To Developers: Decentralize The Metaverse. We Owe It To The Future

Paul Gadi
5 min readAug 5, 2022

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The Corporate Metaverse

On June 21st, 2022, a consortium of companies announced the Metaverse Standards Forum. The forum aims to accelerate the realization of the Metaverse, and is founded by some of the largest corporations in the world including Alibaba, IKEA, Huawei, Adobe, Nvidia, Microsoft, Epic Games, Unity, and Meta.

As Big Tech scrambles to make the Metaverse happen, battle-hardened players and game developers look on apprehensively. To them, the Metaverse is just a marketing term: simply a redefinition of what video games and virtual worlds have been for many, many years. In their view, the Metaverse is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. (Apologies to William Gibson!)

What’s clear, at the very least, is that there are differing views on what the Metaverse currently is, and what it will eventually become.

In our vision of the Metaverse we see fantasy, science fiction, and everything in between collide! Anyone can be anything, and everyone has the freedom to explore. An excerpt from Arcadians Comic #1 written by Josh Blaylock.

The Big Tech view of the Metaverse leans heavily towards technology: graphics advancements such as virtual reality (VR), services such as e-commerce, and platforms-as-a-service such as game engines. Less thought is given to more philosophical concerns such as privacy and human agency.

And while it is heartening to see that the Metaverse Standards Forum advocates for an open and inclusive metaverse, there is no escaping the fact that corporations are aggressively capitalist, where growth and profits are the primary drivers. Even video games are not spared: as game engines and ad networks centralize, developers are seen as “f**king idiots” if they don’t think about monetization.

A Glimpse Into The Future

Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister and economist-in-residence in Valve, contends that we are entering a dystopian era controlled by Big Tech called techno-feudalism. The Way Forward Machine provides a more visual example of how we will experience the future Internet and, consequently, the Metaverse.

A glimpse into the Internet of 2046 from the Way Forward Machine, where content is hidden behind paywalls, data collection farms and splinternets

We can easily imagine these futures coming to fruition: Where developers are locked-in to the platforms and software that they use. A Metaverse where users have lost freedom and control.

As the Metaverse forms around us, it shapes us in return.

Decentralizing The Metaverse

To better guard against the dystopian Metaverse, we need to build it decentralized.

We owe it to the future: We need to experiment with new technologies and game genres not solely focused on Big Tech’s incentives.

And we owe it to the past: We must aspire to build more towards the original decentralized vision of the Internet.

As a guideline, we can build our games and apps with three adjectives in mind — Interoperable, Open-Source, and Unstoppable.

Interoperable

The Metaverse can either connect our virtual worlds together, or build more walls around them.

To ensure the former, we should focus on creating protocols, not platforms.

Some examples of these protocols are the ERC-20 and ERC-721/1155 standards: open standards that paved the way for tokens, NFTs, decentralized exchanges and collectible marketplaces.

Designing with interoperability in mind also opens up genres and experiences, of which the fighting-game engine Mugen is a great example of.

Mugen

Interoperability will allow players, developers, and even fighting game characters to move freely across games and platforms.

Protocols and interoperable standards will keep those building walled gardens around the Metaverse in check.

Open-Source

Using open-source technologies for our apps ensures we aren’t locked-in to a platform’s rules and incentives. Some good examples are open-source game Engines (Phaser, Godot), web frameworks such as React and Scaffold-Eth.

Building our games open-source can lead to greater innovation as well. Some good games that do this are shapez.io and Mindustry.

Mindustry

Unstoppable

Can a game possibly run on the Metaverse forever?

This is a lofty goal but peer-to-peer technologies allow us to build with less reliance on centralized servers, and allow us to build unstoppable games and services. WebRTC, libp2p and torrents are great starting points.

Another thing we can do to make a game unstoppable is ensure that there’s a community working to maintain it, even after the developer moves on to a different game.

We can enable this by using player-owned governance tools such as ModPol, giving us the option to Exit to Community.

A good example unstoppable game is Conquest.eth, a game that runs fully on an EVM-compatible chain.

An Alternate, Solarpunk Future

Stories about the coming Metaverse are usually dystopic. And with the way incentives work in our current societies, they may not be too far off the mark.

There is a better way though; instead of cyberpunk being the main theme of the Metaverse, we should aspire more towards brighter futures. Towards human self-realization, towards solarpunk.

A future where the Metaverse is built for us: open, decentralized, and free.

Further Explorations

Thank you for reading! If you want to read more check out the additional articles below:

Decentralized Web Principles

Kernel Gaming Guild Syllabus

The Metaverse Will Reshape Our Lives. Let’s Make Sure It’s for the Better by Matthew Ball

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Paul Gadi

CTO and Co-Founder at OP Games | Kernel Gaming Guild Steward