Virtual Fun: I went out in the Metaverse

A few Saturdays ago I went to a nightclub. I dressed a bit on the casual side, with a multicolored sweater, jeans and sneakers. When I arrived it was dark and the sky was purple, dotted with stars and wisps of clouds. Heard the thumping music before entering and there was no queue at the door. It seemed pretty standard and eerily reminiscent of carefree pre-COVID times, but I didn’t go to a real-world club – I went out in the metaverse.

The nightlife industry is growing in the metaverse, with clubs, music festivals and parties popping up on various virtual platforms. More and more venues, businesses and organizers are exploring this trend, which is partly a craze fueled by COVID, but also part of a broader move towards digital platforms that has confronted the nightlife industry since pre-pandemic.

My first stop was Decentralande, one of the largest and busiest virtual spaces in the metaverse. If I had to find a party, it would almost certainly be here. But getting in was not so easy. After logging in, my browser screen went black and unresponsive, and the space took a long time to load. I changed browsers several times with no effect, then restarted my computer. Despite what people are saying about the egalitarianism of these online spaces, it seems that if someone with a relatively new MacBook Pro couldn’t log in, at least Decentraland caters to those with computers and advanced technologies — not someone who roams lazily, in the hope to take a look.

Once inside, my first stop was Amnesia Ibiza, the metaverse iteration of a club in Spain. According to Google, the club was temporarily closed, but in the metaverse it was still open, even though there were no events or performances when I stopped. When I entered, there was hardly anyone there. In the middle of the dance floor was an avatar named “Anonym” in a black long-sleeved shirt. When I tried to talk to him, he immediately left. On the walls, videos showed crowds of people in the real club. I was disappointed but realized that socializing in the metaverse is driven by scheduled events. It’s not like a club in a city, where you can walk in every weekend and see crowds and a buzzing dance floor.

A brave new world

Nightlife experiments with the metaverse for a variety of reasons. His search for digital platforms has been boosted by the pandemic, says Mirik Milan, former mayor of Amsterdam nightlife and co-founder of VibeLab, a nightlife consultancy. But even before COVID-19, there was interest, particularly from musicians looking to regain ownership of their work through NFTs and use blockchain to sell directly to listeners, bypassing record labels.

As the pandemic started, artists and venues in lockdown started looking for other ways to interact with fans and make money. Artists have started live streaming on platforms like Twitch, with virtual parties and crowdfunding to keep their heads above water. Travis Scott gave a concert in the video game fortnite† VibeLab created United We Stream, a live streaming platform to fundraise and create streaming opportunities for artists in 115 cities around the world.

The expansion to the metaverse is the latest wave of this exploration. Amnesia launched its club in Decentraland in June 2021. Bootsy Bellows, a West Hollywood club owned by David Arquette, is entering the metaverse on the Solana blockchain and experimenting with a hybrid virtual and physical space, where guests use an NFT to step into the real world. to come club.

“There is definitely a great need to use the metaverse or digital technologies to discover and promote new talent,” said Milan.

Find the hotspots

After my less-than-great introduction to the metaverse at Amnesia, I was eager to find a livelier place, and to my surprise, it wasn’t easy. I stopped at a casino that had Pepe the Frog avatars running around, an empty jazz club, and another eerily empty club with an NFT Art Gallery. So far my mission has not been successful. When I walked in I thought Decentraland would be a vibrant, weird and exciting space with a lot of activity, but it was mostly just dead.

An NFT Art Gallery in the Metaverse

Fortunately, that changed when I came across an event called the “Mr. Dhinga Launch Party” – a club opening where designers gave away wearables. Ultimately, this was what I was looking for: the inhabitants of the metaverse had come forward for this party, enjoying all the weird and wonderful manners you would expect to see at a virtual party. I walked up to the roof, where a crowd of avatars danced around a glowing orb. I joined in and started doing some dance moves (my avatar’s repertoire consisted from dabbing and stinking legs) next to a wolf wearing a tracksuit.

