The reason why I came up with this article is because I was searching for alternate ways to make friends. Me and 36% of all Americans — including 61% of young adults – feel serious loneliness according to Harvard GSE. I’m a very visual person, and I love the idea of seeing my avatar on the screen, instead of just a name. By searching for “avatar chatting” on the internet, I accidentally ended up stumbling on the Metaverse term. Since last year I have been wondering what this metaverse is about. First of all, I’m not interested in blockchain, VR, AR or any of these things. All I want is just to see what kind of social interactions are available and if they can help me to make new friends. Google Trends says that the word metaverse is dropping dramatically, but I wanted to experience myself even before everyone says that was just a hype.
What is a Metaverse?
Well, and what is the metaverse? I like the explanation from Eric Ravenscraft from Wired who says to mentally replace the phrase “the metaverse” in a sentence with “cyberspace.” Very clever. It makes me wonder if the Metaverse is (or will be) a place for everyone, but honestly speaking, I’m not sure.
Why should we join for a Metaverse?
What I learned from this experience is that if you don’t have a clear objective of what you’re looking for, it will be a complete waste of time. At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure you’ll become a detractor. I don’t know how the metaverse will look in the future, but at least for now, these are the main reasons why you should join a Metaverse:
- Trade digital items
- Socializing (with many considerations).
I really hope that the following list helps you to decide either if you should try them out or which one is more suitable for your needs.
Let’s start our journey with the Anime City designed by GoBrunch. This was actually a referral, since I haven’t found much information online and it seems pretty new.
After pasting the link in my browser, I just needed to type my name and choose an avatar picture. There are some standard ones, but since the metaverse is all about Anime, I decided to upload a Nezuko one from your computer.
I clicked to join, and this was actually the first “wow” moment, because I was already inside of it. I didn’t have to sign up or install anything which is really cool.
The social aspect of the Anime City is straight to the point. I started in a room called “Anime co-working space” and some people already said “Hi Nezuko” to me in the chat which I initially thought were bots. While it’s unusual to get this polite welcoming, particularly in a metaverse, the culture here is very interesting because it makes you want to say hi for the upcoming person who joins. People in general are very friendly, and they even ask what song you want to hear, because they are always sharing their screens and playing Youtube videos. It sounds like a perfect place if you’re feeling lonely.
Unlike many metaverses that I’ve seen, this one is not 3D, and I found it less tiring to spend time chatting and exploring. The Anime City just has a few rooms, but it allows you to create private meetings and VC with your friends. What I really loved about this place is the simplicity. If you want to start a meeting, you just choose a room layout (and many of them are very cute) and then take a seat in one of the circles. Once you’re inside, it’s just like a video chat app, you can turn on your cam, talk and share your screen.
One person invited me to join her personal room and it was all customized with her artwork. She said she had an upgraded account which allows her to decorate her space. She shared her screen to show how she did that, and it seemed very interesting. She can customize everything, just like creating her own world or space.
Back in the public area, everything seems very concentrated in just a few rooms, where you can listen to music, do karaoke or play some games. I wish we could have more options for customizing the avatar, but again the simplicity to just upload a picture that you like fits the bill for people like me who’s searching only to make friends. They don’t have currency or tokens and I’m not sure if it’s on the plans, but at least for now, everything is free.
I wish they could have more rooms with different ages, but in general I really liked the experience. It definitely needs some improvements here and there but the team of this metaverse is doing an amazing job and all the moderators are so nice and welcoming, that deserve to be on the top of my list. Here are the pros and cons that I found:
- Nice and friendly community.
- No sign up or installation required.
- Everything is 2D, which makes it less tiring.
- Very good moderation. At the times I’ve been there, I always found people willing to help.
- Videoconferencing capabilities: in some rooms you can have multiple screen shares, mics and cameras.
- It allows you to create private meeting spaces. You can choose the decoration prior to creating it, from beach landscapes to coffee shops.
- Because it has been built on top of a video chat app, it’s easy to watch anime together, listen to music and even do karaoke.
- The built-in editor resembles Photoshop and you can easily decorate it, by adding backgrounds, images and text.
- It’s a perfect fit if you love Anime. You’ll find super cute avatars inside the rooms.
- Very good support via chat.
- Full avatar customization is not available yet.
- You’ll get a better experience in your desktop or laptop browser. The mobile experience needs improvements and there’s no app.
- Everything is concentrated in just a few rooms, while you can create private spaces to invite your friends.
- If you like futuristic 3D environments, this is definitely not for you.
