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Reference:

On the Threshold of the Metaverse: Lessons and Experience of Video Games for a New Environment

Timofeeva Oksana Aleksandrovna

ORCID: 0000-0001-9197-1969

Postgraduate Student, Department of Journalism, Media Communications and Advertising, A. S. Griboyedov Moscow University

111024, Russia, Moscow, highway Enthusiasts, 21

o.a.timofeyeva@gmail.com
Kushkin Nikita Aleksandrovich

ORCID: 0009-0002-7755-3802

Postgraduate Student, Department of Journalism, Media Communications and Advertising, A. S. Griboyedov Moscow University

111024, Russia, Moscow, highway Enthusiasts, 21

nikita7@yandex.ru

DOI:

10.25136/2409-8698.2023.9.44126

EDN:

YCRWBP

Received:

21-09-2023


Published:

28-09-2023


Abstract: As a research task, the authors attempted to analyze the history of video games and the development of the gaming industry from the point of view of the formation of a number of prerequisites for the emergence of metaverses. Study covers the period from the late 1940s to the late 2010s, that is, until the moment when the term УmetaverseФ became an essential part of the discursive field. The methodology is based on a historical-genetic approach, which allows us to identify the causal links between the significant stages of the gaming industry development, technological environment and metaverses. The relevance of this research is due to several factors. First, over the past two years there has been a sharp increase in the amount of publications devoted to metaverses. Secondly, there is a lack of scientific research publications in Russian that would consider the phenomenon of metaverses and their genesis in the context of the development of other areas (video games, NFTs, AI, etc.). Thirdly, there is a notable frequent connection between metaverses and video games in the rhetoric of speakers around the world. However, both phenomena still remain independent, but in the future, presumably, will evolve in parallel. Tracing the development of the gaming industry in dynamics, the authors argue for the key role of video games (as a set of software and hardware, communication strategies, content and semantic components, etc.) in the emergence and development of metaverses.


Keywords:

Metaverse, virtual reality, augmented reality, immersive environment, digital avatar, video game, cloud gaming, user experience, Second Life, COVID-19

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

The world learned the word "metaverse" thanks to the novel "Avalanche" by American science fiction writer Neil Stevenson. In the book, the metaverse is presented as a virtual environment of life, affecting almost all spheres of human activity and is closely interconnected with the real world. Its constituent elements, the foundations of existence in it and various interactions of people in the digital world through avatars have been described in sufficient detail. But after the publication of the novel in the early 1990s, all these concepts remained only literary fantasies for a long time.

After almost 25 years of silence, the metaverse was remembered again, and now it is an extremely popular term: 133 million results for the query "metaverse" and 587 thousand for "metaverse" in the Google search engine. According to Google Trends statistics, the peak of interest occurred at the beginning of 2022 (January 2-8). At about the same time, global media corporations started talking about metaverses, a little later, governments of countries, academic researchers and large analytical companies, gaming communities and developers, representatives of the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries began to join the discursive field en masse.

Matthew Ball, a metaverse theorist and researcher, CEO of the diversified holding company Epyllion, offers the following definition: "The metaverse is a largeЧscale interoperable network of three-dimensional virtual worlds visualized in real time, in which virtually unlimited number of simultaneous users can receive synchronous and persistent experience with a sense of personal presence and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, rights, objects, communications and payments" [1, p. 33]. M. Ball talks about a single space, about the absence of borders, about the synchronicity of objects, users, their actions, etc. But now there is no such space, no one has created it, no one owns it.

Analyst and vice president of research and consulting company Gartner Marty Reznik predicts that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse and enterprises will be able to provide "better interaction, collaboration and communication with their employees thanks to immersive workspaces in virtual offices" [2]. However, the transition to the utopian idea of a metaverse is complicated by the fact that now all existing examples are surrounded by a wall and do not interact with each other [2]. Analyst and vice president of the research and consulting company Forrester David Trug also explicitly states that "the metaverse will not exist until there is interaction between immersive platforms" [3].

Despite the fact that today the word "metaverse" sounds everywhere, it is often difficult to understand and explain what exactly they are called, it seems that literally everything: from chat rooms and digital museums to technological environments of corporations and virtual reality platforms. They can contain elements of content development platforms, social networks, event venues, messengers, auctions or marketplaces, etc. That is, the discussion is conducted around a variety of separate, unrelated projects, with fairly well-defined boundaries, built on technical, technological and thematic levels. However, most of these media spaces have a claim to be called a metaverse based on heterogeneous features, which in the discursive field are attributed to the metaverse of the future, while at the level of assumptions and fantasies. And while the metaverses are just gaining selfhood, they are trying to take and inherit from other areas, spheres and industries all the most attractive, intriguing and inspiring, which has already worked once as an attractor for the audience.

