When building the metaverse for real people, equality isn’t just another module.
The metaverse–It’s the word everyone’s been hearing and talking about.
The concepts of the metaverse became highly popular in 2021 and rightly so. It presents you with exciting new opportunities, entertainment, and a ‘futuristic utopia’ (seemingly) where you could live your dreams.
But as ideal as it sounds, what really needs attention now is diversity and inclusion in the metaverse.
You see, our pressing issues in the real world have always managed to make it onto Web 2.0 platforms, right from sexism and racism to cyber-bullying. Now that we’re set to enter Web 3.0, a virtual venue for realistic social experiences, inclusion in the metaverse is absolutely necessary.
Real problems in virtual worlds
In 2016, Jordan Belamire tried VR gaming, and just as she was in awe of how realistic and mind-boggling it was, things took an ugly turn. Her team-mate began using his avatar to grope hers, even as she repeatedly yelled at him to stop. Jordan wrote that the only indication of her being female in the game was her voice.
Now, fast-forward to 2021, and we already have reports of a beta tester being groped in Meta’s Horizon Worlds.
With the metaverse being a space for people to transform into anyone they’d like and bring their wildest fantasies to life while remaining anonymous, it also brings a list of problems that cannot be ignored.
Clearly, virtual harassment is wrong. And so are bullying, hate speech, and assault, all of which is already rampant in virtual reality platforms, and now may start to arise in the metaverse as well.
Why we need equality, inclusion, and diversity in the metaverse
We’ve heard these words a lot, haven’t we? Every time acts of injustice take place, we’re reminded of how important it is to set them right.
But these are not meant to be just buzzwords or parts of a PR campaign. They’re necessary in order to build a virtual world we actually like.
And it can start with something as “simple” as your metaverse avatar.
There have been improvements in this area through Meta avatars and Bitmojis providing different skin tones and body types to choose from, but there are still companies that don’t offer non-binary options or a range of hair textures.
Fortunately, many communities and organizations are coming together to drive representation, allowing for all kinds of users to explore their self-expression in the metaverse.
Yesterday, I came across an online game, where I had to build an avatar and while browsing through the clothing options, I was pleasantly surprised to find sarees available. As an Indian woman who has previously been presented with only Western wear, I felt seen.
Sure, it may sound like a “minor issue”, but even in a virtual space where you could be anyone or anything(hello, mythical creatures), you should always have the option to be yourself. You deserve an avatar that represents you in your most authentic form, including skin tone, hair texture, cultural dresses, and everything else.
In 2021, IoDF partnered with Daz 3D, a leader in 3D technology, to release the world’s first non-binary digital double. Developed by a predominantly queer team, for a queer audience, this is the first digital innovation of its kind.
This further stresses how important it is to hire creators and developers from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented communities.
So, what are companies doing about this? And how can we do better?
In response to the harassment report, Meta stated that users can always activate a safe zone, a bubble of protection within which nobody can interact with them. However, this currently puts the responsibility of safety upon us, the users.
Today, the most common form of governance in VR spaces is a reactive form of moderation, which involves reporting users, followed by their suspension/ban. While this could be a short-term solution, other regulation methods include incentivizing positive behavior and investing in community managers.
In September 2021, Meta(formerly Facebook, you knew that) announced a “$50 million investment in global research and program partners to ensure these products are developed responsibly.”
The blog post dived into the details of Meta’s key focus areas —
Safety and Integrity
Equality and Inclusion
As gray as some of these areas are, it seems that industry leaders like Meta are taking efforts to avoid past mistakes and build a sustainable metaverse.
Because it’s not enough for inclusion and accessibility to just be “sprinkled” on later once the metaverse is built. They need to be integrated at the very core, so this futuristic world is one we trust.
Although women are still under-represented in the world of crypto and Web 3, we are starting to see this dynamic shift, as more women-powered NFT communities like World of Women and Boss Beauties are in the spotlight for celebrating representation and equality in the metaverse.
With the right measures being taken and more communities being seen and heard, we could very well see the metaverse being a safe, inclusive space that empowers and uplifts us.
Of course, making this virtual world a good place is rooted in dealing with our issues in reality and driving positive change from within our real-world communities. This is where we step up, support, and participate in building a better world, both in the metaverse and in reality.
Mission Impact is building the Future of Leadership in Web3! To learn more and join our movement, please visit our website and LinkedIn.
Stay connected and sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news, events, and stories from us!