Everybody knows this is nowhere
While the “goggles and gloves” model of virtual reality has lingered in our cultural imagination since the 1980s, haptics devices probably won’t ever live up to the idea that they can replicate physical contact. They could, however, implement a simplified version of touch subject to quantification and surveillance.
Tech companies present the metaverse as an irresistible paradigm shift akin to the move from desktop to mobile computing. Or they present it as a challenge to the limitations of physical reality itself. In practice, it’s just a struggle among those companies for a larger cut of the profits from the same old business models
Hype about the metaverse and virtual reality propose screens as a mode of escape from physical environments. But it is far more likely that new kinds of screens will be implemented in physical environments to reshape our experience within them.
As people grow nostalgic for older open-world games like Minecraft, the newer ones more explicitly indoctrinate players into the protocols of developing human capital. A game like Roblox seems to encourage creativity only when it has the potential to make money: through development, or through buying and selling in-game merchandise.
Virtual reality is generally presented as a means to a more immersive simulation for users, but it is also a means of quantification and data collection about those users. The immersiveness of the simulated scenario is presented as “real” enough to inspire confidence in the data’s thoroughness, veracity, and broader applicability, but this data is no more “perfect” or neutral than any other.
As game mechanics have become more common in more facets of daily experience, games themselves have begun to seem more like everyday life. Fortnite shows us the possibility of opting out, however temporarily, even if we don’t reject the premise of the game itself. Game dynamics need not dictate every aspect of behavior, even within an actual game. This lesson is more useful than the belief that we can simply escape to a reality free of games.
Many RPG computer games allow you to keep playing after you’ve finished the main story. In a world gone slack without a narrative, a character, alone and aimless, has a life for the first time. His movements become ultimately absurd. This RPG existentialism reminds us we’re often stuck in somebody else’s computer game, life devoted to the frantic pursuit of all-consuming means to paltry ends.