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A 22-year-old breaks down how to join the metaverse

December 7, 2021, 3:38 PM UTC

As a 22-year-old who grew up in the digital age, I like to think that I have a pretty good grasp on the latest innovations in technology. But when I was first approached about taking a dive into the metaverse, I have to admit that I was still confused about what it was, and how to even get started.

The metaverse is essentially a merging of virtual, augmented, and physical reality, and blurs the line between your interactions online and in real life. But broken down more simply, it’s a handful of platforms like the Sandbox, Mirandus, and Decentraland on which people can interact in different ways. Interest in it has taken off ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be changing its name to Meta, and spending at least $10 billion on the metaverse. And as more people begin to place their bets on a future embedded in the metaverse, businesses have already begun to start new ventures in this digital space.  

I was able to get on Decentraland, one of the more popular metaverse platforms for users across the globe. To participate on most of these types of platforms, like the Sandbox, you’ll need your own crypto wallet and a Windows PC. I had neither, but since I wasn’t looking to buy or sell anything, I was still able to slowly explore the virtual world as a guest on my MacBook. 

But if you’re looking for the full metaverse experience, a laptop might not be enough. While smartphones and computers are capable of handling multiplayer games like Fortnite and Animal Crossing, their processing power may be too limited to handle entire universes with millions of users. That’s why Facebook’s metaverse vision includes users with Oculus VR headsets, or augmented reality glasses

Felicia Hou

Create an avatar

The first thing I had to do before stepping into the metaverse was create my avatar. The panel was loaded with options to customize my hair and eye color, clothing, and even accessories. My avatar came wearing a pretty atrocious outfit, so of course, I had to change it up.

A screenshot of the author's avatar
Felicia Hou
A screenshot of the author's avatar
Felicia Hou

Start exploring

After spending too much time deciding on the perfect outfit (a light pink shirt with some overalls to escape the New York winter weather), I was finally dropped into Genesis Plaza, a starting point within Decentraland. This was definitely the most crowded area of the platform that I saw, and other avatars popped up to my left and right as I took in my surroundings. When an avatar got close to mine, I could hear a human voice saying something unintelligible.

A screenshot of the metaverse.
Felicia Hou

After spending 10 minutes trying to figure out how to make my avatar walk, I decided to let the map teleport me to my next location. After all, this is the metaverse, who needs legs? The screen panned out to a grid where I was able to see and visit spaces that had been created by other users.

I was intrigued by a space cheerily titled “We are Polkadot!” Upon jumping in, though, I found myself standing alone in an almost empty room. There was a vending machine (or was it a jukebox?) that sat in the corner, so I just walked through the space.

Felicia Hou

I gave the map another try. This time I took a trip to “The Crypto Valley,” where I was again greeted by a desolate white room decorated with hexagonal blockchain designs. If the metaverse is becoming so big, I thought, where were all the other people using it?

A screenshot of the metaverse.
Felicia Hou

Playing games

It turns out that a lot of them were off playing games—Wonder Mine Crafting Game, to be more specific. The premise of the game is that meteors strike the ground, and you can mine them for minerals and money. I mined up some copper and made 3 Wondercoins. (Note: I didn’t spend any real money playing this time. Every avatar starts off with 100 Wondercoins.) 

A screenshot of the metaverse.
Felicia Hou

Making friends

While playing Wonder Mine Crafting Game, I took the opportunity to chat with some of my fellow avatars. Although in the metaverse you can be anybody you want to be, I couldn’t help but notice that all of the avatars I had seen were presenting as male.  

“What do you guys like best about the metaverse?” I asked in the chat box.

“Metaverse offers freedom. It will likely be our bridge to marry the real worl [sic] to the crypto world. And I am very excited about it all. We live in great times,” someone enthusiastically responded.

A jazz club

Feeling as if I had made a new friend in the metaverse, I decided to have one last look around. Some other locations that caught my eye on the Decentraland map included Lobsteropolis, Club Nyan Cat, and Dragon City. But after my time in the metaverse, like many other young professionals looking to wind down, I decided to pay a final visit to the Jazz Club.

It was 3:00 p.m. on a Monday afternoon, so I should’ve guessed that the jazz club wouldn’t be as happening as it usually might be. (It was also empty when I returned to check out the scene later that night.) There wasn’t even any music playing. But I made my way over to a comfy-looking couch, and decided that I had explored enough of the metaverse for one day.

Of course, I just had to stand around the couch. I couldn’t figure out exactly how to sit down.

Felicia Hou

Clarification, December 17, 2021: This article has been updated to clarify that Wondercoins are not the main currency of Decentraland.

Fortune’s upcoming Brainstorm Design conference is going to dive into how businesses are building experiences in the metaverse. Apply to attend the event on May 23-24 in New York.