13 content (like the marijuana leaf above the Snoop Dogg logo) and the cartoony avatars and frankly silly quests to be a bit off-putting (the Terms of Use clearly state that The Sandbox users must be 18+, but obviously there’s nothing stopping children from lying about their age to access it).

For example, one of the lands you can visit in Alpha Season 3 is a game called You’re a Big Boy Now, where the set-up is the following: it’s 24 hours before the end of the world, and you leave behind your very pregnant girlfriend to travel to an epic end-of-the-world party you’ve heard about, in order to get blasted out of your mind on drugs and alcohol.

Not exactly on the same level as the Smurfs or the Care Bears, right? Why even bother to have those well-known children’s brands as official partners if your metaverse is restricted to those age 18 and up? It makes absolutely no sense at all. I expect that The Sandbox, given its similarity in look-and-feel to such popular children’s platforms like Roblox and Minecraft, is going to have a potential problem on its hands if they can’t find a way to keep the kids away. (Perhaps The Sandbox would be wise to take a look at the history of Second Life, where one way they dealt with the issue was to have completely separate lands for those under 18, although they later merged them with the mainland.)

Anyway, I can now honestly say that I’ve set (virtual) foot in all four of the major blockchain-based metaverse platforms released to date: Decentraland, Voxels, Somnium Space, and The Sandbox. I will continue to write about these platforms as they evolve and grow over time, and will also keep an eye on the many other blockchain-based metaverse platforms that have not yet launched! Stay tuned.

If you are interested in The Sandbox and want to learn more, you can visit their website, read through their one-page summary of the project, peruse their detailed FAQ and their blog on Medium, or follow them on various social media: Discord, Telegram, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

Editorial Rant: Yet Another Bullsh*t Article About the “Metaverse” by Canadian Business Magazine (And Why All Metaverse Companies Are in Danger of a Widespread Negative Backlash by Consumers)

Have you read? How the Crypto Crash—and Meta’s Missteps—Are Souring the General Public on the Metaverse

A billboard for the NFT “metaverse” Upland, in the New York City subway system;
I wrote about Upland and its ilk in this editorial
(image source: posted to the Buttcoin crypto snark subReddit)

I have been trying (dear Lord, how I try!) to stay away from what seems to be an unending litany of bad news lately, but last night I slipped up and opened the Apple News app on my trusty iPad, which promptly spit up the article which is the topic of today’s cranky editorial. (It’s a bit old now, but it’s the first time I read it.)

The piece, written by Katie Underwood on July 7th, 2022, for Canadian Business magazine, is the perfect example of metaverse bullshit that is currently circulating in the news and social media, and I have had it up to here with what passes for accurate reporting on the topic. Honestly, I swear, if this keeps up, I fear that the word metaverse itself will become so tainted that the general public will run the other way when it is mentioned! (And Mark Zuckerberg and his many missteps trying to pivot Meta into a metaverse company are not helping, either.)

The title of the article is Your Next Home May Be in the Metaverse (although the web page itself is actually titled Buying Real Estate in the Metaverse Isn’t Cheap; if you should hit a paywall, here is an archived version). The article starts with a profile of digital artist Krista Kim, who built the home of her dreams—and then apparently promptly minted an NFT of it and sold it:

“I imagined creating a house that would heal me,” she says. She also hoped she’d find a buyer. “The question was: Would anyone else understand what I was selling?”

As it turns out, someone did. Kim’s futuristic dreamscape sold for approximately US$512,000 in March of 2021. The metaverse is a loosely but increasingly understood shared virtual space, accessible via smartphone, goggles or headset—and it’s the newest frontier in the global real estate blitz. The sale of Mars House, a 3-D file rendered using the video game software Unreal Engine, marked the metaverse’s first-ever NFT-based residential transaction.

Already, at the very beginning of the article, I am ready to tear my hair out. First, THIS IS NOT THE METAVERSE! The artist built a home using Unreal engine, but it is simply a three-dimensional object, which needs to be imported into an actual metaverse platform (e.g. VRChat) in order to be used! A CNN article about this transaction correctly reported:

The new owner paid digital artist Krista Kim 288 Ether — a cryptocurrency that is equivalent to $514,557.79 — for the virtual property.