Video games have become one of these areas Ч a complex complex phenomenon that has absorbed much of cinema, theater, museum, literature, sports Ч well-studied practices, about the features and functions of which humanity has accumulated a decent body of knowledge. On the one hand, video games are a program code, on the other Ч a set of visual and auditory elements, on the third Ч it is an experience received by the user, it is also a narrative and a story, it is a set of rules that sets a certain frame for the player, and much, much more.

People who play video games are motivated by different things: the desire to dispel boredom, pass the time or escape from reality, the desire to communicate, demonstrate their abilities and compete with others, the desire to reincarnate or gain experience that is not available in real life Ч this series can be separately refined and expanded within the framework of motivational-target analysis.

Among the metaverses, a large group now stands out that has a lot in common with video games, albeit very peculiar: The Sandbox [4], Roblox [5] or Decentraland [6], etc. At the same time, projects released earlier as video games, today have often become called metaverses: Second Life [7], Minecraft [8], Fortnite [9], Dreams [10]. Such mixing and the vector of development of the new digital environment cannot be called accidental: the creators need guidelines and examples, some relevant experience of their predecessors Ч commercially successful and attractive to the audience of other media. In this sense, there is something to take and learn from the $187.7 billion video game industry [11].

It is the complexity and versatility of video games, practices and reasons for interacting with them that have allowed them to become the basis for metaverses seeking not just to create a virtual world, but to blur the boundary between it and reality as much as possible.

The experience of the path traversed by video games is best suited for the metaverse, because the basis for the development of both spheres is technology and technology: from personal computers and the Internet to virtual reality glasses and NFT. Analyst and vice president of the research and consulting company Forrester Julie Ask also draws attention to the fact that "the first uses of the metaverse will be in online games and entertainment, and then in social networks" [3]. Her colleague J. P. Gounder develops this idea and draws attention to the fact that users coming to the metaverse, if they are not gamers, will encounter something fundamentally new that is aimed at a youth audience, and it will be more difficult to master it than it seems at first glance [3].

From visionary ideas to a multipolar industry

For a better understanding of the roots from which the metaverse may grow in the future, it is worth looking at some turning points and plots in the history of video games, comparison with which, as already mentioned, lies on the surface, and at the parallel line of technical and technological progress.

The beginning of the history of video games can be considered mediated by the dreams and efforts of brilliant minds in the field of mathematics, natural science and information technology, engaged in cryptography during the Second World War. Among them, Alan Matheson Turing and Claude Elwood Shannon, who met in 1942, can be mentioned separately. Both scientists, of course, besides information theory and cryptography, were interested in the idea of creating a computer that would play chess [12, p. 156], both also believed that a computer could "play honestly and at the same time better than a person" [12, p. 292].

In 1948, Turing, together with mathematician David Champernone, actually created a protoЧmovement for computer chess - Turochamp, greatly outstripping the complexity of the code of the possibilities of computers of that time [13]. In 1949, Shannon created his own chess machine, Endgame, but it only had enough computing power for endgames, which is why the name was given. However, a little later it was renamed in honor of the goddess of chess Ч in Caissac. The article "Computer programming for playing chess" [14], written based on chess endgames and published in 1950, was very flatteringly mentioned many years later in his "Textbook on Computer Chess" by the American scientific journalist Norman Ueland: "Since Claude Shannon outlined the basic principles, computer chess has appeared a few new ideas" [15].

These events and names are intended to illustrate how closely the ideas of the first visionaries were connected with mathematics, combinatorics, how limited the technical capabilities of their time were and how strongly they gravitated towards what is now called artificial intelligence.

In the following years, a number of mathematical games were implemented for computers, which can be represented as an algorithm of actions: go, nim, tic-tacЧtoe, checkers, poker, etc. - all of them were designed not so much to entertain as to demonstrate the capabilities of computers. The company Ferranti Ltd. in 1951 even accompanied its invention Ч a device for playing it with the brochure "Faster than thought: the digital computer Ferranti Nimrod" [16].

In the 1960s, when computers simultaneously became more powerful, smaller and more accessible, they appeared in the laboratories of universities whose students wanted to make games. This is how Spacewar!, created by MIT student Steve Russell, appeared. In these years, games have become a kind of PR tool, a way to make themselves known, whether it's a university, a research center or a commercial company.

Now the role of such platforms for self-presentation is learning to carry out metaverse projects: companies from various spheres of life continually issue press releases that they have finally appeared in Roblox or have made a collaboration in Fortnite. On the one hand, this spreads the aura of progressivity of the metaverses to the company itself, on the other Ч this way a loyal audience is growing.

