“Metaverse” is a buzzword which has become quite popular in the last two years. Fortnite is a metaverse. Web3 and blockchain will help power the metaverse. May be cows will even be part of it? However, no one seems more invested in shaping our collective notion of what the metaverse is than Meta and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Unfortunately for anyone eager to experience our glorious virtual future, what Zuckerberg has shown of his vision of said future looks boring, sad, generic, and downright shitty. It also serves as a nice reminder that rich tech bros shouldn’t be in charge of the future.
Earlier this week, the alien-wearing-a-skin-suit became known to us as Mark Zuckerberg posted a VR selfie from inside the company’s metaverse project, Horizon Worlds. The selfie showed off the Eiffel Tower and was meant to announce it his metaverse expands to more countries. Instead, people immediately started pounding on the awful picture, the ugly avatar, and how it all looked like it fell out of a 2005 edutainment game.
And oddly enough, this isn’t the first time Zucks has shown off hideous avatars of himself in an attempt to lure people into his virtual reality-driven nightmare world.
Back in 2017Zuckerberg demonstrated the VR app Facebook Spaces using an ugly-as-sin avatar that vaguely looked like him, whose goal was to recreate the billionaire CEO as a slick, cartoonish avatar you might see in a fever dream. And for some reason he decided that the best way to show off this app and his terrible avatar was to visit Puerto Rico via video after it had been hit by a powerful hurricane, killing thousands and destroy many of the island’s homes and businesses.
In 2021, Old Zuckie returned with an avatar that looked better than before. However, this avatar, which appeared in a video showing Facebook and Meta’s grand metaverse plans, is not real. It was instead made as part of a larger concept video showing what Meta was working towards. Yet even this avatar looks like one that fell off Polar Express.
And that brings us to 2022, where Zuckerberg’s avatar is a boneless knock-off of a Nintendo Mii with some very strange buttons and the eyes of a corpse. And this isn’t just how Zuckerberg looks, this is how all avatars appear Horizon Worlds. I’ve played enough Horizon Worlds to tell you that the missing legs quickly cease to matter. But the lack of style and the cold, dead aesthetic never goes away.
Sure, part of the reason these avatars and worlds look plain and ugly compared to modern video games comes down to the limited VR hardware in Mission 2 and Facebook’s desire to create VR content that can run on as many devices as possible.
On the other hand, I can find Nintendo DS and Sony PS Vita games with better, prettier art and models than what we’ve been shown so far in the Facebook metaverse. I also don’t think you can blame the people who make these things, as I assume they are more than capable of making better and more vibrant things. But more and more it seems that’s not what Meta and Zucklehead want. Instead, they are focused on creating a product that can be consumed by the masses and that lacks any defining characteristics in an effort to get more people to dive in.
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This is the exact opposite approach we see in more community-driven VR metaverses as VR Chat, which looks better and feels warmer and more inviting. In comparison, Horizon Worlds looks like an animated video I’d walk past in a fancy hospital while looking for the bathroom.
And if this bland and ugly metaverse is the future Mark Zuckerberg wants and investing billions of dollars in, I am concerned that it may end up winning out over other, better options simply because he has the money and resources to squash or buy up competitors. Well, if it wins out, at least I’ll be able to skip it and not buy a new VR headset.