A Second Life: Welcome to the Metaverse, Cinema’s Next Frontier


What if you could live two lives at once?

It’s the premise of Ben Stiller’s Apple thriller series Breakup. Employees of a mysterious tech company undergo brain surgery in which a microchip is inserted that separates their work memories from their personal memories.

Once they step into the elevator at their workplace, they become the “work” version of themselves, with no memory of who they are or what they are in their personal lives.

The show offers an interpretation of the “metaverse”, a somewhat hypothetical digital universe that parallels our daily lives. Filmmakers and entertainment companies have recognized its potential as a storytelling trope – and as a tool in filmmaking. Facebook is also dipping a toe with a newly renamed parent company, Meta.

free guy, Loan player one peek into the metaverse

Free Guy, starring Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer, follows a virtual bank teller who lives in the background of a video game world, unaware of the chaos players are inflicting all around him. (20th century workshops)

In 1992, writer Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in his science fiction novel Snowfall. Stephenson’s vision was of a vast virtual world existing in tandem with real life.

Since then, the concept and its definition have swelled, although most return to Stephenson’s idea as a framework.

“It’s a vast virtual world, in which millions of users can interact at the same time via avatars,” said Wagner James Au, author of The creation of Second Life and founder of the oldest metaverse culture blog, New World Notes.

Popular metaverse prototypes include virtual world-building platforms such as Second Life and VRChat, as well as Roblox and Fortnite gaming platforms. Roblox alone has 55 million daily active users.

“It’s very immersive, it has authoring tools, so virtually any experience can be created, and it’s connected to the real-life economy, usually through cash-out process,” Au said.

In a report of VICEVenture capitalist and angel investor Mathew Ball offers this perspective: If your phone is a computer in your pocket from which the internet is always accessible, then the metaverse should be considered forever. in a computer and inside the Internet.

There is not yet a real metaverse, accessible by a single gateway, in which life persists even in the absence of the user.

LISTEN | Confronting the “reality” of our reality on the tapestry of CBC Radio:

Tapestry53:52Confronting the “reality” of our reality

David Chalmers is a professor of philosophy and neuroscience at New York University. He argues that there is nothing “virtual” about virtual reality. Everything is real. Later we hear from the co-writer of the movie Free Guy – Matt Lieberman. He talks to Tapestry about how you could tell the difference between the life you’re currently living and a computer simulation. 53:52

But its onscreen portrayal is becoming more frequent and global, giving audiences an idea of ​​what to expect from what pundits are calling “the next stage of the internet.”

Beyond BreakupAmazon Prime’s black comedy To download takes place in a future where the deceased can pay a generous fee live in a metaverse-like afterlife created by a tech company. The characters choose which version of heaven they want to exist in, but it’s not the utopia you’d expect.

And the movie 2021 free guy stars Vancouver-born Ryan Reynolds as a bank teller who discovers he lives in a metaverse-like game world, where others risk being permanently deleted by the game’s creator.

Past movies like Loan player one, The matrix and Avatar (with the first of four sequels arriving this december) tapped into the metaverse, featuring characters who enter parallel digital universes using augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technology.

In Ready Player One, for example, the characters are connected to a virtual world called OASIS to escape their real environment, which has deteriorated due to climate change and overpopulation. (Twitter)

A common trope in these properties is that they are set in dystopias. In Loan player one, for example, the characters are connected to a virtual world called OASIS to escape their real environment, which has deteriorated due to climate change and overpopulation. Why so dark?

“It’s partly a caveat that so much of our lives are becoming online and digital,” Au said. “There’s a concern that writers and filmmakers want to express, that we might lose too much of our humanity in digitizing everything.”

But the overall potential for a metaverse — both good and bad — has yet to be fully explored on the big and small screen, Au said.

“Every depiction of the metaverse I’ve seen so far only scratches the surface of what platforming looks like.”

Entertainment giants are investing in their own metaverses

Movies and TV have been portraying the metaverse for decades now. But the use of metaverse technologies in the making of real movies is becoming more and more common. Several major entertainment companies have revealed plans to develop a version of a metaverse.

disney announcement in November that it would begin to develop its own metaversewhich she said would combine elements of entertainment and storytelling with new technologies.

Netflix also did public its intentions to move into the virtual reality space. Game Industry Metaverse Prototypes Pose Risk to Traditional Entertainment and Streaming: In 2019 Quarterly Letter to Investors, Netflix wrote“we compete with (and lose) fortnite more than HBO.”

Epic, the gaming company behind Fortnite, announcement a US$1 billion funding round to support their vision for a metaverse.

Participants in the OYA Scale Up initiative are working on an immersive media project. The program is a partnership between OYA Black Arts and CFC Media Lab and is funded by the Federal Development Agency of Southern Ontario. (David Peddie/OYA Black Arts Coalition)

According to a virtual reality filmmaker, users will soon be able to inhabit the worlds of their favorite movies – think boarding the Millennium Falcon with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo, or traveling through Middle-earth with Frodo Baggins.

With the money pouring into the industry, the pressure to produce a viable product leaves little room for filmmakers and creators to experiment.

“We don’t know much about how to tell great stories with these abilities,” said Richard Lachman, an associate professor at Metropolitan University of Toronto (formerly Ryerson University) who studies the relationship between humans and technology.

“We know a lot about how to build puzzles. We know a lot about how to create elation, excitement, and emotion, but not necessarily great storytelling.

“It’s a challenge, and one of the risks with this challenge is that there’s so much money going into it now…that money doesn’t necessarily lead us to understand the art.”

Oya Media Group, a Toronto-based digital media company, has launched an initiative to teach young black producers and filmmakers how to create compelling stories using metaverse technologies.

“We’re giving them insight into what immersive media is and how it can be applied to filmmaking, to creating content for what will hopefully soon be the metaverse,” said Ngardy Conteh George, producer and co-founder of Oya Media Group.

WATCH | Ngardy Conteh George explains the metaverse:

Filmmaker Ngardy Conteh George talks about the metaverse and inclusivity

Oya Media Group co-founder Ngardy Conteh George explains how the metaverse could be a “new kind of world”, where anyone could participate in positions of power and decision-making. 0:58

The projects use augmented reality (in which digital components are transposed onto our real environment) and virtual reality (which generally requires a headset to simulate a digital environment different from the one we see).

Metaverse platforms offer local creators from all walks of life a powerful opportunity to “compete on pretty much equal footing with big business and also [with] people who have more privileges to move into the mainstream economy,” Au said.

But with great power comes great responsibility: all the social and financial consequences we face in the real world can be duplicated in the metaverse. You can lose all your money in a scam, for example, or fall in love with someone – only to be heartbroken by their real-life counterpart. You may also be the target of racism or bigotry.

“When you think about the metaverse and the creation of these new worlds: who creates them? And then what point of view and what look will be reflected in the final result?” said Ngardy.

“I think it’s really important that it’s inclusive and not exclusive, and that everyone has access to positions of power, positions of authority and decision-making, so that we don’t replicate that world. in which we now live.”