Mathematicians, cyberneticists, physicists and engineers of that time hardly imagined that their dreams and experiments would grow into a multibillion-dollar video game industry. To sum up these early years of history, one can use the words of video game researcher Jesper Yule: "computers work as tools for games, allowing us to play old games in a new way and allowing us to create new types of games" [17, p. 5].

The next stage, which began in the 1970s, was marked by the development of the video game media market and the active competition of manufacturers and developers in the USA and Japan very actively competed with each other for the attention of the audience. In order to keep it, it was necessary to improve narratively, gameplay, audiovisually the video games themselves and simultaneously develop existing media, constantly inventing new ones. This allowed video games to finally get out of the spaces with arcade machines and move home to people using home consoles.

A similar migration of video games into a new space occurred after the release of the Game & Watch handheld console by the Japanese company Nintendo in 1980. It became a kind of revolution Ч now it was possible to play not only at home, but anywhere. Each console represented "one game played on an LCD screen (eventually 60 games were released, of which more than 43 million units were sold in total)" [18, p. 24]. From that moment on, everyone, trying to catch up with Nintendo, began to offer something mobile to the audience. In 1989, the company repeated its success by creating a new inexpensive portable Game Boy console, now with replaceable cartridges for it and several accessories. An important feature of the novelty was that the engineer Gunpei Yokoi, who worked on it, took into account the experience of interaction of the audience with the widespread home game console NES and the habit of users to the control system. As a result, the adaptation was faster and more successful.

Adaptation to new technologies, scalability and replication of video games

Since the 1990s, the history of video games has been closely intertwined with three areas that were initially not directly related to video games, but, developing, brought new practices and new trends to the industry - cellular communications, the Internet and social networks. Canadian-American sociologist Barry Wellman and Director of Internet and Technology Research at the Pew Research Center Lee Rainey described their symbiosis and significance very accurately: "Revolutions unite to change people's social lives from closely related family, neighborhood and group relationships to more extensive, less close and more diverse personal networks. Their history shows the changing realities of this new social operating system" [19, p. 11].

In 1973, Martin Cooper of Motorola Inc. made the first mobile phone call to his AT&T competitor Joel Engel. Ten years later, commercial sales of the device began and humanity had the opportunity to "get rid" of the house, office, and spaces intended for certain practices. It is not surprising that in the early 1990s, the developers of video games and mobile phones conceptually crossed paths.

The first games for mobile phones were much inferior to computer and console games in all respects. However, the combination of a video game and a device that was not originally intended for it, but designed to be constantly near a person, produced a new revolution. It could be compared with the effect of the first portable consoles, but they were part of gaming practices and everyone was aware of it, whereas the first mobile phones were perceived differently Ч much more seriously. In a sense, this is indicated by the difference of orders of magnitude in their cost.

In the second half of the 2000s, the first smartphones were released, forming new markets: production, distribution, related technologies (headsets, applications, accessories, etc.). Video games, already familiar to mobile devices, naturally reacted and adjusted. In 2008, two mobile app stores for smartphones appeared at once: Android Market (renamed Google Play on March 6, 2012) Ч for the Android operating system and App Store Ч for iOS. They became a digital distribution platform not only for software, but also for a new type of video games, qualitatively different from their mobile predecessors.

In 2009, Rovio Entertainment released a game designed specifically for the multi-touch display of smartphones Ч Angry Birds [20]. The audience liked the casual puzzle so much that within six months the number of all downloads exceeded 1 billion. The success of the creators was due, among other things, to the understanding that people want to play on mobile phones differently than on PCs or consoles Ч when they have some free time on the way somewhere to shorten the waiting period. The junction of decades has become a real dawn of mobile games for smartphones and tablets, most of the titles now will not say anything, but some have "caught the wave" and are still developing, for example, Fruit Ninja [21] or Cut the Rope [22].

In 2012, an internal Google startup called Niantic Labs releases the first online multiplayer game with augmented reality - Ingress [23]. Initially, it was available only on Android smartphones, but two years later the developers ported it to the iPhone, significantly expanding the audience of the project. It can be said that from this moment the heyday of AR projects in the gaming industry began. Ingress, for example, has actually become a framework for future similar games, including Pok?mon Go [24], made in collaboration with Nintendo. In parallel, various VR glasses, headsets and helmets were being developed Ч technologies that greatly enriched and diversified the video game landscape.

This could have been just another milestone in the history of the video game industry, but in fact it produced another revolution. Projects like the already mentioned Ingress and Pok?mon Go, and later Pikmin Bloom [25], Harry Potter: Wizards Unite (the project closed on January 31, 2022), The Witcher Monster: Slayer (the project closed on June 30, 2023) and many others not only united two realities (digital and real), but literally, they dragged the players out of the house, forced them to walk, travel, cooperate to play.

