What is the Metaverse?: The Perfect Movie Guide To The Metaverse

The world is set aflame with Metaverse fever. Before the pandemic, the Metaverse had been only a blurry image popping up in your head when you sketch the futuristic world. However, since COVID 19, the whole world came up with an idea of practical virtual space that allows us to exceed the limits of physical distance. It has long been recognized the Metaverse as the next phase of technology. We just didn’t know that COVID-19 would push us toward the next chapter this fast. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of the Metaverse yet. Once you check out the list of the Metaverse movies, you will get it.

What is the Metaverse?

Before taking a deep dive, let’s take a closer look at its meaning first. The term “Metaverse” is a portmanteau of the prefix “meta”, which means beyond, and “universe”. It was coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”. In the novel, the Metaverse is described as a persistent virtual world where users can link equipped with augmented reality technology. Wikipedia defines Metaverse as a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the son of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet.

What Metaverse platforms are there? 

It was only an abstract concept until gaming and tech industries have breathed new life into the Metaverse over the past year. The rapid progress of the gaming industry is especially incredible. They have been expanding their world, increasingly having metaverse-like elements. Now, those games play a role as a virtual space where you can get along with people, make money, and have cultural life.

Lil Nas X's Roblox concert was attended 33 million times - The Verge
Lil Nas X’s Roblox concert

When it comes to the Metaverse, Roblox always puts its name on the first page. It’s an online platform where users go to play games. Technically, Roblox is a place where people play games made by other developers. What makes Roblox different from other games is that all the games are made by its users. Currently, its users have published over 20 million games on the platform and some even earn as much as $1million in a single year by monetizing their games.

This is not the end. Roblox diversified its role by collaborating with the music industry. Last year, Roblox hosted the Lil Nas X concert in their online event space. During the concert, Lil Nas X performed his new single “Holiday” for the first time live and other popular hits. The shows gathered 33 million views. 

Travis Scott's 'Astronomical' Fortnite Event Was… Overwhelming - Rolling  Stone
Rolling Stone

This is not the first collaboration in the game industry. In April 2020, Fortnite hosted a performance from Travi$ Scott that drew 45.8 million viewers across five shows. Fortnite is a survival game where 100 players fight against each other in player versus player combat to be the last one standing. Then where did they host the concert? Party Royale. Party Royale is an experimental and evolving space in Fortnite where users can kick up their shoes and relax while enjoying minigames or join their friends to attend concerts, movies, and more. 

Biden campaign launches official Animal Crossing: New Horizons yard signs -  The Verge
Biden campaign yard of Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Only the entertainment business can relate to this? Nope. Last year, during the run-up to the election, current U.S president, Joe Biden, and his team took their campaign to a popular video game Animal Crossing: New Horizon. Animal Crossing New Horizons is a social simulation game, where you can create an island of your very own. You can visit other players’ islands even while they are not playing and travel around. So, players and his supporters visited an island called Biden HQ and learned all about the presidential candidate. Meanwhile, some players in Hong Kong have used the platform to stage protests by customizing their island with protest slogans.

As you can see, the Metaverse is already right around the corner no matter if you are aware of it or not. 

What IT companies are engaging in this war?

To bring the Metaverse into our real life, world-leading companies are trying to figure out how. On August 19, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of “Horizon Workrooms”, a virtual reality workspace that lets employees mimic team meetings and socializing. Using the Oculus Quest 2, Facebook’s virtual reality headset, users can create avatars that would access their work laptop and interact with colleagues in a virtual Metaverse.

It’s not only Facebook that is trying to build their own Metaverse. Microsoft also presented a hologram-based mixed-reality communication platform “Microsoft Mesh” which works with Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, a mixed reality smart glasses. 

What else? Google launched the Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 Last year. Google Glass displays the information just like a smartphone with a hands-free format. Apple didn’t announce anything yet, but rumors suggested the lenses of Apple Glass, an augmented reality glasses, would launch as soon as this year.

It seems obvious that all those companies are pouring their efforts to link the world to Metaverse and stay ahead of the game. 

What movies are about the Metaverse?

|Ready Player One (2018)

Director Steven spielberge | Cast Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn | Runtime 2h 20min

In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spends their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS. (Warner Bros.)

