The concept of the Metaverse has been a popular topic in science fiction for many years. Some notable examples of fiction that explore the idea of a virtual world include:
- “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson: This novel, published in 1992, is often credited with popularizing the concept of the Metaverse. The story is set in a future where people spend much of their time in a virtual world called the Metaverse, which is accessible through a neural interface.
- “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline: This 2011 novel is set in a dystopian future where people escape the bleakness of their real lives by immersing themselves in a virtual world called the OASIS. The story follows a young man who embarks on a quest to win control of the OASIS and inherit its creator’s vast fortune.
- “The Matrix” film franchise: This popular series of films, which began with the 1999 release of “The Matrix,” explores the idea of a virtual world that is used to control and manipulate humanity. In the story, humans are trapped in a simulated reality created by intelligent machines, and a group of rebels fight to break free and overthrow their oppressors.
- “Sword Art Online” anime series: This popular anime series, which began airing in 2012, follows a group of gamers who are trapped in a virtual reality MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game). The players must complete the game’s levels to escape, but if they die in the game, they also die in real life.
These and other works of fiction have helped to popularize the concept of the Metaverse and have inspired many real-world efforts to create a fully immersive virtual world.
Snow Crash, 1992
The term metaverse was coined in Neal Stephenson‘s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where humans, as programmable avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional virtual space that uses the metaphor of the real world. Stephenson used the term to describe a virtual reality-based successor to the internet.
Neal Stephenson’s metaverse appears to its users as an urban environment developed along a 100-meter-wide road, called the Street, which spans the entire 65,536 km (216 km) circumference of a featureless, black, perfectly spherical planet. The virtual real estate is owned by the Global Multimedia Protocol Group, a fictional part of the real Association for Computing Machinery, and is available to be bought and buildings developed thereupon.
Users of the metaverse access it through personal terminals that project a high-quality virtual reality display onto goggles worn by the user, or from grainy black and white public terminals in booths. The users experience it from a first-person perspective. Stephenson describes a sub-culture of people choosing to remain continuously connected to the metaverse; they are given the sobriquet “gargoyles” due to their grotesque appearance.
Within the metaverse, individual users appear as avatars of any form, with the sole restriction of height, “to prevent people from walking around a mile high”. Transport within the metaverse is limited to analogs of reality by foot or vehicle, such as the monorail that runs the entire length of the Street, stopping at 256 Express Ports, located evenly at 256 km intervals, and Local Ports, one kilometer apart.
Ready Player One, 2011
Ready Player One is a dystopian science fiction franchise created by Ernest Cline which depicts a shared VR landscape called “The OASIS”. The first novel was released in 2011, with a 2018 film adaptation, and second novel in 2020. The franchise depicts the year 2045 as being gripped by an energy crisis and global warming, causing widespread social problems and economic stagnation. The primary escape for people is a shared VR landscape called “the OASIS” which is accessed with a VR headset and wired gloves. The OASIS functions both as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game and as a virtual society.