The revolution in cellular communications and smartphones, metaphorically speaking, has made them "appendages of the body, allowing people to access friends and information at will, wherever they are. <...> There is a possibility of constant presence and pervasive awareness of others in the network. The physical separation of people in time and space is less important" [19, p. 12]. Along with this, the potential of video games is also growing, they are becoming ubiquitous and available anywhere at any time.

It is easy to transfer these properties to metaverse projects: thanks to the Roblox mobile application, an immersive platform that is often called the metaverse, project users can easily visit a virtual museum, attend a virtual concert, or buy, for example, a branded item presented in Roblox at any time and from anywhere on the planet where there is an Internet connection. real fashion houses and clothing manufacturers (Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, H&M, etc.).

In their development, video games, since the 1990s, have been strongly associated with the development of Internet technologies, which have their own interesting history and path from the scientific laboratories of the US Department of Defense to the homes of ordinary citizens. In this story, not only specific names, such as Tim Bernes-lee, who introduced his web server and browser in 1991, are important, but also the combined decentralized efforts of many enthusiastic specialists in different countries of the world that brought humanity closer to what is now called the Internet. The accessibility of the World Wide Web and the opportunities that technology promised naturally attracted the attention of video game developers: a new platform, a new environment Ч new opportunities.

Strictly speaking, online games existed before in the form of MUD (Eng. multi-user dungeon, "multiplayer dungeon", the term was coined by Roy Trubshaw in 1978 Ч author's note), however, from modern MMOG (Eng. massively multiplayer online game, "massively multiplayer online game", in which a large number of participants can simultaneously be and perform actions. Ч Author's note) they were as different as ancient codices from printed books. In 1997, the American company Origin Systems released the first in our modern understanding of the massive multiplayer video game Ultima Online [26] for a personal computer. In 1999, the American development studio Verant Interactive presents EverQuest [27]. It is noteworthy that Sony absorbed the studio two years earlier, which, like Sega, Dreamcast, Microsoft, Nintendo, etc., came into the niche with its new ideas and products for online gaming.

In the early 2000s, MMOG capabilities began to attract the attention of non-gaming companies. For example, the film industry, which has long been engaged in the release of video games as part of its franchises (for example: Back To The Future MSX was released by Pony Canyon in 1985, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis Ч LucasArts in 1992, Jurassic Park Ч Ocean Software in 1993 Ч author's note), appreciated the potential of a new direction. So, in 2000, LucasArts announced a new online project on the Star Wars universe [28]. But the really amazing event was the meeting of employees of the American company IBM in Second Life Ч a virtual space with 3D graphics and elements borrowed from social networks, developed in 2003 by Linden Lab and presented at the Virtual Worlds conference in New York.

The event was held in a digital copy of the Chinese Imperial Palace Ч the Forbidden City, 5 thousand employees gathered to listen to the speech of their CEO Sam Palmisano, who was physically in Beijing at that time. Over time, IBM began to hold events in a virtual environment on an ongoing basis (conferences, briefings, championships [29] and even meetings with clients) and predict a great future for such technologies: "eventually, Second Life and other MMOGs can be used to promote products that people can view from all three sides, communicate with a technical specialist and get answers to all questions. It can be used for training, shopping and collaboration with others" [30]. Over the next few years, other large companies, such as Intel and Toyota, also mastered the innovative solution, and Harvard University launched its course on law in cyberspace in Second Life [31].

Almost 20 years have passed between the birth of the project and the rise of interest in the metaverse, and all this time Second Life has been developing evenly with its players. Digital avatars of many of them are almost the same age as the project itself. The companies represented in the project (IBM, Reuters, Adidas, Disney, etc.) offer users goods and services that are inherently similar to real ones, implemented in real reality. In addition, companies that have their permanent representative office in Second Life pay rent for their accommodation, thereby supporting the internal economy of the virtual world.

When the Second Life project took its first steps, attracting a user audience and commercial companies, introducing its own currency into circulation and creating one of the first virtual economies, no one in the world associated or correlated this with the ideas of N. Stevenson, did not call the developing virtual civilization a "metaverse". Now that the term has appeared in trends, it is Second Life that is most often mentioned when trying to explain the essence of the phenomenon and point out its prospects.

If you close your eyes to the technical features and a certain framework of the Second Life project, it can really become an example of a metaverse that, as a self-referential system, supports and reproduces itself. It is worth focusing on the fact that users actually live their second life in virtual space, there is no narrative in Second Life, which is often offered by the developers of classic MMOGs as an attractor for players, in other words, people in Second Life are as if in a huge sandbox and have the opportunity to entertain and occupy themselves as they please.

