I absolutely love my MetaQuest 2 VR headset (although the new name is a bit silly† the incredible VR experiences it offers are unlike anything else in gaming. But despite my fondness for the system, I’ve yet to fall in love with the direction Meta is taking its VR headsets in – I’ve seen how great the metaverse could be, but right now I’m utterly bored with it.
Prior to its UK launch a few weeks ago, I had the chance to try it out Horizon Worlds – Meta buds metaverse platform – with a crew of Meta representatives. At first I was intrigued. While our avatars were a bit lifeless, our time together was much more fun than a Zoom call, the worlds players created were pretty neat, and the built-in security features answered my concerns about online harassment just fine.
After we finished talking, I wrote about the then upcoming announcement† I then vowed to return to Horizon Worlds, finish my world, and create an online space for my Quest-wearing friends to hang out. At the time of writing, I have yet to start my project.
Every time I put on my Quest headset, my cursor strokes Horizon Worlds for the many other options at my disposal, such as the epic new magic shooter Wands Alliancesor the ol’ reliable Walkabout Mini Golf†
Why meet in virtual reality?
Part game, part VR chat room, a metaverse like Horizon Worlds offers VR headset users a space to hang out, just like they would in real life. There are locations to watch (sometimes terrible) concertsarcades to visit and compete for the highest scores, and uninhabited islands to relax on as waves ebb and flow in the background.
However, those are just the basics. A more sophisticated metaverse would steadily mimic much of our real world — introducing aspects such as a digital economy — while also taking the best parts of being digital — such as being able to float quickly between spaces.
Although they will probably never surpass real life, these virtual spaces are already taking on meaning for many people I learned during my chat with We Met in Virtual Reality director Joe Hunting†
His film explained that the virtual space of VR Chat allows like-minded individuals to find each other, form real friendships and even enter into romantic relationships without geographical restrictions. Queer community members can find a safe digital space to express who they really are, and the disabled and allies can work together to make VR more accessible and welcoming, such as starting a virtual American sign language school to expand the language’s reach .
It is beautiful.
Looking beyond the horizon
But despite the great potential in a metaverse like Horizon Worlds, I never want to log into it: mainly because it’s quite limited in what it has to offer right now.
Thanks to its relatively small user base – Horizon Worlds is limited to Quest 2 users in the US, UK and Canada – the experiences it offers are still my favorite games on the Quest Store. If I want to hang out with friends in VR, we can just load into a more engaging multiplayer game.
And when I want to make new digital friends, Horizon Worlds doesn’t feel like the place to do that. Communities are generally run off-platform, meaning I have a Facebook or disagreement group before returning to VR. And once we’ve agreed to hang out in VR, why choose Horizon Worlds as our hangout when there are better options?
Some of my complaints could be resolved quickly. While the worlds act as advertisements for real-world products and services, companies such as automaker Mini and music brand Fender are starting to create in Horizon Worlds. By investing in these spaces, companies can help build better VR worlds – created not by hobbyists with limited time, but by professionals who can dedicate themselves to the project just like a regular game studio.
And since Meta Horizon Worlds recently expanded to the UK, it’s only a matter of time before new regions get access. As the player base expands, so will Horizon World’s scope and pool of creators.
I look forward to the day when Horizon Worlds is a game I want to play, but it’s not today. For now I’ll stick with the other great VR games the Quest 2 has to offer.