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Beyond the Hype Cycle

Remember that amazing The Smiths song from the 80s? Let me remind you: “Panic on the streets of London, Panic on the streets of Birmingham, I wonder to myself.” The big thinkers of the metaverse, the investors and the greed seekers, are losing their minds. Thankfully, the realists, like me, haven’t.

Photo by Dimitar Belchev

In your Face(book)

The metaverse is going through some growing pains. The Guardian’s article on Meta’s alleged virtual reality gamble that's not paying off, made me want to rip the head off my Malibu Barbie because this has absolutely NOTHING to do with metaverse. Although the shares in Meta may have slumped by as much as 25% “in the wake of these abysmal quarterly results”, the CEO has to abandon his massive advertising budgets, weird employee requirements and strange Circus Maximus dreams and do what the rest of us do: focus on what we're good at, and then design/build in increments thereafter. This is good business practice, it’s solid design theory. So I don't see why it's necessary to tar the entire Metaverse with the same brush, that somehow the metaverse is completely over, simply because Mark Zuckerberg is gonna have to pivot a little. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of Mark Zuckerberg as everybody knows, but even I know that one swallow does not make a summer.

My belief in the metaverse is such that I am convinced that it's actually not losing its legs. Moreover, it's really finding its legs. You don’t agree? Learn from the past. The places that we go to, the people that we see, the way that we interact in this incredible open and transparent world is a choice. Some of us are in the Meta camp, some of us prefer Avakin Life. There is never a one-size-fits-all when we are examining human behaviour. We have to be able to find the places that we want to go to, the people we want to experience with, the motivators that make the big business KPIs.

When Second Life came out, I don't remember people saying, “oh, the second life thing is over.” Second Life kind of expired by its own volition (don’t worry, it’s still alive but on life support currently). I don’t remember Linden Labs giving up because more people were going into the Swedish Embassy than were going to the BBC Newsroom. That never happened, these experiences lived on the same platform, using the same technology created by different brands or verticals. So I'm confused as to why we think that the metaverse is suddenly over just because Facebook is having a bad quarter.

I had talked quite a lot about the metaverse dying in a previous article, but it's not just trash talk that's the problem here. It is that we are comparing web3 directly against the success criteria of web2. So rather than do that, it would make better sense to just focus on what we're doing inside web3 and improve upon that. I see Ethereum has been adopted by the Norwegian government. It's helping people to be able to do their taxes inside Decentraland. That’s cool! There is investor confidence in The Sandbox, Animoca Brands; all these metaverse companies are going great guns. But Meta is still Facebook, and Facebook is on life support just like Linden Labs was, do you know why? Let’s take a good look at my beloved Gartner Hype Cycle.

Believe the Hype

If you look at what Gartner requires from technology companies or ideas as part of its hype cycle, there are various points upon which we must build for engagement, or fix for retention inside whatever it is we are creating. A few things that are really problematic for the metaverse moving forward, particularly for Meta moving forward, lie within the Gartner Hype Cycle itself. The Technology Trigger: for Meta (read Facebook), yeah, that happened in 2006. Next! The Peak of Inflated Expectations has happened (mostly for investors) over the course of this past year at its height and over two years as a steady climb. The Trough of Disillusionment: that's what we're going through now in the mindless speculation of the idiot press and these so-called Metaverse Visionaries (whoever they are). The Slope of Enlightenment and the Plateau of Productivity is actually happening in the background with Horizon Worlds and the relationships that have been reignited since 2007 with say Microsoft. These things are not accidents. They are part of strategic roadmaps, and even if we lay the blame directly at the door of the CEO, we must still take account of the state of technology around us. Big technology.

People who are serious about the architecture and the development of new technologies are happily working inside this space and discipline to ensure that they can deliver by the time we get to maybe 2026. So, I don't really see that this-is-not-a-drill type situation and that we should lose our collective minds over the metaverse (not Meta) levelling itself, steadying itself and thinking about its place in our world as opposed to the other way around. Thinking a little bit more instead of just mouthing off, I think is good, because the metaverse is not about the creators, the designers, or the tech companies. It never was. We need to focus on the user, the real creator, and we need to stop focusing on ourselves. As designers, it's too easy to look at the aesthetic, because, by our nature, we eat with our eyes, and when we see things that we really love, we already start to feel the flavour. So, if we build a beautiful aesthetic inside something called a Metaverse, then naturally we are satisfied as designers, but wait… where are the people? The people are not coming? Why, I hear you ask! Because nobody can be bothered to build a community.

The easy relationship between collaborations of fashion brands and metaverses or digital worlds is one of the things that I hate the most about working in this space, is that fair? I think so. You should never ever ever ever use marketing to do the job that design should do for your users. Brand collaboration in this space has long been a lazy excuse for brands and developers who cannot be bothered to capture their audience. It has absolutely nothing to do with putting backsides on seats inside a space (yes even Nike’s collaboration in Roblox is painful), and it has everything to do with building a lasting experience for your users. Listen very carefully or read very clearly, if you want to get people in your Metaverse, you’d better fucking work hard, because no one is interested in walking around an empty space. So it's high time if you are a designer or a thinker in this space that you pull your finger out of your ass and start focusing on how you're going to build communities around your design. Otherwise, no one's going to get it outside of the pretty vanity posts you put on Linkedin. Yes, you.

Pull Yer Finger Out

The tools and support that are around the metaverse are also weak as hell, because everybody is reliant upon web2 tools. Why? I mean, who actually cares about Google Play in 2022? Who really cares about the App Store? Not me, so I don't really give a rat’s ass if Tim Cook wants to create an “amicable” environment for people that are creating NFTs (and they must also surrender 30% on social boosts). Listen grandad, if I want to buy an NFT, I'm going to buy it from a decentralised space and know that I'm going to get something that is 100% decentralised; where the creator is going to be able to be the earner. We're not going to have much of a Metaverse if we don't have a creator economy, so a creator economy that is being limited and stifled by somebody who's sitting in their ivory tower in Cupertino, CA is not really giving me a great deal of encouragement about what the metaverse is going to look like in the next 3 to 5 years.

My advice for the future of the Metaverse is really simple. Get the fuck away from Apple, move the fuck away from Facebook. Get your fingers out of Google Play and start focusing on using web3 tools and technologies to make yourself the technology company that you really want to see. I am done with these tech bros and this idiocy in technology and how it is becoming more of a penis-waving contest and less of an evolutionary shift. I don't care about collaborations, they are brain-dead. I'm not interested in toys and game logos on luxury clothing when they can’t get their shit together enough to bravely step into toys and games. Selling to kids like that is a bit creepy, isn’t it? What next? Cigarettes? Booze? Why not? It’s brand-led isn’t it? Lazy marketing = lazy design = lazy marketing.

What I'm looking for is a future that is built by people who are constantly shifting the agenda and constantly questioning everything that they connect with. I don't want the metaverse to become a branded environment that is just lazy, stupid, and not very exciting. This is not idiocracy, is it? I want to see brands work their fucking asses off to get into Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I want to see brands put themselves into Steam. Literally nobody has mentioned Gabe Newell throughout this whole metaverse process, and he’s doing just great thanks very much. So until we get the buy-in from every single games company, and every single tech tool to build credibility, we have got absolutely nothing inside this open virtual space. Reach higher. Go beyond the hype cycle, and let's start getting real about what's going on inside the metaverse. It will make us all very happy, it will make us all very rich in our education and experiences. And it will put us all on the same page in a social experiment where nobody is the ultimate victor, and everybody is the winner.

Until then? Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ… Hang the DJ!


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