During the period of the development of virtual worlds, such as Second Life, they were often compared to social networks, calling them a graphic embodiment. In a way, in the 2000s, there was "cross-pollination" and mutual enrichment of ideas and technologies among a large number of different spheres. The history of social networks unfolded in parallel with the history of the development of Internet technologies, directly depended on them. Video game developers clearly saw in the digital virtual nature of social networks in the mid-2000s a huge potential for their own development and hurried to use it.

Firstly, social interaction in various forms has always been a part of video games and over time the audience's need for it has only increased. Some researchers see the social factor as one of the strongest motivations for online games: people are interested in communication, want to form long-term interpersonal connections and unite, enjoying solving difficult tasks together [32]. Secondly, the incorporation of video games into social networks allows you to attract a fundamentally new audience - those who have not previously interacted with games, even if it means radically simplifying the gameplay. Thirdly, casual games that differ in simple rules and do not require serious efforts for such an audience allow us to develop new monetization systems designed for people with different socio-demographic characteristics. Fourth, the simultaneous development of social networks together with commercial brands opens a window of opportunity for marketing collaborations, which, as in the previous case, gives an increase in profits.

The head of the American technology company Beamable Inc. and game designer John Radoff describes the market of games for social networks as "a fusion of several major trends: social gameplay, asynchronous game models and a business model of virtual goods formed by market forces" [33].

Up until the mid-2000s, the video game industry demonstrated the desire and ability to create its own equipment, use emerging technologies and enter new platforms. This allows us to speak, on the one hand, about the constant craving for digital convergence, on the other Ч about the desire to diversify assets and efforts: when one direction comes to a dead end in development, in order to maintain its place in the market, it is necessary to switch to the development of another.

The development of the Internet and social networks not only gave people new channels and ways of communication, in terms of transmission speed and the scale of information collection surpassing anything that humanity had previously invented, but also "opportunities to go beyond the world of close groups, <...> more diversity in relationships and social worlds, as well as bridges to reach these worlds and maneuverability to move between them" [19, p. 12]. Now, after more than 15 years since the first major social networks appeared, users in them have become much more advanced and independent, applying skills characteristic of a number of professions from the field of creative industries. In fact, every person today can choose for himself what personal experience, in what form and where to broadcast, when to create and publish it for everyone to see, simultaneously satisfying a wide range of needs Ч often not only the desire to communicate triggers this whole creative chain.

Going beyond the usual

2020 has become a turning point for the video game industry. Their importance during the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be overestimated: people locked up at home, deprived of access to the usual entertainment outside, who sharply felt social deprivation and lack of communication, turned to video game practices in an attempt to cope with stress and anxiety. Virtual worlds have become a kind of extension and continuation of the real one. They were not just played, but mass festivals and concerts, scientific conferences and product presentations were organized. Of course, this applied not only to video games Ч people quickly mastered video conferencing services and programs, but only video games created an indescribable effect of presence in a special space for owners of digital avatars. In fact, non-gaming practices in virtual worlds are not a new phenomenon, M. Ball reminds us very succinctly about this: "Virtual weddings and commemorations, which have been happening regularly since the 1990s, are considered by most people to be pure absurdity Ч rather an anecdote than a touching moment" [1, p. 172]. However, during Covid-19, video games on a variety of media for different budgets, in different genres for different moods, attracted the attention of a large number of new audiences who had previously either been indifferent to gaming practices or treated them with a fair amount of skepticism.

The influx of users was also recorded statistically. The leading online digital distribution service Steam already in March 2020 recorded 20 million simultaneous users on its resource, in April the audience watched 1.49 billion game hours on the Twitch video streaming service, which is twice as much as in the previous month [34].

The real world did not look safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the deprivation of communication and the rejection of the usual practices of interacting with each other were really hard for people. The transfer of concerts, training, celebrations, etc. to virtual environments has become the only, albeit very unusual, new form of existence and feasible normalization of life in isolation. This accumulated experience was organically transformed and developed into metaverse projects after the lifting of restrictive measures.

The pandemic also exposed a serious problem to large IT companies, video game and software development studios: many of those people who are ready to try video games in isolation will not be able to do it. Therefore, their computers and consoles purchased in the mid-2000s or even early 2010s will not be able to "pull" the games created in recent years. Moral and technical obsolescence of equipment in everyday life could be unnoticeable to a person who uses mainly text editors and a browser, he did not see the need to update what works and successfully copes with his simple tasks. The solution was found in cloud gaming technology, the idea of which appeared two decades ago.

In 2003, the Finnish startup G-cluster demonstrated at the Electronic Entertainment Expo the possibility of interacting with video games installed on remote servers, and not on the user's computer. This marked another innovative stage in the industry, but the technology really began to develop only in the 2010s, when it received support from major video game manufacturers and publishers: Ubisoft, THQ, Sony Computer Entertainment. By the end of 2020, IT giants Google, Microsoft and Amazon announced their cloud gaming projects.

