My first time inside a movie theater in nearly a year was for a Megan Thee Stallion concert in the metaverse. It must be said that there’s great irony in driving across town to a movie theater inside a shopping mall for a virtual reality concert, but the conceit of the whole thing is supposed to be enough for you to not think about that fairly sad fact.
Billed as the first ever virtual reality concert tour, “Enter Thee Hottieverse” is a collaboration between the Grammy-winning rap star and AmazeVR. The idea is take the experience of a flashy metaverse concert to 10 cities without all the production overhead of an actual tour in a bid to introduce music fans to the possibility of catching their favorite artists in an augmented reality without investing in the equipement.
It’s not exactly as novel of an idea as the marketing would like one to believe. There’s been some form of virtual reality for most of my existence and I'm a few years shy of 40, but enough money has been funneled into this hypothetical digital existence that we’ve (finally?) arrived to the metaverse, an endless network of 3D virtual and augmented reality worlds that folks who are much smarter and richer than you and I seriously believe is the key to our future.
Now I don’t know about all that. I’m someone who still can’t tell you the purpose of an NFT or a single thing about Web3 or the blockchains that power them, but I am curious enough about technology and the ways it can reshape entertainment that I venture into the metaverse on a near daily basis to play tennis and baseball without feeling self-conscious about the lack of hand-eye coordination that has made playing sports IRL a disastrous experience for my pride.
Inside the confines of my garage I can use my Oculus to transport to a virtual tennis court and go several rounds with a computer generated avatar that never tires of losing, or I can spend the afternoon golfing or working out with an actual trainer in breathtaking locales like Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands and Ethiopia’s Erta Ale Volcano.
The promise of the metaverse is a new way of working and playing and, to some degree, living. In the metaverse you can connect and work with colleagues and hang out with friends (or make new ones). You can buy real estate and collect art, attend events and create a full virtual life to supplant (or escape) the one you’ve got here on earth. I won't be doing any of that, but I am enjoying how excellent I’ve gotten at Superhot and having another method of exercise at my disposal when I don't feel like getting on the Peloton is invaluable.
Anyways, here I was, on a Friday night, making a trek across town to go to the mall in order to experience this first of a kind concert experience. After singing a boilerplate waiver I was in a seat with a headset strapped to my head. For roughly 15 minutes, a half-packed theater of Meg Thee Stallion fans all had the same intimate experience of being transported to her “Hottieverse” where she twerked and rapped a small handful of hits just for them. Though I could feel the stranger next to me shaking the seat as he bounced to “Savage,” in my headset it was just Meg. She was barely six inches from my face contorting her body in fanciful ways to the beat as she lip-synched the lyrics. Meg transported us on an intergalactic adventure that was immersive enough to make you forget there was an auditorium of kids chomping on popcorn as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 played.
But for all the promise of the metaverse, I’m still not sold on VR concert going. Why go see Meg in what was essentially a music video set in an animated galaxy when she's playing festival stages across the globe? Immersive live music has its pleasures, certainly, but aside from the pre-show game there is no interaction with the friends you came to the concert with—which completely obliterates the communal aspect of the live show experience. I have no doubt that big tech won’t rest until our online identities mirror ours here on earth, I’m just not entirely convinced I’ll ever be sold on the metaverse outside of working up a sweat playing games.