Metaverse, as mentioned earlier, is a closed compound word with two components: meta, which means post, after or beyond, and “verse” as in the universe. The term Metaverse has its origins in the 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash” by American writer Neal Stephenson.The story is set in an unequal and corrupt social environment, and it follows problems encountered while exploring the virtual world through digital avatars as a means to escape its dystopian reality. In the novel, humans gain access to the graphic virtual world via audio-visual output devices such as goggles and earphones. As a result of this, the Metaverse allows you to experience imaginary spaces that are not physically influenced. A space where economic and social activities can take place based on cooperation and interaction with others; developing in a manner similar to real-world life. The novel “Snow Crash” already established the concept of the Metaverse’s technical foundation.

“By drawing a slightly different image in front of each eye, the image can be made three-dimensional. By changing the image seventy-two times a second, it can be made to move. By drawing the moving three-dimensional image at a resolution of 2K pixels on a side, it can be as sharp as the eye can perceive, and by pumping stereo digital sound through the little earphones, the moving 3-D pictures can have a perfectly realistic soundtrack.
So Hiro’s not actually here at all. He’s in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones. In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse.”

- Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

In 2003, the concept of the Metaverse began to take shape, with a game of three-dimensional virtual world “Second Life” by American startup Linden Lab. It was a platform designed to allow users to travel through a vast universe with avatars decorated to the users’ preferences, to communicate with various people, and to trade items and real estate with a virtual currency known as “Linden Dollars.”[figure 1] However, as users left and investors withdrew in the mid-to-late 2000s, Second Life was closed in 2010 and became a forgotten platform for the public.

Experts explained that the reason for the failure of Second Life in such a short period of time, despite high expectations for its launch, is a technologicallimitation. There was some criticism that the 3D graphics, which served as the foundation of Second Life, did not reach a qualitatively sufficient point and that the interactive design was unnatural. In addition, during the Second Life epidemic, the network environment was a 3G or LTE, and the cloud infrastructure was inadequate to process massive 3D graphic data making it run slower than wanted. However, ten years later, in 2020, 5G became standard, combining powerful cloud and artificial intelligence(AI) technology from big tech companies like Google and Microsoft, and the Metaverse of 2020 version was reintroduced to the public.[figure 2]

I will go into more detail about why a 2020 Metaverse is currently a huge success. Firstly, the majority of the Metaverse users are teenagers. Teenagers account for 67% of subscribers to “Roblox,” a game creation and play platform developed by the Roblox Corporation in the United States,and 80% of subscribers to “Zepeto,” a customized 3D avatar and the socialized game developed by Naver in Korea. The reason for why the young generation is a primary consumer group can be found in the COVID-19 pandemic. It required people to maintain physical distance and become increasingly more isolated, but children need to explore, communicate, and exchange emotions in offline spaces, so they were looking for tools to provide a similar experience. In that regard, Metaverse was a powerful alternative to them.

Virtual space is becoming a daily life not only for the young generation but also for everyone. In 2020, UC Berkeley brought the Graduation celebration to students through “Minecraft,” a video game generating the 3D world because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They created a replica of the campus in the video game and held the ceremony there. Graduates, family, and friends participated with their bloc-shaped avatars in a virtual memorial stadium, and the avatars of each graduate even tossed their caps into the air at the end. All of the events were streamed live on Twitch.[figure 3]

When U.S. President Joe Biden was a candidate, he created Biden Island for promotion in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” a social simulation game developed Nintendo. There was an avatar for Biden, his office, and election campaign promotional items. On top of this, your player could visit his island and communicate with his avatar.[figure 4] Virtual space is no longer a space that can complement reality but rather a “stage” that can be used to replace real life.