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How pandemic socialization trends have accelerated the move into virtual spaces

What will the social graph look like this year? What will it look like in two years and how will it be built?

To answer that question, Elena Arponen, CEO and co-founder of Quicksave Interactive, Bruce Grove, CEO and co-founder of Polystream, and Si Lumb, Metamedia futurist, joined Wanda Meloni, CEO and principal analyst at M2 Insights. Breaking the Fourth Wall ”panel on the second day of the Into the Metaverse event – and they talked about how advancing technology, post-pandemic socialization trends, and more put the fourth wall between those who make games, those who play them and those who play them watching them.

“With Polystream we’re building Fantom, which is not just about how we get players to play or how we see games, but also about getting people involved in games,” says Grove. “And we can really think about it now, not just from the player’s point of view, but what does it mean from the viewer’s point of view? What does it mean to attend events, participate in games and join in with your friends? This is what we build and work on – connect all of these pieces and break the fourth wall. “

According to analysts, the past year accelerated our move to virtual spaces by five years, he notes. With the pandemic, people are banding together in areas beyond gaming, such as concerts, sporting events, and conferences. This has resulted in a huge change in the online movement of our worlds.

“What we’re going to see is increasingly how do we want to be able to switch between all these different experiences?” he says. “How do we make it seamless to go from a conference to a music event to a sports event, play the game, watch the game? This year we’ll be putting a lot of emphasis on participation, but not always as players. “

“The existing social graphics will play an important role this year and in the years to come, as people have spent a lot of time building these social graphics,” said Arponen. “Of course you can make new friends and create new graphics, but I think it will be important to have the interoperability for these existing social environments – where you can easily take your network to these new places and they work together. ”

The key is the portability of these networks, said Lumb. He points out how people often had to connect across platforms, sometimes over and over again. He notes how his social group switched from a social work IRC that got big enough to move to a Slack area of ​​the company to a Discord channel when part of the group left the company.

“We took the graph, but every time we recreate those connections,” he said. “[That’s the] Challenge for the year ahead and there will be many people trying to solve it. “

Xbox Live and PlayStation have social components. The Epic Games Store allows you to sign in with a variety of social graphics. Steam has connectivity. How do you find a way to connect these virtual rooms together and find the network of other games to play?

“It’s something that must be resolved by technology companies,” added Lumb. And with the pandemic that is bringing older people into virtual spaces to stay connected, he says, “We will see so many generations to participate in virtual experiences. This human behavior is then acceptable. If we can solve some of the technical stuff, there is a glide path into this stuff that should be causing the acceleration just to catalyze it even further. I think we will see rapid progress in 2021. “

“We’re working on how we connect them,” says Grove. “How do we make it easy for people to enter these rooms? We want to extend it beyond the player. We’d like to make it so that if you want to jump into a game just to wander around, maybe become an NPC or use it as a social environment – that extends to how we use games and game technology as well. “

You can tell by the way Unreal and Unity are being used to develop technology beyond games – technologies that move into cross-media and transmedia and are used in film and television, he said.

“What does it mean if we create all these spaces that can now also become interactive?” Said Grove. “If we can use the cloud, we can create these huge, open worlds and then make it very easy for people to join.”

The cloud provides the ability to connect the devices that users connect so that social charts can cross many different places and seamlessly switch between them, as it is easier when we can outsource much of the computing.

“We can create big universes, we can create networks and infrastructure,” said Grove. “We can just say whatever device I’m on, but I want to connect, I want to jump into that area now. I don’t have to be part of this ecosystem already. I can just take part because I’ve been invited and I can become a part of it. “

The problem is the great variability in accessing devices. VR headsets are still not ubiquitous, and although the proliferation of smartphones is enormous, the functions of devices still vary widely.

“The question, of course, is that you can offload to the cloud, and with the proliferation of video decoder silicon, the cloud has been a great opportunity to get around the improvements in connectivity and data center proximity, which is very good with modern cloud games, ”said Lumb. “But it’s still a long way off, so there are some elements of the speed of light that you get stuck with. So the question is, what can we do, this is hybrid that uses endpoints that are closer to the user and the devices in the hands of the user? “

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