Gabe Newell: ‘Most of the people talking about metaverse have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about’

I think the metaverse is bullshit, but my opinion hasn’t stopped Facebook from spending billions on research and development or startup investors from throwing millions of dollars at any company that uses the words “blockchain” and “metaverse” in the same sentence. While talking to Valve President Gabe Newell last week about Steam Deck, cryptocurrencies, and more, I was relieved to hear that he didn’t know either.

“There are a lot of get-rich-quick schemes in the metaverse,” Newell said when I asked him if he thinks metaverse trends are helping move technology forward.

“Most people who talk about the metaverse have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. And they have apparently never played an MMO. They’re like, “Oh, you’re going to have this custom avatar.” And it’s like… go to La Noscea in Final Fantasy 14 and tell me it’s not a ten-year-old problem solved, not some incredible thing that you, you know, invent.”

Cyberpunk novels such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neil Stevenson’s Snow Crash are often cited as inspirations for the metaverse, but tech moguls have been trying to recreate a vision of cyberspace from these books for years, conveniently ignoring their dystopian themes. It’s a capital M, a capital P. Missing attention, and Newell gave me some confidence in this regard from an unexpected source: one of the real authors.

“I’m friends with Neil Stevenson, and every time we get together, he just covers his face with his hands. So it’s like, “Okay, what metaverse is driving you crazy today?”

Science Fiction Author: In my book, I invented the Nexus of Torment as a warning. Tech Company: We finally created the Nexus of Torment from the classic sci-fi novel Don’t Build the Nexus of TormentNovember 8, 2021

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Newell is a bit more optimistic than I am, adding that he is confident “it will work out in the end.” But we certainly hold the same views on the current wave of superficial get-rich-quick schemes of the metaverse.

“Obviously, the gaming industry has been exploring these technologies for a long time,” he said. “It will be interesting to see if anyone who comes late to the party has anything to add, rather than wanting a whole bunch of people to give them tons of money for magical reasons. But you know, at the end of the day, customers and useful technology win, so I’m not really worried about that.

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