Before jumping into it, I actually didn’t have any idea what this kind of metaverse was about. It seemed like a place to make friends or play games, but I wasn’t sure at all. What I found out is that while you can do that, it’s definitely not the main purpose of Decentraland.
The home page and sign up process are a little bit annoying. They recommend installing their beta version, but they have an option to explore directly using the browser, so that’s what I did. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that the experience would not be the same and I decided to install to have the full features. I like a metaverse where you can enter directly and don’t waste too much time signing up or installing, which was not the case with this one.
In Descentrland, in order for you to have a “full experience”, you have to connect your wallet, which wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I selected to enter like a visitor and I’m glad they have that option. At this point, I was already feeling the waves of disappointment running through my veins. Why do I need a wallet if I just want to explore? I’d say it would be better to have options for either people who want to use wallets or not, not compromising the overall experience. After trying it out, then we’d be able to decide if we want a wallet to start spending our money on it.
Now here’s the good part: they offer tons of options to create avatars. On the other hand, the 3D graphics are lacking in many aspects. My screen was constantly lagging and freezing.
Ok, now I am inside of it and I want to add some friends, but I actually can’t figure out how to do that by poking the main controls. If you want to send private messages, you first need to connect your wallet, which is kind of frustrating.
I started wondering who’s creating this world, because it already has lots of land inside of it. Gamers, maybe? Well, since there are no instructions, I don’t know how to play.
What I realized at the end, is that Descentraland is a metaverse designed to promote virtual commerce. Here you can build lands, that’s true. But more important is the act of buying or selling it. So if you are looking for a metaverse for making friends and having fun, I wouldn’t recommend this one. Now, if you’re looking to create lands to generate income, then Descentraland might be a fit for you.
From my experience exploring the lands, I didn’t quite understand my role as a player or settler. There’s too much information in the website, but none inside the metaverse itself. At the end, I really felt intrigued and excited to see the concerts and events happening inside of it, such as the one featuring Justin Bieber. While this collab sounds like a nice attempt to make this metaverse more attractive, I have no plans of hopping in again. I’ll drop you here a list with the pros and cons that I found.
- It’s a huge open world with a lot of places to go.
- Many options for customizing the avatar.
- You can create lands in 3d and sell it (own a plot of land, rent it out, build on it, and design houses, bars, gardens, parks and more).
- You can even attend and host virtual concerts or sports games in the virtual world.
- You need to create a wallet and have coins to talk in private messages with other people.
- I found it too cluttered, with too much information and options.
- The metaverse lag and the 3D graphics look from the 90s.
- The overall UI is not pleasant.
- It requires installation, since the browser lags a lot.
- For the “full experience” you need to connect your wallet.
- Very challenging to make friends or chat.
I could probably repeat what I have already written about Decentraland here, but in fact there are some differences that deserve to be pointed out. Again, I’m trying to find a metaverse to make friends, but this one doesn’t seem to be the case either.
First of all, we need to sign up. I’m ok with that. Next, I was expecting to join the metaverse but instead, I needed to install the app since there’s no browser version available. Like Decentraland, you need to connect to a wallet to have “full access”. But in addition, Sandbox asks for an unusual verification of my ID with a picture. This is a no-go for many people. Considering I’m looking to create an avatar to become my virtual representation, submitting my picture wasn’t pleasant at all. But yes, since the main purpose of Sandbox is to buy and sell digital goods, it’s kind of understandable that you need some kind of verification.
Ok, now that I was inside, I could easily see that Sandbox is another metaverse totally based on digital commerce, which is perfect for people who are looking for that, but not my case.
The trading concept of Sandbox is actually very neat. You can sell or buy NFTs, lands, games and earn tokens. If you want to dive deeper, there’s a developing platform where you can create your own games. Even if you’re not virtually rich, Sandbox has a lot of sponsors and you can use the tokens that you earn in Sandbox and Binance (an online exchange where you can trade cryptocurrencies).
The 3D graphics look better than Decentralized. If you’re familiar with Minecraft, you’ll feel at home at least in the visual perspective. So, if one day I decide to join the NFT world, I’ll definitely pick Sandbox to start with. There is enough information in the website page for you to feel comfortable in joining and get started as a monopoly player inside their virtual world. Who knows, maybe you’ll become a metaverse tycoon?
- Sell Lands and NFTs.
- It offers different virtual worlds such as music, sports, games, dating, shopping, and concerts.
- Good 3D graphics.
- Good avatar customization.
- It has opportunities for adding brands, sponsorship and developing collaborative projects.
- You can create games and your own land.
- You can shop or either build your own marketplace.
- It requires a crypto wallet to sign up.