The technology of transferring graphics rendering tasks to the cloud and reducing the computing load on the side of the player's device turned out to be revolutionary and allowed to significantly reduce the financial costs of improving your computer, laptop, console or mobile phone and, moreover, from now on, neglect the binding to specific operating systems.

Similar processes can be observed in the field data, documents, music, and movies and TV shows: the emergence of online cinemas and streaming services (Google Drive, Cloud Mail.ru Spotify, Yandex Music, Netflix, Wink, etc.) freed users from having to keep the content on their devices, that is, to take care of the amount of free memory media, and to access all relevant content from anywhere, from any minimally suitable device.

However, solving the problem of technological equipment limits in various fields (whether it's about video games or listening to music) has led to the emergence of another Ч the user's dependence on the Internet connection, speed and bandwidth of the channel. Nevertheless, many analysts predict a bright future and an increase in the market and audience of cloud services. According to the forecasts of the analytical company Newzoo, the global cloud gaming market will reach $3.2 billion by the end of 2023 [35]

This figure also looks promising for companies that are just considering the possibility of investing in metaverses, but already now understand how serious technical capacities should be for a user who wants to see a visually attractive virtual world and interact in detail with other people and objects in it. The space should look natural and as realistic as possible, otherwise a person's immersion may not be complete, as well as the level of his involvement.

It may seem that the video game industry and related industries have taken a course to reduce the cost of equipment and increase the audience, reducing financial barriers to entry. This is partly true, but the problem persists if we talk about VR technologies. It is such devices that are most often used by heroes in works of popular culture to gain access to virtual worlds. This formed both the expectations of the audience and the directions of development of specialists from different fields. VR has been used for a long time not only in video games, but also in education, sports, tourism, medicine, however, high-quality equipment with which a person's maximum immersion in virtual space is achieved is still very expensive and far from always comfortable and convenient when used for a long time. So far, only large companies, training or rehabilitation centers, military-industrial complex, etc. can afford these products, but the average user is more likely to find the price unreasonably high.

A set of VR equipment can include not only glasses or a helmet for visualizing and transmitting sounds, but also various gloves or wristbands, knee pads, etc., responsible for tactility and touch, special manipulators that allow you to perform active actions. The more complex the set is, the higher the immersion level, which directly affects the cost. In addition, video games have been offering the experience of interaction and cooperation for a long time, users are used to sharing the joy of the game and the bitterness of defeat with friends. But there may simply not be another person in the circle of friends who decided to buy VR equipment, so there will be no one to play in the usual format with.

More or less, specialized gaming clubs and attractions cope with this problem, where you can come with a company and rent a spacious room for a few hours, in which it is convenient to move, the necessary equipment and the VR game itself. It's like taking humanity back to the days of arcade halls.

Thus, for the adoption of VR innovations, there is still a long way to go: not only to reduce the final cost of new devices for the consumer, but also to make them convenient, easy and practically invisible, so that nothing interferes and distracts, and the two worlds, real and virtual, would really mix in perceptions, sensations and emotions into a single immersive environment Ч the metaverse.

Conclusions

Having considered the history of video games, the directions of their development, the processes that took place in parallel in related industries, we can draw a number of conclusions and offer several frameworks for further discussion about the meaning and role of video games in the emergence of metaverses.

At this stage, there is a significant confusion in the terminological base, definitions and meanings that are used in the discursive field about the metaverse. There is not even a single understanding whether it is necessary to use the singular, as conceived by N. Stevenson, or a plural is permissible, contradicting the concept of a seamless, seamless world, but reflecting the current state of affairs, ambitions and ambitions of individual groups of authors of specific projects.

In a way, this problem is the result of an attempt to build a metaverse on the foundation of video games: they are not united into a single space, there are many separate independent companies with their own vision, ideas and projects competing with each other for the attention, loyalty and money of the audience.

Video games once started out of curiosity and personal needs of visionaries, no task of that time involved the deliberate creation of a video game. Nevertheless, the infrastructure and technologies of the 1940s and 1950s were developed just as much as it was necessary to begin the realization of the very idea of the existence of a computer game. The metaverses of the present time became possible precisely because the technological level began to allow them, but the biggest role in this was played by the video game industry, which was in dynamics for more than half a century.

Video games could take their next step only if they accumulated a sufficient number of interested audiences. This allows innovation to overcome the so-called "gap" [36] and take root, which was de facto done by video games in the 1960s. Further, development studios constantly tried to increase the audience and attract those who had not previously intended or could not play. This is well illustrated by the integration of video games into mobile phones, and then smartphones and tablets, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic period. Now metaverses can take advantage of at least the audience that video games have accumulated Ч it's been several generations and each next one will be more and more open to new technologies. According to the forecasts of the analytical company Newzoo, the number of players worldwide will reach 3.5 billion people by 2025 [37]

The video game and electronics markets turned out to be inextricably linked along the way, literally so much so that the same company could simultaneously produce its devices and games for them. The mutual dependence of these two industrial directions persists to this day and organically flows into the sphere of metaverses.

