The Metaverse Canon: Reading Guide
This is a collection of my favorite articles — including those I’ve written myself and people have found helpful — but many others that have inspired me to think about the convergence of many social and technological trends that will power the metaverse.
If you’re coming up to speed on the metaverse and you’d like to do a deep dive, then scan over the following article links. And if you have others you’d like me to include, I’d love to hear from you.
Main Concepts — Defining the Metaverse
- What we Talk About when We Talk About the Metaverse. How the concept of the metaverse has grown since it was invented in Snow Crash.
- Framework for the Metaverse, by Matthew Ball, a description of an interoperable set of systems for the metaverse.
- Defining the Metaverse Today, by Cathy Hackl. Definitions from 20 professionals involved in building the metaverse.
- The Metaverse: A brave, new (virtual) world, by Micaela Mantegna. Describes some of the features, with a particular focus on digital embodiment and the potential impact on wellbeing.
- Experiences of the Metaverse. What will people actually do with the metaverse?
- Legitimacy Lost by Li Jin and Katie Parrott. How critical it is to have agency and autonomy for creators in the metaverse.
- Evolution of the Creator Economy. How creative technologies tend to follow consistent patterns as they go from highly technical to creator-centered.
- Thoughts at the Intersection of Web3 and Creative Culture by Richard Kim. The connection between community, culture and creators — and how Web3 technologies may help.
Games and Gamification
- Game Economics, Part 1: The Attention Economy
- Game Development Trends in 2021, discussing the solo-to-social trend; technologists-to-artists; and games-to-economies.
- Introduction to Game Thinking by Amy Jo Kim. Explains the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and how to utilize both of them.
- Games and the Four Keys to Fun by Nicole Lazzaro. Using emotion to motivate behavior.
- The Metaverse is Real Gamification. Not just points and badges — but emotion, storytelling and human connection.
- Types of Virtual Items. Overview of the main types and how they’re valued by players.
- Types of game currencies in mobile free-to-play by Javier Barnes. Although focused on mobile games, the description of currencies applies to any platform.
- A Closer Look into the 12 Gamer Motivations by Nick Yee, an analysis of game playing psychology.
- Harvard International Review 4-part review on Esports.
- How Virtual Worlds Work, a multi-part series by Raph Koster, one of the leading innovators of MMOs.
- The Virtual Economy, by John Egan, good compare/contrast of closed centralized economies (Fortnite), open centralized (Minecraft) and open decentralized (Decentraland).
- 12 PC Games with the Most Active Modding Communities
Virtual Identity and Avatars
- When the Virtual Became Real. How digital identity and virtual property are becoming more important than ever.
- Stay for Who You Can Be by Rex Woodbury. Overview of avatar systems and virtual property.
- How Brands Can Thrive in the Direct to Avatar Economy by Cathy Hackl. Discussion of digital fashion and how brands may participate.
- Self-Sovereign Identity in a Globalized World: Credentials-Based Identity Systems as a Driver for Economic Inclusion, description of how blockchain and digital wallets (along with potential biometric technology) could be used to power a system where you own your own identity.
- Zero Knowledge Proof: Explain it Like I’m 5 — description of how online systems could be designed to disclose only the specific information you’re willing to disclose.
NFTs, Digital Collectibles & Play-to-Earn
- Game Economics, Part 2: NFTs and Digital Collectibles
- Why do play-to-earn games work when real money trading in games has (mostly) not worked? — Twitter thread by a16z partner Jon Lai.
- How to Approach the Generative Art Boom by William Peaster. Almost everything you need to set you on your journey to understanding the world of generative art.
- Into the Void: where Crypto Meets the Metaverse by Piers Kicks. Making the case for interoperable assets in the metaverse based on NFTs.
- NFTs and a Thousand True Fans by Chris Dixon, emphasizing the importance of the community-to-content connection.
- What the Hell is an NFT?
Business and Industry
- The Metaverse Value-Chain. Identifies 7 layers including experience, creator economy, discovery, spatial computing, human interface, decentralization and infrastructure.
- Market Map of the Metaverse. Organizes 200+ companies across the 7 layers of the metaverse value-chain, with some specific comparisons of Roblox, Unity and Epic.
- Jobs of the Metaverse. Six types of jobs that are being created by the metaverse.
- Metaverses by Ben Thompson. Discusses Microsoft and Facebook’s steps into the metaverse market, and the author’s skepticism that there will be “one metaverse to rule them all.”
- What You Need to Know About the Metaverse — and Why It Matters for Your Bottom Line by Cathy Hackl, focusing on the future of work.
- Facebook as a Metaverse Company: analysis of Facebook’s rebranding to Meta and the categories of investments they’re making in the metaverse.