- Too much information – can be confusing for newbies.
- Recommended only for 18 years old and up.
- It’s more focused on people who want to trade digital products than making friends.
- You need to have their online currency “SAND” , to do almost everything inside the metaverse.
- Installation is neccesary.
Axie is somehow different from the previous ones that I reviewed. Pretty much you’ll find a NFT battlefield where you can earn tokens and exchange for crypto and real money. The battles are similar to pokemon games. While you can even try to make friends, the main concept here is to play and explore the open world.
The homepage seems nice and the information is clear. Just like Decentraland and Sandbox, you will need first to to connect your wallet, to get some axies, prior to play. Axies is the name they give for the pets, but don’t expect them to be cute because they will cost you money and you need to buy at least 3. Once you get immersed in the game, you’ll realize that the good ones can be acquired for USD 100, no less.
If you have a degree in open world crypto games, this is the place for you. As a beginner, I’d recommend searching for tutorials before joining the arena.
What I found interesting about Axie is the ability to play from any device, but both cases require installation.
I can’t say I didn’t like it, because the overall experience was satisfactory, considering that I ended up spending more time here than in Sandbox and Decentralized together.
- You can adopt and collect pets called “Axies”.
- If you like battlefield arenas, this is the right metaverse for you.
- You can sell pets, lands and different stuff.
- It’s NFT gaming oriented. If you are into NFT, you should definitely try it out.
- They have their own marketplace.
- You can change their coins to crypto and real money.
- Installation is necessary to a PC or mobile device.
- You must create a wallet to play.
- You need to buy at least 3 pets for playing.
- Nothing is for free.
All right, I finally got into Roblox. I was actually anxious, since I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about it.
The website is very straightforward and it’s obvious that they want us to sign no matter what. I haven’t found a browser version but I was ok with installing in order to get the best performance.
Well, it turns out Roblox fulfills all the good reviews that you read on the internet. The atmosphere is nice and it has a lot (really a lot) of games-from survival to cooking, from adopting your pet to shootings and much more. I had played some of them, and it was really engaging. The community creates all the games which makes it even more interesting. At this point, I have to congratulate David Baszucki, the founder of Roblox.
The 3D graphics are kind of similar to Minecraft, not much realistic but suitable for the purpose.
Keep in mind that some games will require “Robux” which are their paid tokens. At some point, you’ll feel attracted to purchasing them, and that’s ok since they have to monetize somehow.
As much as everything sounds friendly and naive, be ready to see bad words and insulting sentences. At the end of the day, you have to be very careful in what game you’re choosing to play and who you’re chatting with, especially if you’re under 18. From what I have experienced, I recommend accepting friend requests just from people that you have spent some time playing with and demonstrated a nice behavior. Plus, never ever give someone your personal information.
Ok, now let’s talk about making friends. You’ll find a public chat in every game and also they give you the ability to add friends and send private messages in an easy way. However, I found it a little bit difficult to filter the messages.
Roblox is not a metaverse where you can’t make friends right away. It requires you to engage with their games first. But if playing games is one of your passions, then you’ll probably get addicted to it. Check out the pros and cons that I found:
- It’s cross platform, and it can be used in multiple devices, including Windows, Android, iOS and XBox.
- It offers multiple experiences like gaming, concerts, education, fashion shows, sports, entertainment and friendship.
- The 3D is decent. It’s not as clunky as many metaverses that I experienced.
- It’s free to sign Up and play.
- It can be played by children.
- It offers a comprehensive avatar customization tool.
- You can trade items in a social-commerce concept.
- You can create and publish games.
- You might find the community toxic at many times.
- It has a bad moderation system.
- User-generated games can expose kids to inappropriate content.
- Mixing childrens and adults in the same platform is kind of confusing and not the safest one.
- Too many overpriced items – You need to have “Robux” (their online currency) to buy some games or accessories for your avatar.
- They lack support.
- You might find hackers inside the community.
- The chat filter certainly needs improvement.
So yeah, it was a long trip. Metaverses can be boring and engaging at the same time and will always depend on your purpose. If you want to get immersed in cyberworlds with cyber products and economies, The Sandbox and Decentraland are the best choices. If you want to play games, pick Roblox and don’t look back. Now if you’re looking for social interactions as I am, GoBrunch Anime City is the best option. No matter which one you choose, try to keep your feet on the ground and remember that there’s a big real world with tons of possibilities to explore and many of them barely require technology. But while it is snowing out there, you can certainly enjoy a virtual beach club, play some games and hopefully find interesting people to chat with. Hope to see you there!
Angela Silva is a writer and artist.
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