As society moves toward Metaverse, companies and platforms in this fledgling virtual world are taking steps to ensure that it reflects real-world diversity.
Proto-metaverse platforms like Minecraft and Roblox are widely perceived as the domain of white and male teens.
However, this perception has become a misconception as the demographics of the video game community have expanded. “If we look at Roblox’s composition, for example, it’s much more diverse than the perception your typical street person would have about a player,” said Tal Shachar, former CDO of the Immortals Gaming Club. “And so these platforms are already much more diverse than you might think as a ‘demographic Fortnite.'”
This striking diversity does not mean that all groups are represented equally in the games. The historical lack of representation in the game continues to deter women and racial minorities from fully immersing themselves in the community. “It kind of created that perception that‘ this is for us and not for them, ’” said Anthony Frasier, whose company ABF Creative is producing a podcast about black game console designer Jerry Lawson. “In fact, we faced racism at a high level, just because we enjoyed the games.”
Some of the companies that build the Metaverse are well aware of the issues related to the diversity of the game scene, whether real or perceived, and believe that addressing them will be beneficial to both the inhabitants of the Metaverse and the companies that they hope to take advantage of it. According to Sebastian Park, a partner in venture capital fund BITKRAFT Ventures, designed by Metaverse, the user-generated character of Metaverse means that its minority occupants no longer need to ask for cuts to be represented in the content of the games. “In traditional games, there’s a lot of diversity that people look for,” Park said, “rather than user-generated content, which is just people doing interesting things.”
To illustrate his point, Park cited the case of a 16-year-old Roblox player whose creations have allowed her to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. “There just wasn’t a social pressure of ‘hey, you can’t do this,'” Park said. “She said, ‘I’ll just do this.’
In fact, Park said, the aspects of identity that are basic to our perception of oneself in the real world are no longer relevant in a virtual world that allows you to create your own persistent personal identity. On Metaverse, it would be impossible to judge anyone by their gender or birth color. “Your identity is no longer tied to the hand you receive, which is great,” Park said.
However, despite Metaverse’s built-in protections for marginalized people, the problem remains that women and minorities are underrepresented (or at least considered underrepresented) on platforms that can become Metaverse. For Janine Yorio, head of the real estate investment fund Metaverse Republic Realm, expanding the demographic horizons of Metaverse would be beneficial even for those who already make up the majority of the gaming landscape: “men don’t want to go to a Metaverse that no I don’t have women there, do I? ”
If the Metaverse wants to be a virtual reflection of the real world, Yorio said, its demographics must also reflect those of the real world. If they don’t, it won’t be a real virtual world – it will be another video game, albeit a particularly interactive one.
“If it’s all for white guys for white guys, we’re going to miss the mark,” Yorio said. “It has to really work for a wider section of the population, including the elderly. We all need to show up there for the vision to become a reality.”
With the Metaverse on the horizon, its creators reflect on the importance of diversity in the virtual world to come