After exhausting my rather limited library of dance moves, I joined the Twitch stream of another partygoer named Jacob Acebedo. Her feed complemented the event and gave attendees a place to interact more easily. I found them goofy and cheesy, but also warm and welcoming. They talked about how the event was better than a real party and browsed each other’s Instagrams and complimented their photos. A reveler gave me some wearables and I returned to the event, ready to dance again with a new yellow tracksuit and a lollipop.

The virtual dance floor of a metaverse club

A few days later I spoke to Acebedo here in the real world. Outside of the Metaverse, Acebedo is a 26-year military veteran and graphic design student from Southern California.

“I’m a little scared myself,” he said. “I don’t really know where it came from – apparently it came from the military… In real situations, when I’m around a large group of people, my fear explodes. So when I’m in the metaverse, it gives me the chance to be with hundreds or even thousands of people at once and not have that overwhelming feeling that I would normally feel in real life.

But many newcomers to the metaverse will have to navigate the technological barriers I’ve encountered before they feel completely comfortable.

“For the people [who] spending a lot of time online and playing online games would make it a lot easier to make that transition to the metaverse,” said Milan. “Personally, I’m not a gamer myself, so it takes a little longer for me.”

All dressed up and going nowhere

A few days later, I dove back into the metaverse and witnessed another event. This one was called Le Phoque Off: An Alternative Music Festival which, due to COVID-19 restrictions in Quebec, took place in the NOWHERE metaverse. Instead of avatars, NOWHERE did people exist as non-angular pods with live video chats showing the person’s face. It was clunky in its own way (I hesitate to even make a Zoom call), but it was more authentic than Decentraland’s ugly avatars and felt closer to a real experience. It even had spatial sound, so the closer you got to someone, the louder it sounded.

Once inside, I went to the Sirius XM stage, where a psychedelic rock band called Hippie Hooray played, surrounded by a Martian landscape. Spectators showed their excitement by spinning, taking off or unleashing a shower of hearts. Unlike the Decentraland metaverse, which felt like an exclusive club for crypto enthusiasts, I never felt comfortable anywhere. It was nice to hear the music and it was nice to see other people watching the performance from their pods and interacting with each other. It was much more accessible and I saw the artistic potential of the space.

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Before going to the festival, I spoke to NOWHERE CEO Jon Morris for an interview in the metaverse. He had NOT created ANYWHERE after his work was interrupted at the start of the pandemic. This metaverse, he said, was different in that it allowed for more interaction than just watching a live stream.

“You’re in this room with 100 people and you can hear them respond,” he said. “You can see them throw heart emojis or jump and spin and have this reciprocity, which is really cool.”

Morris, who now lives in Brooklyn, grew up in rural Kentucky and had little access to these kinds of cultural experiences. He says it could make a difference for kids growing up in these environments today.

“That’s why we didn’t build ANYWHERE,” he said. “All my life I have created experiences that deepen and stimulate human connection.”

Settle in cyberspace

In my explorations, there were two different manifestations of nightlife in the metaverse. One was for people interested in being pioneers in the space, socializing, chatting and learning more about their common interests, which largely revolve around cryptocurrency, NFTs and IT. metaverse evolution. The other was a creative venture for artists that allows them to reach different audiences and continue performing and earning money in uncertain times. Both environments meet the needs of our time, with COVID-19 limiting in-person interactions and the ubiquity of people creating their lives online.

People who work in this space agree that the metaverse is still in its infancy, with many technological and social problems to be solved. And while the metaverse offers exciting new ways to collaborate, share creative works, and explore new worlds, the physical nightlife industry isn’t likely to be supplanted by its virtual counterpart.

“It should not be seen as a replacement,” Milan said. “If you expect the same experience as going to a club, it will never happen.”

Again, that’s not really the point.

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