Screenshot: Meta / Facebook / Kotaku
The Metaverse is supposed to be the future, so it’s got the world buzzing with excitement. Hilariously, however, the prominence of the “futuristic” buzzword has shattered old images of digital worlds on social media, largely because no one really understands what the metaverse really is. And because the average person doesn’t know what the Metaverse is, images of seedy, lifeless digital universes that look worse than Roblox can pass for never-before-seen cutting-edge technology.
At the end of January, for example, a re-upload of a Facebook/Meta trailer from 2019 went viral on Twitter, featuring a goofy social virtual reality app called Horizon Worlds. Everyone thought it was a new announcement from Facebook, except it wasn’t. Somehow, this false metaverse happened more than once in the past year!
But back to viral advertising: she tried to describe Horizon as this free, open place where people could do anything and everything with pleasure, while being surrounded by friends from all over the world. The happy vibe was out of The Good Place, the tweet noted, except of course the TV show has a nefarious twist that makes the whole thing even weirder. The images looked very contrived and ended up making a lot of people online uncomfortable. Everyone pictured in the ad was a fluttering torso of endless smiles, sexless and toothless.
But was the actual experience as off-putting and sterile as the ad made it out to be? I decided to take the plunge and see for myself. First launched in closed beta last year, Horizon Worlds is a free social app that was made available to everyone last month. I spent a few hours hanging out with other people in its weirdly dark worlds, playing bad games and talking about random things. It was a strange experience, but I think many could share it as they take their first steps into the nightmare that is the web. digital metaverse.
After creating an avatar and following a short but informative tutorial, I was dropped off at the main meeting center in Horizon. I went up around 1am so wasn’t even sure how many people there. Also, how many people really wanted to hang around Facebook’s pseudo-matrix? The answer was: lots of people. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, given the quality of the Oculus Quest has been successful this holiday season.
When I arrived I saw a few groups of people hanging around in different parts of the area. I ran to the nearest group, which also had a Facebook community guide. They are users who help coordinate events within the app and introduce new players to Horizon, while also helping with technical issues. The app uses proximity chat, so as I got closer I could hear their conversation. It was strange.
“…so that’s how he fell. It was tough. He broke his leg. And he was in a coma for a few weeks,” one person said.
“Oh my god,” was the community guide’s reaction to the story.
“Yeah, he finally woke up. It’s a miracle he’s even here playing with us,” the storyteller concluded before, apparently, the subject of his story answered.
“I could have died,” then he laughed.
I burst into their group and remained silent until the guide waved me over and asked how I was doing. I explained that I was fine and also asked how the person had fallen, as I had missed that part. But before I could hear the story, two more people arrived and the conversation changed when people introduced themselves and joked about their floating avatars having no legs.
Screenshot: Meta / Facebook / Kotaku
I spent time running around in the different pockets of people in this hub. A person asked me if I knew how to build anything using the game’s creation tools. I explained that I had just started playing and through the power of VR I saw them react physically with sadness. It seemed that no one could help them build their palace.
Another group had people talking about ghosts. Apparently a player had logged in earlier and left after saying he heard a ghost. Since then, the group had continued to share ghost stories. At some point a kid, I guess, ran up to us and did the “Sheeeesshhh” meme then ran to a large tree that can be climbed using teleport commands. After a moment of silence and laughter, the group returned to ghost tales.
After some people left, I went back to the community guide. She was very nice and had just helped someone fix a problem with their headset audio. I asked some general questions, like why the hangout area was still adorned with Christmas decorations in January. She laughed.
“People keep…people keep asking me about it and I don’t know!” She seemed a little frustrated with this so I apologized and asked if she was being paid by Facebook or Meta for his services. At the time, she seemed a bit hesitant to continue talking to me and when I asked her how long she usually hung around sessions, welcoming players and helping them with technical issues, she explained that she liked the community and started moving to different groups. of people. It was weird running after her so I didn’t.
Through the power of virtual reality, I saw them react physically with sadness.
But it seems clear that Facebook has community guides monitoring Horizon Worlds players, which might explain why the general mood was rather cold. I only heard a few players swear or make bad jokes and no one said any insults. Although many players were coming and going, the overall vibe was less toxic than I expected, given how awful Facebook was. Maybe having to talk and being around people is enough to control most assholes? Or maybe the ever-watchful eye of community guides is key?
At one point, a player I had spoken to occasionally during my hour in the hub asked me to come play a zombie game with him and a friend. I joined him with a wave of my hand and we played what might be one of the worst zombie shooters I’ve ever seen. It featured barely animated enemies and looked plucked from a bad Roblox game. The guns were also terrible, with no feedback when firing. Apparently it’s a popular community creation. But again, no offense to whoever created it, but it wasn’t great. Still, the fact that it’s completely free, easy to play, and doesn’t include too much gore or violence probably explains why so many young people were playing it when I joined. Although after less than ten minutes I gave up because, well, I just have better things to do than play a bad game of zombies with 14 year olds. Not much better, but still.
Screenshot: Meta / Facebook / Kotaku
Before leaving, I started asking people why they were here. Some admitted they didn’t have any games to play, so this was a free option worth checking out. Others had met people here they liked and were using it as a way to spend time and relax with them during the ongoing pandemic. When I mentioned VRchat, another social VR app with better graphics, legs, and an acknowledgment that sex is real, some seemed unaware of its existence. Others had tried it or looked it up online and weren’t into how “wild” it seemed, which is funny when you consider that many decry the equivalent of Facebook for being too tame.
The most surprising response was that some people loved Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger so much that it made sense to use Horizon Worlds as well. It was just where their friends were hanging out and so were they. I’m surrounded by people who hate Facebook, the company and everything it’s done, so it was strange to meet people who were still using Meta’s various apps every day. A reminder of the size of the world beyond your Twitter group and your Slack colleagues, I suppose.
By the end of my time with Horizon Worlds, I had come back to it a bit. I still think Facebook (or Meta or whatever new name they later adopt to avoid bad press) is the worst company I can imagine owning and controlling popular VR technology and software, let alone the future of all the technologies that could be superimposed on the entire world. Horizon isn’t as awful as the ad makes it sound, but it’s still a hollow corporate shell that has more in common with an office than a playground or any other type of social space than a human would gladly want to hang out. It’s definitely not a VRchat or a game room. And for some, that empty vibe won’t matter: From what I’ve seen during my time at Horizon, a lot of people seem happy to hang out in Mark Zuckerberg’s mediocre version of The Matrix.
Article source https://kotaku.com/facebook-metaverse-horizon-worlds-vr-oculus-quest-2-cha-1848436740