The metaverse is a relatively new (and confusing) place. It can also get expensive when you factor in the VR headset that will allow you to access these virtual worlds (not to mention the computer you need to power it all). However, if you really want to enter the metaverse, but feel overwhelmed by the asking price, you can participate without blowing a paycheck on headgear.
HTC Vive Pro 2 (Credit: Molly Flores)
In short, no. By definition, the metaverse is any virtual space in which users interact within a computer-generated environment. In this way, VR and the metaverse can come together for an enhanced experience, but it is not a requirement to have both. There are many different virtual worlds, and a lot of them are accessible right from your computer.
You might be thinking that if you’re just controlling an avatar onscreen, without any virtual reality, it will just be like The Sims. However, while The Sims shares many similarities with the metaverse, it is not a connected online world, which is the key difference.
Valve Index VR Kit (Credit: Molly Flores)
What’s the difference between using a VR headset and going without one? When you enter the metaverse using VR, you wear headgear that blocks out your vision of the real world, which completely immerses you in the world shown from the headset’s screen. The virtual world feels like it’s really in front of you, and the controllers you hold in each hand are used to interact with objects and control your avatar.
When you go without a headset, the visual aspects are much less immersive. You navigate the digital world from a computer, and although you can guide your avatar, you won’t fully “become” them like you would with a headset. You can still do many of the same things, but the difference is the increased separation between you and the world, as well as the less immersive controls.
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VRChat (Credit: Steam)
VR headsets typically cost several hundred dollars, so the metaverse can be an expensive hobby if you go all in. The upside to starting slow is that you can get a feel for what the metaverse entails. Here are some of the virtual worlds you can enjoy without the need of a headset.
Axie Infinity(Opens in a new window): Fans of cryptocurrency (specifically Ethereum) and NFTs might lean towards a metaverse experience like Axie Infinity, a game where players collect and mint NFTs that represent digital pets (Axies), which can be battled and bred with each other within the game.
Fortnite(Opens in a new window): While Fortnite is largely an online gaming platform, it has been adding more metaverse features over time, like live concerts (Travis Scott even had one) and a Creative mode in which players can build their own virtual worlds and interact with each other through their in -game avatars during events.
Minecraft(Opens in a new window): Minecraft is a sandbox game that lets players explore a world, mine resources, build structures, and make it out to be whatever they want. Minecraft is different because it allows each player to build their own metaverse instead of all players interacting together in one place. However, you can still play online with friends.
Roblox(Opens in a new window): Roblox is a game platform and game creation system. Players can design their own games and also play games created by others. The title has an in-game monetary system that players use to make purchases within individual games (and make real money). It’s wildly popular, especially among kids.
The Sandbox(Opens in a new window). Another game that incorporates Ethereum, The Sandbox allows you to build anything you want within the world’s sandbox. There’s no final objective to work towards; instead, players build, own, and monetize their gaming experiences.
VRChat(Opens in a new window): VRChat allows you to talk with other people through your avatars, play games together, and interact with the larger community. Think of 90s-era chat rooms, only now it’s not just words on a screen but avatars looking at each other and speaking out loud.
For those just getting started with the metaverse, titles like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft may be the best places to start. If you’re not much of a gamer, VRChat can help you focus more on the social aspect; virtual clothing has become hugely popular as well.
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