In exchange, the buyer will receive 3D files to upload to his or her “Metaverse.”

So yeah, the fool who paid half a million U.S. dollars for this house still has to find a place to park it before inviting his or her friends over for a virtual barbecue.

Second, it is far from “the first NFT-based residential transaction”, which Katie Underwood would have known if she had bothered to do a little research before writing this article. Blockchain-based metaverse platforms have been buying and selling NFT-based virtual land parcels for years now! Decentraland, for one, began selling land back in 2017, and yes, some people have built virtual homes on that land.

With my teeth firmly set on edge, I continued reading, to find yet another section of Katie’s article which raised my blood pressure a notch:

Like terrestrial homebuyers, users keen to buy or sell real estate in the metaverse will have to go through a rigmarole not unlike the one for bricks and mortar. Right now, land sales in the metaverse are typically concentrated within the “Big Four” platforms—Decentraland, The Sandbox, Somnium Space and Cryptovoxels—which are developed and owned by users. (To date, their combined total of virtual plots is just under 300,000.)

…aaand once again, here’s yet another blinkered reporter writing an article that completely overlooks the fact that metaverse platforms like Second Life and Sinespace have been doing brisk business in buying and selling virtual real estate for years, in some cases decades, without the use of blockchain, crypto, or NFTs! (I wrote about this at length in an earlier, similarly cranky editorial: Why Focusing Exclusively on Blockchain-Based Metaverse Platforms Ignores the Bigger Picture, and the Rich and Vibrant History of Social VR and Virtual Worlds.)

The article continues:

Even in the metaverse, location is everything. In Decentraland, neighbourhoods are designated for specific activities; for example, there’s Festival Land (for live music events), University (for education) and District X (for clandestine dating adventures and adult-themed e-stores). Its fashion district is of particular interest to the Metaverse Group, a Toronto-based virtual-real-estate company that scooped up more than 100 of the area’s 16-by-16-metre parcels for US$2.4 million last November.

Also, “last December, one of Snoop Dogg’s most ardent fans dropped US$450,000 for a plot next to the rapper’s mansion in The Sandbox, a popular gaming platform.” Again, these quotes make me want to tear my hair out! Listen to me, people: LOCATION IS NOT EVERYTHING. For example, in Decentraland you can click on a URL with the exact coordinates of the parcel of land that you want to visit, which will take you directly there. Any metaverse platform worth its salt offers you some form of teleporting from place to place.

And—as we have seen before with previous failed celebrity-endorsed metaverse projects like Staramba Spaces, which hooked its wagon to Paris Hilton—spending a fortune just to be “next to” a rapper’s virtual home is just plain fucking stupid. (Staramba Spaces was a complete and utter failure, but Paris Hilton has since moved on to other crypto projects, from what I understand. It’s never the celebrities who lose money on these harebrained schemes; they get paid in filthy but stable fiat currency, up front. Ask Matt Damon.)

The idea of one virtual piece of land being “worth” more than another due to its location is patently absurd, an idea first brought you by the NFT-based metaverse companies who were only too eager to incite FOMO-driven bidding wars during the crypto bull market which has now cratered so spectacularly!

I wonder how the Metaverse Group is feeling about that particular $2.4 million-dollar purchase, on the other side of a cataclysmic crash. Or another company called Republic Realm, which shelled out a cool $4.3 million for virtual property in The Sandbox. They are among the tens of thousands of corporate and personal investors whom I predict are going to be waiting a long, long time to see any profits from their expensive virtual land, no matter what they build there. And good luck trying to flip it to the next Greater FoolFortune reports that trading volume on the leading NFT marketplace OpenSea is down a staggering 99% since its peak, only a short four months ago.

I could go on, citing other parts of the Canadian Business article that drive me insane, but I’m done enough ranting for today, and you get my drift (you can go read the rest of the article yourself if you want). I need to go put my feet up and listen to some Enya to calm down. If I sound absolutely and completely fed up about all this, it’s because I am. THE METAVERSE BULLSHIT HAS GOT TO STOP, NOW.

