Why real-life events matter in the metaverse: a punk manifesto

Nick Fellingham
March 10, 2022
5 min read

Live events matter.

The Sex Pistols playing Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall, Frankie Knuckles at Chicago’s Warehouse, Wu-Tang Clan at Fever, Metalheadz at Blue Note.

These events and countless more like them inspired audiences, defined generations and shaped culture. A few, like Woodstock or LiveAid, you might even argue, changed the course of history.

All of which can be traced back to a performance and the connection it made with an audience in a single moment in time.

Woodstock 1969
Woodstock (1969)

We are entering a new era that promises to reshape how we engage with the world. Which begs the question — what will live events look like in the metaverse?

Back to reality

With every new technology comes hype about the potential and angst about the consequences of that potential.

Radio. TV. The Internet. AI.

The metaverse is no different.

Much of the angst that’s filling column inches today centres on the idea that the metaverse will somehow sever our connection to the real. That with its inevitable arrival, we will all plug in and drop out. We’ll be reduced to uncanny avatars having awkward, inauthentic brand-approved experiences in blocky 3D worlds, devoid of cultural depth or creative merit.

The implication is that counter-cultures like punk, hip hop and house, originally defined by and spread through live events, will be unable to emerge because, in our new metaverse lives, we’ll lose all sense of the connection, immediacy, and radical creativity on which these movements spark.

Well, that’s the fear. But this dystopian vision is a long way from what reality will hold. We know this because the metaverse is already live and kicking.

Hungry for Reality

Gaming platforms are already showcasing the power of the metaverse, with platforms like Roblox and Fortnite attracting huge audiences — 350 million a month on Fortnite, more than 40 million a day on Roblox — by creating immersive, collaborative worlds. Emerging platforms like Decentraland and RecRoom are breaking new ground on experiences. The progression of the metaverse is happening before our eyes.

A lot of the anxiety about the metaverse comes from people who haven’t yet engaged on these platforms. They don’t see all the creativity, the sense of community, and the incredible experiences that are being shared by hundreds of millions of people using these metaverse platforms on a daily basis.

A fundamental misunderstanding is that the metaverse is about escapism but in actuality, most people game because they want to feel connected and engaged. They want the best of both worlds — real and virtual — blended together.

Live lives on

Gaming audiences are demanding ever more authentic, immersive experiences. That’s why gaming platforms have to constantly innovate to keep their audience coming back for more. Take the wildly popular ‘live’ events in Fortnite and Roblox featuring artists including Travis Scott, Lil Nas X, and Ariana Grande, each pulling in tens of millions of simultaneous players.

But here’s the thing — these events aren’t really live. They rely on massive production budgets and months’ long development schedules involving many, many people. The ‘artists’ are pre-recorded 3D avatars constructed beforehand and streamed or placed into the platform.

Cool? Certainly. Live? No. That sense of getting close to the real artist — of really being there — that audiences so crave is in essence lost.

That’s why at Condense Reality, we’ve built the infrastructure to make streaming live into the metaverse really mean live.

Grove performing Bloodsucka in the Metaverse

Builders of the metaverse

Right now, there’s a host of companies building foundations that will define the metaverse’s creative horizon. Improbable and Hadean are paving the way for distributed scale and reliability. Ready Player Me is opening up interoperability and online identity.

How the metaverse evolves — the nature of the infrastructure that underpins it and ultimately determines what it’s capable of — is important not just for the Baconhairs on Roblox, but for all of us because the future of culture is riding on it.

Real-life isn’t perfect. It isn’t always controlled. There are counter-currents. And it’s on those rough edges where creativity finds its foothold. We need infrastructure that gives the buskers, the street artists, and the sounds of the underground space to play.

And here’s where “vision videos” like Meta’s are unhelpful. There’s no room for any infrastructure but theirs — and no room for creativity to take root. It’s a self-serving vision of how they’d like ‘consumers’ to behave in their future walled garden. Lesser Free Trade Hall 1976 it is not.

Here at Condense Reality, the infrastructure we’ve built enables people to inject their own individual reality into the virtual world. Even though we’re building the stack, we don’t yet know all the experiences people will create with our technology — and that’s the beauty of it.

Worlds fit for Creators

Our mission is to build the tools so creators don’t have to be technical experts or have huge creative budgets to access and harness the metaverse.

A metaverse where creatives aren’t free to plug-in-and-play will be a cultural desert, and we’ll all be poorer for it. We need to create the infrastructure so the metaverse generation can go live — even to tiny audiences — and yet, still spark new cultural movements, just like the generations before them.

Key to all this is the ability to inject some reality and humanity into the metaverse, to make it truly accessible and scalable — and most importantly to do all this live. Because live events have always mattered and they will continue to matter in the metaverse too.

Condense Reality’s manifesto for the metaverse.

  • Live events matter in the metaverse just like they matter in the real world
  • The metaverse cannot shut out the real-world, it must be an extension of it
  • A metaverse with the energy of live events and a diversity of ideas is a metaverse where culture — and counter-cultures — will flourish

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Nick Fellingham
March 10, 2022