The audience of any product gets used to it pretty quickly, video game users also got used to existing forms and genres, starting to implicitly demand new things, which, in turn, moved manufacturers and developers forward. Here we are talking not only about technology or software code, but also about content Ч it should be diverse and regularly updated. The metaverse cannot exist without content in principle, and the more the focus shifts from disparate projects towards a single space, the more fascinating the content should be, the more it should be in principle. At this scale, the task looks unaffordable even for several united technology giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sony. This provokes the need to attract players from related industries (film production, book publishing, museums and exhibitions, etc.), as well as involving consumers themselves in the production of content for each other, which video game studios have been doing for a long time, reducing barriers to creativity.

In addition to diversity, video game users, as the industry develops, have become accustomed to a variety of interaction devices and the ability to do it wherever they want. This is a serious challenge for the metaverses as well, but at least we can take into account the mistakes made by the predecessors and the experience they gained. Video games have accustomed their users around the world to a certain extent in the audiovisual and narrative aspects of video games on PCs and consoles, and in the 2000s they faced the primitivism of the first attempts to implement games on mobile phones. But the audience, driven by interest in the new technology, did not turn away.

Developers of video games for mobile phones in a sense had to "start from scratch" and after the rollback to simple forms, the rapid growth of both technologies and the improvement of video games themselves followed. As a result, the industry has found a new casual format for mobile phones that is accessible and holds the attention of an unprepared audience without any gaming experience, while continuing to master the improving mobile technologies that can now be compared in power with game consoles.

Similar "lessons from the past" from the gaming industry and the history of video games are now available in large numbers to metaverse developers. And this experience is most relevant because of the really high level of borrowing of video game elements and their further development in what are now called metaverses. Moreover, representatives of other industries and areas initially unrelated to either metaverses or video games pay attention to them, but the latter are more understandable for such players at this stage both from the point of view of narratives and mechanics, and from the technological side.

Representatives of the business and banking environment, governments, education and medicine, entertainment industries are potentially ready to participate in the metaverse, to develop their representative offices in them. In fact, expectations are quite high. According to a survey by the international consulting company McKinsey & Company, about 95% of business leaders believe in the positive changes that the metaverse will have on their industry in the next decade, while the enthusiasm of ordinary consumers of various existing versions of the metaverse is quite high: 61% of them "are looking forward to the opportunity to transfer their daily activities to it, with In this case, the most important driver is the interaction between people, followed by the potential for exploring digital worlds" [38].

Summing up, it is worth saying that there are many contradictory points of view in the discussion about the metaverse: from harsh criticism to enthusiastic support. There are also many approaches from which researchers and industrialists look at the metaverse, determine its components and levels. The idea that video games are a kind of basis, of course, is not the only one, but at this stage it can be considered prevailing.

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Peer Review

Peer reviewers' evaluations remain confidential and are not disclosed to the public. Only external reviews, authorized for publication by the article's author(s), are made public. Typically, these final reviews are conducted after the manuscript's revision. Adhering to our double-blind review policy, the reviewer's identity is kept confidential.
The list of publisher reviewers can be found here.