<Ready Player One> is considered as the most Metaverse-like movie. Even though the message itself is focusing on the preciousness of the real world, the way it describes virtual reality and how it works is exactly what we’re expecting the Metaverse would be. Unlike the movie, the Metaverse in the real world will probably be diverse just like we use multiple web portals, but still, it’s a well-made movie let us imagine it. 

|Free Guy (2021)

Director Shawn Levy | Cast Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery | Runtime 1h 55min

In “Free Guy,” a bank teller who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game, decides to become the hero of his own story, one he rewrites himself. Now in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world, Free city, his way before it is too late. (Rotten Tomatoes)

What would the world look like from the NPC(Non-Play Character)’s point of view? <Free Guy> will show it to you. Technically, the game world, Free city, is not a Metaverse for the players out there in the real world. However, for the NPC guy, this is the real world. In that sense, we can see the Free city as a Metaverse. Generally, advanced technology such as AI., high-tech weapons triggers a serious mood in movies. However, <Free Guy> is neither serious nor existential. It is pure color, fast-paced, funny, creative, and enjoyable. 

|Summer Wars(2009)

Director Mamoru Hosoda | Cast Ryunosuke Kamiki, Nanami Sakuraba, Mitsuki Tanimura | Runtime 1h 54min

OZ is a virtual cyberworld interfused to the internet, has become extremely famous worldwide as a spot for people to immerse in a huge assortment of activities, such as playing sports or shopping, through avatars built-in and customized by the user. OZ also owns near impervious security due to its strong encryption, ensuring that any personal data transferred through the networks will be kept secured to protect those who use it. This is the story of Kenji Koiso, a skittish eleventh-grade math genius and part-time OZ moderator who is invited by a twelfth-grade student, Natsuki Shinohara to celebrate her great-grandmother’s 90th birthday at her family’s estate in Ueda. But unknown to him, this journey requires him to pretend as her fiancé. Kenji meets several of Natsuki’s relatives and things are getting complicated than he expected. But one night, he received an email containing a weird cryptic mathematical code and he cracks it. After he solved the code, what he didn’t realize was that he accidentally set off a powerful and ruthless computer program on the loose, and sparked a catastrophic chain reaction by ensnaring all the accounts in the OZ mainframe to hijack the entire systems worldwide. As the damage continues to get worst, Kenji and his new “family” must join forces together to avert the chaos. As they’ve to prepare for countermeasures, they’re on the race against the clock as the rogue A. I am about to unleash a global apocalypse. (IMDb)

The feature of the early stage of the Metaverse would be the OZ probably. By creating their own character, users can communicate and play games with other users on the opposite side of the earth without a language barrier. Moreover, they handle their business on the OZ’s server and it directly links to the real world. That close link between the virtual and real-world is used as a warning sign in the movie. However, it’s a well-made movie that makes you experience the pre-version of the Metaverse via OZ.

|Wreck-it Ralph(2012)

Director Rich Moore | Cast John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer | Runtime 1h 41min

Arcade-game character Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is tired of always being the “bad guy” and losing to his “good guy” opponent, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer). Finally, after decades of seeing all the glory go to Felix, Ralph decides to take matters into his own hands. He sets off on a game-hopping trip to prove that he has what it takes to be a hero. However, while on his quest, Ralph accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens the entire arcade. (Rotten Tomatoes)

<Wreck it, Ralph> is somewhat similar to <Free Guy> when it comes to the journey of a game character whose fate is already programmed from the first moment. The only difference is that there’s no player behind the game character and each character has their own ego. This movie did a great job with spectacular animation, great voice work, and a humorous and touching float. Even if you’re not a big fan of video games, it’s worth watching. 


Director Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor | Cast Gerard Butler, Amber Valletta, Ben Logan Lerman | Runtime 1h 35min

Ken Castle is extremely rich, popular, and powerful since he invented and started exploiting the virtual online parallel reality games. In these games, people can either pay to be a user or get paid to be an ‘actor’ in a system of mind-control. In the ultimate version, Slayers, death row convicts act as gladiators in a desperate dim bid for survival, which no one has achieved yet. The champion, John ‘Kable’ Tillman, is scheduled to die just before he’d gain release, but he persuades his teenage ‘handler’ to hand over the reins so he can fully use his talents and experience. Kable escapes to freedom, but Castle’s men chase him. Kable has to fight his way back to Castle’s headquarters to challenge his hidden evil plans. (IMDb)

It’s quite a disturbing concept that the characters are actually real people, and players control them as game characters. Unlike other Metaverse movies, the real world is the game stage, and real humans are the avatars. Mind manipulation has always been used as the subject matter in SF film that could be incurred in the technically advanced future. Just like the message of the director, maybe we might be able to face the same problem when we actually live in the Metaverse. 

There are still several technical obstacles on the pathway toward a real Metaverse. So-called virtual reality and augmented reality technologies are already available to us but it will take a while to melt it in the real world. All we know is that we’re just about to step on the threshold of the Metaverse. Someday we will overcome the technological limitations, and eventually face the Metaverse in our life. Then “Roblox”, “Fortnite”, or “Google Glass” might be described as a struggle of the past. But now, all we can do is just watch those movies while waiting for the next phase.

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