Into the Metaverse: The Politics of Land

Anand Venkateswaran

Chapter 2 of a beginner’s gentle guide down the rabbit hole world of NFTs, collectibles, art and cities. Includes links and resources.

Are you a gamer? One of those who can spend hours locked in battle with a pseudonymous opponent on a console? Immersing yourself in an alternative reality? If you are, the concept of virtual worlds and virtual lands is something you are familiar with. And to be able to own and build in a decentralised virtual world is a dream come true. For the non-gamers among you, bear with me a second. I’m about to ruin real life for you. 

Harking back to the chat with a friend in the previous chapter. We were discussing the price of these land parcels, how they can shoot all the way up to $22,000 USD and in some cases, way more. Reasonably, it flipped him off and made him wonder why anyone would spend that kind of money on land you can’t physically see or live on. I didn’t answer that then. Let’s get into it now. 

The answer is this – “Because nobody can take it away from you. Ever.” 

The property you own in the real world is just as much of an illusion as a metaverse land parcel. Not the land as such, which was here roughly four billion years before you arrived. Your ‘ownership’ is an illusion. You can be bullied out of your land – by someone influential, by a government in a sweeping mood of public benevolence. By a twitch in some law. On the blockchain, if you own something, you own it forever. Not even the creator of that world can take it away from you. Nobody can snatch it from you, or bully you out of it. 

Virtual land is precious primarily because it is the one thing that is truly yours. The other reason depends on what you can do in that world. 

There is more than one ‘virtual world’ in the NFT space. There are about 10 now, I think. It all started with Decentraland, and Cryptovoxels became a giant on its own, started literally by one man building the world in his free time. Then there are Somnium Space, High Fidelity, The Sandbox and the gamemaker Enjin’s multiverse project. These worlds have a very specific aesthetic and purpose. This defines what the place looks like, what you can do, what games you can play, what kind of interaction you can expect ‘in-world’ and so on. The big draw is the fact that you can flaunt the NFTs you own. Remember all those cryptokitties you bought? You can showcase them in Decentraland. Got a large collection of digital art? Make a giant facade in Cryptovoxels. Organise virtual meetups and attend as your avatar. Play Battle Racers in Decentraland. Hang out at the artist’s colony in Cryptovoxels. 

The point is, not only do you own your land, you are at liberty to express yourself any way you want to. Ask yourself if you can get that if you move to another part of the real world. Ask yourself if you have that liberty where you live right now. 

At some level, I suspect you won’t be able to understand the appeal, or find this all fun until you’ve tried it. But that’s okay. You don’t have to rush right away. None of it is going anywhere. Let’s ease into it, one blog at a time. When the time comes, we can discuss setting up digital wallets, signing into these worlds and exploring them. 

I’d like to leave you with one really good, juicy guide into the world of NFTs – this essential tome from OpenSea.io – The NFT Bible. Chances are, many of the chapters in this series will simply be processed chunks of this piece, in no particular order, sweetened and served in easy spoonfuls.

Some deets about Decentraland – check out the profile and some of the news links.

An excellent podcast about Cryptovoxels

Next up, let’s talk about the economics of gaming. This is essential to understanding NFTs.  

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