Yesterday morning, Heineken (yes, the beer), hosted a press conference for their new drink. Instead of thinking about what tube or bus I would catch, I followed a link to the brave new world of the metaverse. Their new drink – Heineken Silver – will be the booze for Decentraland, the metaverse platform.
I tuned in at midday, ready to create my avatar. Going through haircuts and outfits reminded me of these bizarre online games I used to play when I was twelve, where it was all about matching outfits and scoring points accordingly.
This wasn’t far off: the metaverse feels a lot like gaming. You get a 360 degree view of the surrounding environment, simply moving around with the four arrows. It is easier said than done, and for the first three minutes I kept on flouncing around looking angry and disoriented. After walking around for a little bit in this sci-fi garden scenario, enclosed by a kind of marquee, shaped and designed like an energy ball, I was invited to get into the Heineken building to listen to the press conference.
I followed a queue of avatars looking equally graceless and confused as me, and was quickly stopped by a bouncer. I couldn’t turn quickly enough to locate him, so I have no idea what he looked like. He seemed friendly enough, however, so in this sense, there was a significant divergence from real life. I gave him my date of birth and got in. This was, presumably, so that I could drink the metaverse beer legally? Unsure.
Inside, I was welcomed by an army of Heineken avatars keen on explaining to me all the details of their new product. One told me I “looked like a person of great taste”, as I kept crashing into the wall near him. If I thought walking in the garden was hard, this was definitely harder.
I somehow managed to make it to the second floor, where the press conference was to take place. As the Global Head of Heineken Brand’s avatar welcomed us, some avatars started clapping. I looked at them with avatar frustration, as I didn’t even know there was a function for clapping. The press conference was a flow of dad jokes about being in the metaverse, followed by an explanation of how good Silver was – as we can’t taste it, we’ll have to believe them. It’s also zero calories, we were reminded.
I wasn’t able to hear much more than this. Maybe the world is ready for the metaverse, but the fairly decrepit computer I was using wasn’t. Everything froze. When my avatar came back to consciousness, so to speak, everyone else had left already. I was alone in the Heineken house with the keen army of avatars employees. Feeling a bit out of place, after walking around for a couple of minutes I made my way to the exit. I couldn’t find it. In the end, I just had to close the tab.