Look, I have no problem with the idea of a blockchain-based metaverse, but the entire ecosystem and environment around it have now become a toxic cesspool of scams, frauds, and rugpulls. And all that negative attention is dragging down even the legitimate players in the metaverse space. Frankly, things are now getting to the point that whenever the general public hears the words crypto, NFT—even metaverse—they start gingerly backing towards the exit door, because so many scammers and other bad actors in the blockchain space have tainted the concepts themselves!

It doesn’t matter if there are actually working blockchain-based metaverse platforms out there, like Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space (soon to be joined by The Sandbox)…the bad actors are like a pervasive rot that has set in, damaging their credibility merely by association, and potentially negatively impacting their future operations. (And God help those companies who are trying to set up new blockchain-based metaverse platforms during this crypto winter!)

For example, NeosVR is the perfect example of a truly wonderful, cutting-edge metaverse platform that has been effectively hamstrung by what happened to Neos credits (NCR), NeosVR’s associated cryptocurrency.† The resulting deluge of attention of the cryptobros earlier this year completely changed the tenor of the Neos community, causing great divisiveness and conflict, and finally, a cynical pump-and-dump by a cadre of investors (who were impatient for profits) eventually led to NCR becoming near-worthless. I had started what was intended to be a multi-part series of blogposts to cover the entire sad saga at length, but unfortunately I got too busy to complete it in a timely way.

However, the prolific VR YouTuber ThrillSeeker has done an excellent 20-minute overview video, which does a much better job than I could do to explain what befell Neos:

The Twitter user Coinfessions (with over 100,000 followers) reposts items submitted anonymously to a website form, and let me tell you, the reading is WILD, people. And at times heartbreaking. Here’s just one example from the Twitter feed:

See what I mean? I swear, between what’s been going on in the crypto crash, and companies like Meta stumbling around trying to build the metaverse and getting roundly criticized for not getting it, I’m afraid that the term metaverse is going to get an extremely negative connotation…and then all of us will be the poorer for it.

Think about it—what do you want the average person to think of when you talk to them about the metaverse? Because I can tell you, pieces like this article from Canadian Business are not helping matters out there, in the general public’s minds. More and more people are starting to ridicule the entire concept of the metaverse, either ignorantly equating it with Meta’s soulless Horizon Worlds platform, or else associating it only with the NFT metaverse platforms, many of which are now facing tougher times as greedy speculators (who thought they could make a quick buck) get burned and flee the market, never to come back.

And, ultimately, those people (Joe or Jane Average on the street) are the people we are going to need to the sell the metaverse to in order for it to eventually take root, and take off, in any way beyond existing uptake.

Feh, enough bullshit! Time for some Enya…

UPDATE Sept. 7th, 2022: I had originally written that Neos credits had not even been implemented yet as an in-world currency in NeosVR, but I have been told that this is not strictly true. Apparently, Neos credits, while underused, had been implemented and usable for user-to-user transactions (e.g. tipping) for years, and a bit more recently Neos had added features like buying and gifting storage space using Neos credits. So I stand corrected! Thank you to the person who reached out to me to correct my mistake.

Book Review: The Metaverse, and How It Will Revolutionize Everything, by Matthew Ball

I am on holidays this week, and today I decided to set aside a couple of days to read through—and write a review of—a recently published book by the venture capitalist Matthew Ball, author of the Metaverse Primer and lead creator of the Ball Metaverse Index (whom I have written about before on this blog). The title of his new book is The Metaverse: and How It Will Revolutionize Everything.

Matthew Ball’s new metaverse book (image source)

As Matthew Ball writes in the introduction to his book:

In 2018, I began writing a series of online essays on the Metaverse, then an obscure and fringe concept. In the years since, these essays have been read by millions of people as the Metaverse has transitioned from the world of paperback science fiction to the front page of the New York Times and corporate strategy reports around the world.

