In 1986, a solstice bonfire was set up on Baker Beach in San Francisco. A large doll, the Wicker Man, made of willow wood, was set on fire and a party was held. The beach bonfire was banned in 1990, but at the same time, a similar event was held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Participants described the party as an ‘experimental society with radical self-expression and radical self-reliance’. A community is created where everyone is welcome regardless of race or origin and where everyone can be themselves.
In 1991, the first legal Burning Man event was held from the last Monday in August to the first Monday in September, Labor Day in the US The event closes with the festive burning of the Wicker Man. The ‘city’ that emerges that week is called Black Rock City and has a characteristic C-shape around the Wicker Man, with radians and circular streets around it. The streets have themed camps, each with its own theme. Then the visitors clean everything up, pack it up and take it away. The event is organized by volunteers. There is also a Burning Man organization in the Netherlands.
The motto ‘Burning Man is not a festival. It’s a catalyst for creative culture in the world’ was an inspiration for Philip Rosedale, who launched the digital world Second Life in 2003 under the name Linden Labs. Previously involved with Internet video, Philip founded Linden Lab in 1997, named after down a street in the Haley Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, and began to shape his idea of a world of virtual meetings. His goal was to show that a viable model of a virtual economy or virtual society was possible. In his own words, “We don’t see this as a game, but as an experiment and a platform that is better than the real world in many ways.”
Second Life is an interreality, a mixture of real and virtual world. I still have some alter egos in the form of avatars in Second Life, where I was quite active from 2006 to 2010. I still have friends and acquaintances that I first met in Second Life and only got to know later in the real world. In English we speak of an ‘immersive environment’, an environment in which you are ‘immersed’. Gravity, wind and collisions are virtually simulated. The day and night cycle lasts 4 hours. Within the Second Life Metaverse, you can teleport, fly, swim, and embark on wondrous voyages of discovery across all continents.
Inspired by Burning Man
Naturally, the Burning Man festival can also be followed virtually in Second Life. BURN2 is an extension of the actual festival and also represents in part the community that physically visits the festival. Due to corona, the festival took place a month later last year and is skipped this year. The festival is now fully focused on 2022. Many similar festivals have sprung up around the world. They are all described in this blog.
In early September 2021, the Financial Times published the article “Avatar Overload: My Journey Through the Burning Man Metaverse.” The writer is present with 3D glasses at the virtual festival ‘Dusty Multiverse’, where the Black Rock City of Burning Man has been recreated and mapped inch by inch. Dozens of DJs perform and leading figures present chat, dance and enjoy the impressive splendor cyber like avatars. A great experiment in digital art and virtual artistic expressions. A journey of discovery in a new virtual world. Where the first companies participate and with which you can teleport to their own virtual spaces. Spaces that are likely to be flooded with ads soon. The Battle of the Metaverse has begun.
The Battle of the Metaverse
Last week, Forbes featured the article ‘Dawn Of The Metaverse: How Brands Can Embrace This Creative Initiative’. The corona period illustrated that we can spend much of our time virtually and digitally. The pandemic showed us the possibilities of the current infrastructure. The better connections there are, the more speed, quality and performance we can achieve digitally. The easier it is to bridge the gap between physical and digital spaces.
Marketers are looking forward to how they can position their brands in this new virtual environment. Which business models work and which less or not. Many creative digital initiatives provide insight into this new world of the Metaverse. A place where physical and digital reality meet. Intersection of entertainment, media, business and technology. The video game industry has laid a strong foundation for the Metaverse, other industries are now quickly following suit. A key driver is the retirement of baby boomers and the rise of digital first Gen-Xs, Millennials, Xenials, and Gen-Zers who grew up playing video games, surfing the web, and digitally traveling around the world.
In addition to the rise of these new digital citizens, three other things are just as important. Digital financial assets are mature. Blockchain, smart contract, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs are available. In addition, the pandemic has shown that we can work digitally and remotely. As long as we offer and use the processes, platforms and technology in a transparent way. In addition, in this decade, 2 billion new people will access the internet in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. New young talent who will participate for the first time in the global economy.
The gaming industry has earned a respected place in the market and has been recognized as an accelerator for emerging market economies. The games industry will generate more than $200 billion by 2024 and will hold the largest share of the creative media and entertainment market. Smart games as a training program for students and adults offer opportunities for companies and schools. As a platform for collaboration and exchange. The gaming industry has long discovered the Metaverse, understands cryptocurrencies and micropayments, and uses the blockchain to record serious business. What began with a bonfire on a California beach with Wicker Man, has become the foundation of citizen, society, and digital economy through Burning Man and Second Life as a Metaverse. The digital world is now really beginning…
Author: Hans Timmerman (photo), director of Fortierra