From The Dubit Group:
When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!
– Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
When you think about it, Wonderland may have been the original ‘metaverse’.
If that’s not a term you know, you’ll hear it a lot soon. The metaverse is a massive, immersive, global, always-on digital space where it’s possible to engage in all sorts of play, entertainment, communication, socializing, creative and commercial activities. There can be familiar and lifelike experiences and others that are entirely whimsical or even bizarre.
It’s a virtual “rabbit hole,” holding wonders and intrigues not unlike Alice’s literary journeys.
Will there be books and reading in the metaverse? Fortunately, what makes the concept unique is that it will be constructed, piece by piece, by its users. As the Cheshire Cat said, every adventure requires a first step, so publishers, authors, bookstores and librarians can ensure that they have presence by themselves conceiving and creating immersive, engaging spaces for literature.
What Is a Metaverse?
If you’ve read Ready Player One or Snowcrash, you may be anxiously envisioning dystopian near-future virtual refuges. That’s not where we’re headed (at least not soon). There is no fully-formed metaverse now; Roblox is nearest.
Roblox isn’t a game but the “YouTube of games,” with over 20 million different titles, most created by fans. Roblox draws 32 million daily users and 3.6 billion hours of monthly engagement. According to Dubit’s Trends survey, over half of US and UK children 9-12 play on Roblox at least weekly, with substantial percentages in other countries worldwide.
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The metaverse draws on familiar media and publishing concepts: multi-platform, cross-platform and transmedia. Beyond the above-noted role for user-creators, the difference is in the depth of immersion and extent of integration among the various elements. Roblox’ CEO David Baszucki’s eight characteristics of a metaverse align closely with Generations Z and Alpha social and gaming habits. His list includes:
- Identity – persistent avatars that reflect players’ real or imagined selves;
- Friends – the ability to socialize and play with real-world friends, and meet others;
- Immersion – transportation from the day-to-day into a fully-formed alternative world;
- Ubiquity – the capacity to create and play from anywhere, on all types of devices;
- Variety – deep and wide content, accommodating all types of user;
- Low friction – easy onboarding and transitions;
- Economy – in-world goods and service markets that pay creators for their efforts; and
- Trust and Civility – a welcoming, equitable, diverse and kind community.
But Is It For Children?
Like any place real or virtual, the metaverse will have kid-safe “neighborhoods” and others that are “adults-only.” The concept, though, will make complete sense to kids. Who could better benefit from a coherent, connected world of play, creation and learning?
This is why children and teens are already “kickstarting” the metaverse in their social play. During the pandemic, especially, “down on the corner” became “up on the server.” From 2019-2020, the percentage of 8-10 year olds who played Minecraft in the previous 24 hours rose 49%, and Fortnite 29%. Young people ‘hacked’ various platforms, many not meant for kids (e.g., Discord and Zoom), to socialize during the pandemic.
Amidst overwhelming options, everything competes with everything, and content is dispersed across many platforms. Today’s kids frequently become frustrated trying to find a new favorite video, game, book, movie or toy. A well-constructed metaverse will bring multiple media under its umbrella, supporting more seamless, intuitive navigation and recommendation.
Link to the rest at The Dubit Group