Blockchain and Decentralized Finance
- Web3, Interoperability and the Metaverse. Introduction to the key innovations of Web3, and how it relates directly the unbundling-rebundling cycles.
- Money, Blockchains and Social Scalability, by Nick Szabo. Explains how the trustless nature of blockchain enhances and enables more widespread participation.
- Proof-of-Work vs. Proof-of-Stake. How PoS is enabling energy efficient and low-cost transactions on blockchain.
- Smart Contracts: the Ultimate Guide for Beginners by Hasib Anwar. Comprehensive guide to the revolutionary technology of smart contracts, which enable programmatic value exchange without central authorities.
- A DeFi Stream of Consciousness and the opportunity for “trustless games” by Richard Kim.
- What is an Oracle in DeFi and Why does it matter? The role of a technology that makes it possible to trigger smart contracts based on specified conditions.
- Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), a video presentation on blockchain-based governance from Stanford.
- DAOs — the New Frontier in Coordination, a comprehensive report and survey of DAOs, practices and creators.
- Blockchain Governance, from Guy at Coin Bureau, covering the distinction between on-chain vs. off-chain governance, DAOs, lock-up voting multipliers, DAO treasuries, quadratic funding, and relationship to decentralized digital identity.
- Introduction to Web3 and blockchain core concepts
Walled Gardens vs. Open Platforms
- The Permissionless Metaverse. Discusses the advantages of decentralized development platforms and open source.
- So You Want to Compete with Roblox, by Lars Ducet. The advantages and disadvantages of “company town” (Ducet’s term for a walled garden) content creation, such as found in Roblox.
- Why Decentralization Matters by Chris Dixon.
- Decentralization, Counter-Decentralization, and Redecentralization, a Twitter thread by Balaji Srinivasan.
- Network Effects in the Metaverse. Compares and contrasts centralized platforms vs. those that allow for open, emergent innovation; hub-and-spoke network models vs. scale-free networks; Metcalfe’s and Reed’s Law.
- The Moat Map, by Ben Thompson. Distinguishes the types of network effects that result from different business models (internalized like Facebook, externalized like Microsoft).
- The Network Effects Manual: 13 Different Network Effects (and counting) by James Currier. Catalogs some of the specific types of networks and how they generate value.
- The Blockchain Effect: Network Effects without Market Power Costs by Cathy Barrera.
- Emergence, an NPR Radiolab special on the complex behaviors that can emerge from leaderless systems.
Graphics Technology and Spatial Computing
- History of the Modern Graphics Processor by Graham Singer. From the Atari 2600 to the bleeding-edge GPUs of today.
- How Games Engines Work! by TheHappieCat — good and short introductory video explaining what a 3D Engine does.
- xR, AR, VR, MR: What’s the Difference in Reality? Introductory explanation of the main differences between augmented and virtual reality and similar terms.
- Spatial Computing by Simon Greenwold, defining the continuum of putting the human into the computer, and computing into objects.
- The Physics of Light and Rendering, talk by John Carmack, for people who want a more advanced explanation of how graphics rendering works.
- Light Field Technology by Javier Elizalde, describing the potential next generation beyond screens.
- Geospatial Information Visualization and Extended Reality Displays, a detailed introduction to using geographical and spatial maps to create a digital twin of the Earth.
- OpenXR, an open platform for developing 3D, VR and mixed-reality applications.
- What is a Digital Twin? by Matterport.
- The Metaverse and Artificial Intelligence. Covers GPT-3, virtual beings and applications to creativity.
- The Rise of the Virtual Being. WIRED podcast in which a virtual being is interviewed.
- Deep Learning in 5 Minutes, a quick video explaining how the latest major innovation in artificial intelligence works.
- Meet GPT-3. It Has Learned to Code (and Blog and Argue). Explanation of Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3, an engine for interpreting and expressing natural language.
Software, Servers and Networking
- No-code/low-code: Why you should be paying attention. Explanation of how these tools are opening up the world of application development to non-engineers.
- What is Serverless? from Gitlab. Explains how serverless actually does have servers — you just don’t need to think about them much, and how that is transforming cloud-based software development.
- From 5G to 6G: What could it look like? Explanation of the advantages and future trajectory of wireless technology.
- WebAssembly (WASM), a standard for the delivery of binary applications via web browsers.
- Microservices by James Lewis, an architectural pattern that allows serverless logic to be deployed in a highly distributed, highly scalable way.
- The Internet of Everything, an evolution of the concept of Internet of Things (IoT) involving the real-time delivery of data about people, processes and sensors.
- Virtual Economy Technology Radar, a good overview of the many technological building blocks contributing to the metaverse.