The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything updates, expands, and recasts everything I’ve previously written on the Metaverse. The book’s core purpose is to offer a clear, comprehensive, and authoritative definition of this still inchoate idea. Yet my ambitions are broader: I hope to help you understand what’s required to realize the Metaverse, why entire generations will eventually move to and live inside it, and how it will forever alter our daily lives, our work, and how we think.

Yes, Ball capitalizes “Metaverse” throughout his book, which I find unnecessary and annoying. However, “Internet” was also usually capitalized in its earliest years of existence before most people settled on lower-case-i internet, so there is some precedent here.

It is not until chapter three, after a brief historical and philosophical discussion of the concept, that Matthew Ball provides his own definition of the metaverse (smartly leaving aside a discussion of blockchain until later on in the book):

A massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds that can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments.

After laying the groundwork with history and definitions in the first four chapters, in Part II of his book Matthew Ball discusses in seven chapters the various components which he feels go into the building of a metaverse: networking, computing, virtual world engines, interoperability, hardware, payment systems, and blockchain technology.

In chapter 5 (Networking), Ball uses popular games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator to explain concepts such as network bandwidth and latency, and how game and metaverse companies work around such limitations. Chapter 6 covers the computational requirements and trade-offs in building the metaverse, while chapter 7 looks at virtual world engines such as Unreal and Unity. Chapter 8 addresses the thorny issue of metaverse interoperability and standards (i.e., the ability to take your avatar and its possessions from one virtual world to another). In chapter 9, Ball offers a concise overview of VR and AR hardware, calling it “the hardest technology challenge of our time”. Chapter 10 discusses a key component of the current and future metaverse, payment rails (e.g. credit cards, PayPal, Venmo) and the associated economics of buying and selling on metaverse platforms.

Finally, in chapter 11, Matthew Ball addresses the controversial and contentious issue of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), stating “some observers today believe that blockchain is structurally required for the metaverse to become a reality, while others find that claim absurd.” Obviously, this book was written well before the current crypto crash, but Ball attempts to write a balanced take on the subject, including an entire section about the various obstacles currently facing the blockchain. He wraps up this chapter by stating:

How much of the blockchain remains hype versus how much is (potential) reality remains uncertain—not unlike the current state of the Metaverse. However, one of the central lessons of the computing era is that the platforms that best serve developers and users will win. Blockchains have a long way to go, but many see their immutability and transparency as the best way to ensure the interests of these two constituencies [i.e., platforms and developers] remain prioritized as the Metaverse economy grows.

The real meat of this book is in Part III, subtitled “How the Metaverse Will Revolutionize Everything”. In it, Matthew looks into his crystal ball and makes some predictions about how the metaverse will develop and be used across a range of industries, including education, entertainment, fashion and advertising, lifestyle businesses—even sex and sex work!

Chapter 12 is a discussion of when the metaverse is going to arrive, which of course is entirely dependent upon the definition of a “metaverse”; as I have often said, Second Life (which does get a few passing mentions in this book) is the perfect model of a fully-evolved metaverse, which the newer companies building platforms would be wise to study, emulate, and learn lessons from. However, Ball tends to lean towards the assertion that the metaverse is not yet truly upon us, despite these early platforms.

In a subsection of Chapter 14 titled “Why Trust Matters More Than Ever”, in a discussion of corporate strategies, Matthew Ball writes the following:

My great hope for the Metaverse is that it will produce a “race to trust.” To attract developers, the major platforms are investing billions to make it easier, cheaper, and faster to build better and more profitable virtual goods, spaces, and worlds. But they’re also showing a renewed interest in proving—through policy— that they deserve to be a partner, not just a publisher or platform. This has always been a good business strategy, but the enormity of the investment required to build the Metaverse, and the trust it requires from developers, has placed this strategy front and centre.

