The term ‘metaverse’ has been around since the early 90s, having first been coined in a sci-fi novel, but its usage has rocketed in the past year, particularly since Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was renaming Facebook as Meta. This act triggered a wave of excitement around digital worlds where we could work, play and socialise, and companies have since rushed to try to be first into this ‘new’ space.
Gamers were quick to note that the idea of such virtual playgrounds was not really so new, however. Many pointed to Second Life as an early example of the metaverse, as well as games such as Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite, which are all bringing millions of people together daily in digital spaces.
It is odd that these mega brands were so easily overlooked initially in the metaverse gold rush, but perhaps this was down to them being viewed as ‘just games’, and reflective of a general tendency for the power and influence of the games industry to be misunderstood by those on the outside of it.
This position is rapidly changing, in part due to the example of Epic Games, which has spent the past couple of years proving just how far-reaching the potential of immersive digital platforms might be. It has done this most publicly via Fortnite, which began life in 2017 as an enormously absorbing multiplayer ‘battle royale’ game, where 100 players per match compete to be the sole survivor. But it has since expanded into being a platform for creators to build their own worlds, and brands and artists to showcase innovative digital campaigns and exhibitions.