The subject area of the reviewed article correlates with a fairly new concept for science Ц the "metaverse". As the author notes at the beginning of his work, this term "after almost 25 years of silence about the metaverses was remembered again, and now it is an extremely popular term: 133 million results for the query "metaverse" and 587 thousand for "metaverse" in the Google search engine. According to Google Trends statistics, the peak of interest occurred at the beginning of 2022 (January 2-8). At about the same time, global media corporations started talking about metaverses, and a little later, national governments, academic researchers and large analytical companies, gaming communities and developers, representatives of the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries began to join the discursive field en masse." The historical information about the appearance of this category is full-fledged, holistic, even an unprepared but interested reader will be able to objectively understand the essence of the phenomenon. It is noteworthy that the work has a pronounced syncretic character, the interdisciplinary assessment of the "metaverse" is given in volume, texture, and variant. The discussion level of the study is supported by the necessary inclusion of a number of evaluation blocks, so a constructive dialogue is properly implemented: for example, "Despite the fact that today the word "metaverse" sounds everywhere, it is often difficult to understand and explain what exactly it is called, it seems that literally everything: from chat rooms and digital museums to technological corporate environments and virtual reality platforms. They can contain elements of content development platforms, social networks, event venues, messengers, auctions or marketplaces, etc. That is, the discussion is conducted around a variety of separate, unrelated projects, with fairly well-defined boundaries, built on technical, technological and thematic levels. However, most of these media spaces have a claim to be called a metaverse based on heterogeneous features, which in the discursive field are attributed to the metaverse of the future, so far at the level of assumptions and fantasies. And while the metaverses are just gaining selfhood, they are trying to take and inherit from other fields, spheres and industries all the most attractive, intriguing and inspiring things that have already worked once as an attractor for the audience," etc. The author of this essay appropriately introduces statistics, information blocks. It attracts not only the nomination, which is most often given to make work harder, but also the analytical harassing. For example, "among the metaverses, there is now a large group that has a lot in common with video games, albeit very peculiar ones: The Sandbox, Roblox or Decentraland, etc. At the same time, projects released earlier as video games are now often called metaverses: Second Life, Minecraft, Fortnite, Dreams. This mixing and the vector of development of the new digital environment cannot be called accidental: the creators need guidelines and examples, some relevant experience of their predecessors Ч commercially successful and attractive to the audience of other media. In this sense, there is something to take and learn from the $187.7 billion video game industry," etc. The systematization of the data was carried out taking into account active / relevant references. The formal requirements of the publication have been taken into account, the text does not need serious editing. The style of the article correlates with the scientific type, although in some moments there is a shift to the scientific and journalistic field: "the experience of the path traversed by video games is best suited for the metaverse, because the basis for the development of both spheres is technology and technology: from personal computers and the Internet to virtual reality glasses and NFT. Julie Ask, analyst and vice president of the Forrester research and consulting company, also draws attention to the fact that "the first uses of the metaverse will be in online games and entertainment, and then in social networks." The fractional principle, divided into paragraphs, is conveniently applied in the article / semantic shares. Thus, the text is perceived much better, and the author can gradually manifest his point of view. The formation and development of the category "metaverse" is chronologically verified, that is, the presentation of the history of the issue does not raise complaints. I repeat that in this part, the author not only resets statistical data, but also evaluates /comments on them. For example, "in their development, video games, since the 1990s, have been strongly associated with the development of Internet technologies, which have their own interesting history and path from the scientific laboratories of the US Department of Defense to the homes of ordinary citizens. In this story, not only specific names are important, such as Tim Bernes-lee, who introduced his web server and browser in 1991, but also the combined decentralized efforts of many enthusiastic specialists in different countries of the world, which brought humanity closer to what is now called the Internet. The accessibility of the World Wide Web and the opportunities that technology promised naturally attracted the attention of video game developers: a new platform, a new environment Ч new opportunities," or "2020 has become a turning point for the video game industry. Their importance during the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be overestimated: people locked up at home, deprived of access to familiar entertainment outside, who sharply felt social deprivation and lack of communication, turned to video game practices in an attempt to cope with stress and anxiety. Virtual worlds have become a kind of extension and continuation of the real one. They were not just played, but organized mass festivals and concerts, scientific conferences and product presentations. Of course, this was not only about video games Ц people quickly mastered video conferencing services and programs, but only video games created an indescribable effect of presence in a special space for owners of digital avatars," etc. The article has a full-fledged volume, it is integral, unified; the purpose of the study has been achieved, the set range of tasks has been solved, the available text volume is sufficient to disclose the topic. Work, in my opinion, reveals a rather large segment of the new, yet little studied because it shows a non-trivial approach to the analysis of the issue, the ability to promote and motivate readers: "similar processes can be observed in the field data, documents, music, and movies and TV shows: the emergence of online cinemas and streaming services (Google Drive, Cloud Mail.ru Spotify, Yandex Music, Netflix, Wink, etc.) freed users from having to keep the content on their devices, that is, to take care of the amount of free memory media and to access all relevant content from anywhere, from any of the minimum of a suitable device." The results of the text are legitimate, there are no disagreements with what was said in the main part. The author, for example, states that "similar "lessons from the past" from the gaming industry and the history of video games are now available in large numbers to developers of metaverses. And this experience is most relevant because of the really high level of borrowing of video game elements and their further development in what are now called metaverses. Moreover, representatives of other industries and areas initially unrelated to either metaverses or video games pay attention to them, but the latter are more understandable for such players at this stage both from the point of view of narratives and mechanics, and from the technological side," or "it is worth saying that in the discussion about the metaverse There are many conflicting points of view, from harsh criticism to enthusiastic support. There are also many approaches from which researchers and industrialists look at the metaverse, determine its components and levels. The idea that video games are a kind of basis, of course, is not the only one, but at this stage it can be considered prevalent." The list of sources is extensive, and it is productive to use it further to form new works of a related thematic focus. I recommend the article "On the threshold of the metaverse: lessons and experiences of video games for a new environment" for open publication in the magazine "Litera".
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