Into the metaverse: Here’s what you need to know about the future of the internet
You may not be willing to pay millions of dollars to own a jpeg image, but I’m certain that you’ve heard about people who have done just that.
What does it actually mean to ‘own’ an image on the internet? After all, digital images are quite easy to copy–one can literally copy and paste another version of it without any loss in quality. The answer can lead us down an interesting set of questions about the internet and how we might interact with it in the future.
Let’s start with how you can own things on the internet.
Ownership is enabled by units of data called NFTs or non-fungible tokens. These are stored on the blockchain–basically a long list of transactions that is available to everyone, meaning, you can actually trace who owns what.
So this is essentially how you can end up owning expensive jpegs. But that’s actually the least exciting part about NFTs. Where it has recently made its mark is in online, play-to-earn games such as the popular Axie Infinity.
In Episode 5 of Squad Leader, hosts Mon Isberto and Marc Casillan talk to Luis Buenaventura, the Country Manager of Yield Guild Games (YGG Pilipinas) and someone who has had years of experience working with crypto.
“Axie Infinity at its core is a player versus player game. Players use their Axie characters … to battle. On any given duel the player that wins will receive a small cryptocurrency reward,” says Buenaventura.
“Because it's a cryptocurrency, like any other [currency,] you can go to many different places to exchange it. You could exchange it for dollars, you can exchange it for pesos, you can exchange it for other cryptocurrencies that you might prefer.”
Cryptocurrency is just that—currency. It’s similar to the peso or the dollar, except that no single government controls it. (Check out this Teka Teka News episode if you want to know more about cryptocurrencies and how El Salvador made headlines last year when it made Bitcoin legal tender.)
Play-to-earn games have led to a new kind of economy cropping up—that is, people earning income from playing games; and YGG Pilipinas has a name for these people: MFWs or Metaverse Filipino Workers.
From the Middle East to the Metaverse
At its most basic, the metaverse is essentially a network of virtual spaces where people can play games, go to work, and interact with each other.
The technology is currently in its infancy, but with the advent of play-to-earn games, we’re seeing that there can be new opportunities for earning money in the metaverse. The way Luis Buenaventura sees it, earning from games like Axie Infinity is just the beginning.
“We are providing people with avenues for earning that did not exist a year ago. So now there is a potential path that is open to them that is not necessarily trying to migrate to the Middle East to get a job as a part of the hospitality industry or become a construction worker ... What do you do instead? You migrate to the metaverse.”
Mind-boggling as it is, it’s actually something that we’ve seen before. New technologies have always brought a whole host of issues, but we’ve seen them give birth to new opportunities as well. The metaverse is no different.
“The metaverse doesn't need to feel like it's a completely different universe ... the tools that we use are ... the same ones that we used to design furniture for the real world,” says Buenaventura.
“I think that more and more, you will see people who find they actually have relevant skill sets that maybe they thought that they were going to be completely obsolesced by the metaverse but in fact it's like ‘oh, this is actually just like the real world, except with more pixels.”
Technologies like NFTs and the blockchain may be difficult to fully understand, but these are arguably crucial to the future of the metaverse and the internet in general.
Buenaventura says that new games adopting a play-to-earn model is a given, however, he says that it’s difficult to predict where things will go exactly:
“What's kind of thrilling about this challenge is that no one knows what the correct answer is. So we are seeing innovation happen in real time, and that's why I was saying there's definitely gonna be winners and losers.”