In the final chapter of his book (Metaversal Existence), Ball broadens his view to discuss how the metaverse will impact society, and what policies might be necessary to address that impact. Matthew warns:

Misinformation and election tampering will likely increase, making our current-day complications of out-of-context sound bites, trolling tweets, and faulty scientific claims feel quaint. Decentralization, often seen as the solution to many of the problems created by the tech giants, will also make moderation more difficult, malcontents harder to stop, and illicit fundraising far less difficult. Even when limited primarily to text, photos, and videos, harassment has been a seemingly unstoppable blight in the digital world—one that has already ruined many lives and harmed many more. There are several hypothesized strategies to minimize “Metaverse abuse.” For example, users may need to give other users explicit levels of permission to interact in given spaces (e.g., for motion capture, the ability to interact via haptics, etc.), and platforms will also automatically block certain capabilities (“no-touch zones”). However, novel forms of harassment will doubtlessly emerge. We are right to be terrified by what “revenge porn” might look like in the Metaverse, powered by high-fidelity avatars, deepfakes, synthetic voice construction, motion capture, and other emergent virtual and physical technologies.

He adds, “for the same reasons the metaverse is so disruptive—it’s unpredictable, recursive, and still vague—it is impossible to know what problems will emerge, how best to solve those which already exist, and how best to steer it.”

Matthew’s book is packed full of interesting anecdotes, such as the following tidbit from chapter one:

Not long after Tencent publicly unveiled its vision of hyper-digital reality, the Communist Party of China (CCP) began its biggest-ever crackdown of its domestic gaming industry. Among several new policies was a prohibition on minors playing video games Monday through Thursday that also limited their play from 8 pm. to 9 pm. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights (in other words, it was impossible for a minor to play a video game for more than three hours per week). In addition, companies such as Tencent would use their facial recognition software and a player’s national ID to periodically ensure that these rules were not being skirted by a gamer borrowing an older user’s device. Tencent also pledged $15 billion in aid for “sustainable social value,” which Bloomberg said would be focused on “areas like increasing incomes for the poor, improving medical assistance, promoting rural economic efficiency and subsidizing education programs.” Alibaba, China’s second-largest company, committed a similar amount only two weeks later. The message from the CCP was clear: look to your countrymen and women, not virtual avatars.

The CCP’s concerns about the growing role of gaming content and platforms in public life became more explicit in August, when the state-owned Security Times warned its readers that the Metaverse is a “grand and illusionary concept” and
“blindly investing [in it] will ultimately come back to bite you?“

While Ball sprinkles footnotes throughout his book, there were not nearly enough to satisfy this librarian! As I tell my students when doing information literacy training, footnotes are useful to find what sources the author refers to, so you can look them up yourself. For example, in chapter one he writes the following tantalizing but non-footnoted sentence, without further explanation:

Stephenson’s novels have been cited as the inspiration for various cryptocurrency projects and non-cryptographic efforts to build decentralized computer networks, as well as the production of CGI-based movies which are watched at home but generated live through the motion-captured performance of actors that might be tens of thousands of miles away.

Now, after reading that, wouldn’t you also like to know the source of this information, and the names of such productions? More footnotes, please! (Also, I’m not sure that “cryptographic” is the correct adjective here, as Ball seems to be using the term to refer to non-blockchain or non-cryptocurrency projects in this sentence.)

Also, while Ball is quick to use popular games such as Fortnite and Roblox to explain various terms and concepts throughout the book, I found it rather frustrating that he was not nearly as quick in drawing examples from the many metaverse platforms which already exist (e.g. VRChat, Rec Room, Sansar, NeosVR). I mean, this is a book about the metaverse; why not use more examples from existing social VR and virtual worlds? I know he’s a busy venture capitalist, but it makes me wonder how many metaverse platforms Matthew actually visited in his pre-writing travels. The book would have greatly benefited from that extra virtual legwork, if not by him then by his research assistants!

But these are picky little quibbles; overall, the book is an excellent introduction to the metaverse, and an informative overview for users new to the concept and wondering what all the recent fuss is about. Even those readers who have many years of experience with the metaverse will learn some new things which they did not know before. I can recommend this book, and I look forward to Matthew Ball’s future writing on the topic.


Thank you to the person who gifted me a copy of Matthew Ball’s book!