Published on November 10, 2022
How To Access The Metaverse: A Beginner's Guide
Web3 metaverses such as Decentraland, The Sandbox, and Voxels use blockchain technology to bring NFT ownership to users.
7 min read
In recent years, there has been a ton of hype around the metaverse. Some people say it's the future of the internet, while others claim it's nothing more than a fad.
With companies like Meta, Epic Games, and Microsoft pouring billions of dollars into developing the metaverse, it has piqued many's attention. You may wonder, "what is the metaverse, and how can I access it?" This article will provide a beginner's guide to understanding the metaverse, accessing it, and some benefits of using it.
What Is The Metaverse?
The metaverse can be generally defined as a virtual world where we can live, work, socialize, and play. Although it doesn't fully exist yet, there are many early examples that show what might be possible. The metaverse is a term that was first coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. It refers to a fully immersive, 3-D virtual world that does not require a platform or device interface to connect to it.
Although we haven't quite arrived at Neal's vision of the metaverse, we are certainly inching closer. Today's closest examples to the metaverse primarily exist as platform-dependent virtual worlds hosted on video game consoles, VR hardware devices, and computers.
Since the arrival of web3, the metaverse has taken incredible strides toward developing a computer-generated reality that mirrors the mechanics of our physical world.
For example, web3 metaverses such as Decentraland, The Sandbox, and Voxels (formerly Cryptovoxels) are built upon decentralized blockchain technology, allowing users to purchase and own in-game assets like virtual real estate, character skins, and more in the form of NFTs. Unlike the centralized digital worlds we interact with today, the metaverse is becoming a shared space where users can play, socialize, and engage in commerce in remarkably similar ways to the physical world.
What Does The Metaverse Look Like?
The metaverse is a virtual environment that contains a confluence of 3D avatars, digital assets (such as artwork), games, and places to interact with fellow users. Most metaverses are voxel-based environments accessible with a VR headset, mobile device, or computer. If you've ever played video games like Sims, Minecraft, or even Super Mario, you can imagine a similar digital landscape. The major difference is that YOU are the main character.
Instead of just "playing" for fun, you can buy, sell, and own items with real money, socialize with other real people, and plenty more. Although the metaverse may look similar to other popular video games, the key difference is understanding that the underlying infrastructure vastly differs. The metaverse is a fascinating place that will only continue to get more popular in the coming years.
What Can I Do In the Metaverse?
Although the potential of the metaverse isn't fully clear, there are dozens of things you can do in the metaverse today. You can explore virtual landscapes and interact with other people in real-time. You can go shopping and purchase digital assets such as cars, accessories, artwork, real estate, and much more. You can attend virtual concerts and events. For example, Porter Robinson hosted his Second Sky festival in a virtual world where you could attend as an avatar, voice chat with other attendees, and enjoy the experience on a desktop, mobile, or VR device.
You can participate in play-to-earn NFT games, where users can earn real-world money by investing their time and effort into a web3 project. The possibilities are nearly endless, and the best part is that you can do all of this from the comfort of your own home
What Is the Difference Between The Metaverse And Other Virtual Worlds?
The difference between the metaverse and other virtual worlds is a bit of a philosophical conundrum. One could argue that we exist in the metaverse today by spending most of our time on social media and on our smartphones.
But without splitting hairs, it is important to recognize the consequential difference between web2 virtual worlds and web3 virtual worlds. Why? Because web3 virtual worlds much more closely resemble "the metaverse" as defined in Snow Crash.
Within blockchain-based virtual worlds, users have a right to private property. This is the key to freedom. In the physical world, many would argue that humans achieved individual freedom when we discovered the right to private property: the ability to own and barter assets without interference from governments or 3rd parties. However, in web2 virtual worlds, we operate within a centralized model where your online assets and rights are completely owned and regulated by the game developer. This is solely due to the pre-blockchain infrastructure in which these virtual worlds are built.
In web3, virtual worlds are built on a decentralized, immutable blockchain that cannot be altered by any one person or entity. Encoding the economic mechanisms of commerce on a blockchain facilitates peer-to-peer transactions without a central authority. In other words, web3 unlocks the same freedoms we have in the real-world, but in virtual environments. This completely changes how we interact with the internet and is the key difference between the metaverse and other virtual worlds.
How Do I Enter The Metaverse?
To enter the metaverse, you first need to determine which metaverse you'd like to visit. Just as there's no one "right" way to explore and interact with the internet, no single path will take you from the physical world into the metaverse. The metaverse is still in its early stages of development, and new portals and gateways are constantly emerging. In web3, there are several popular metaverses you can visit, including Decentraland, The Sandbox, and Voxels. One thing you can be sure of before entering any metaverse, is that you will need a crypto wallet, along with some cryptocurrency for any in-game purchases.
Decentraland is a decentralized virtual reality platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Entering a metaverse like Decentraland is fairly easy. Simply go to play.decentraland.org on your computer, connect your crypto wallet, and create a Decentraland avatar. From there, you will be directed into the Decentraland metaverse, where you can navigate the virtual world and purchase virtual real estate known as LAND. Since Decentraland is built on the Ethereum blockchain, you will need to purchase LAND with MANA, Decentraland's ERC-20 cryptocurrency.
The Sandbox is a decentralized, Ethereum-based virtual world where players can build, own, and monetize their gaming experiences using SAND, the main utility token, and currency of The Sandbox ecosystem. To enter The Sandbox metaverse, go to sandbox.game and click the sign-in button in the top right. Next, connect your crypto wallet, access The Sandbox, and make purchases like LAND, a digital piece of real estate in the Sandbox metaverse.
Voxels, formerly known as Cryptovoxels, is a decentralized, voxel-based metaverse platform built on the Ethereum blockchain. Similar to Decentraland and The Sandbox, Voxels users can purchase virtual land and build structures on top of it. To access the Voxels metaverse, simply go to voxels.com and click the sign-in button in the top right. Connect your crypto wallet, customize your account, and begin building in the Voxels metaverse!
The Future Of The Metaverse
Although we are in the early stages of the metaverse, you can expect to see rapid development happening in the coming years. Companies like Meta (who owns Oculus VR) will look to combine the metaverse with virtual and augmented reality devices, further providing a more immersive virtual experience. The aim is to provide realistic, connected experiences to the ones we love. So instead of FaceTiming a family member across the world, you can just as easily step into the metaverse using a VR headset and experience a reality that feels like you are literally in the room with that other person. So if you're ready to start exploring the early stages of the metaverse for yourself, set up a crypto wallet and check it out!