How will death exist in the Metaverse and Web3?

Athena / Pixels

Source: Athena / Pixels

death concept memory, and memorialization is actively transformed through virtual spaces. Many friends, loved ones or public figures have suffered death and left digital traces of their lives online.

Social media profiles have become places to gather, grieve, and memorialize people who have died. Digital profiles, avatars, and one’s online presence have become part of a larger digital legacy. How will death exist in the metaverse and Web3?

Die as forbidden from the network

A recent memes on Twitter and Reddit criticizing Meta (formerly Facebook) claim that Mark Zuckerberg said, “If you die in the metaverse, you die in real life.” The meme refers to a dystopian view that equates bans from the metaverse as a form of social and economic “death”.

This meme criticizes a centrist version of the metaverse, in which power is concentrated with a handful of owners or operators. (Centralization means that servers and user data are owned by entities or companies that have their own rules.) Who lives or ‘dies’ (ie, ‘blocked’) in a network is outside the user’s control in this model.

Not all metaverses will be centralized, and even centralized ones will have different rules and regulations and Decision making Processes. metaverse is Not the same as Web3. As discussed in A roadmap to the many Metaverse worldsthe metaverse is not a single entity.

Virtual worlds will also exist as part of Web3 or Web 3.0. , which is a decentralized internet built on the blockchain and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), which will ideally allow users to king their digital data and identities. With the arrival of Web3, the ability to pull the plug on users or accounts will no longer remain in the hands of a select few. Web3 proponents hope that this model will lead to a more democratic Internet in which users have greater agency and ownership. This means that no entity alone will be able to remove a user.

However, being banned or removed from the network is only one form of “death”. The designers and developers of many of the metaverse and Web3 worlds will need to contend with how physical and digital death exist in virtual spaces.

How death exists in these virtual spaces can be divided into two very different questions:

  1. How will the ‘physical death’ of a user be dealt with digitally? What happens to the data and accounts of people who have died? How will the developers and creators of the metaverse and Web3 affect our relationship with our digital legacies?
  2. How is “death” experienced in virtual spaces by living users? Will there be simulated death experiences like in massive multiplayer online games? Would a ban or removal from networks be so socially or economically significant that it resembled a form of “death”?

Regarding the first question, the designers and developers of the metaverse are faced with the complex task of what to do with the inactive accounts of deceased users. Social media companies had to develop custom solutions to this problem.

Memorial accounts and ancient options

In 2006, Facebook gave users or family members of users the option to memorialize accounts using the “Remember” label at the top of the profile. Users can also choose old contacts or, within the memorial settings, delete their entire account after death. Instagram accounts can be frozen and memorialized, or family members or closest relatives can decide to delete the account. Google offers an old contact named.

In 2019, Twitter announce They may remove inactive accounts but then stop this process publicly backlash are working on Release Remembrance accounts. So there has been a learning curve in dealing with death digitally.

Web3 will also face how death will affect accounts – what happens to non-transferable tokens or cryptocurrency after death? Issues related to the transfer and access of digital assets will be raised. Digital estate planning will be increasingly important.

at recent days paperand “Decentralized Society: Searching for the Soul of Web 3,” co-authors Poja Ohlhafer of Flashbots, Glen Weyl of Microsoft, and Vitalik Buterin of Ethereum introduced a similar tool for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) called “soulbound” tokens (SBTs) that would It represents the credentials, membership, affiliations of source identification and reputation – a series of live tokens visible to the public and potentially revocable by the issuer. The accounts are referred to as “souls”.

People will have “spirits” who store SBTs based on their educational credentials, professional certifications, employment history, or works such as art or writing that they have created in their lifetime. Corporations and organizations such as universities or corporations issue Social Security certificates to verify credentials or memberships. What will happen to these SBTs after the owner dies?

sadness and bereavement Memorial rites have been actively changed by technology and will continue to evolve as technology changes how we live – and how we die. QR Codes Added to tombstones to commemorate in an augmented reality space. 3D and AI holograms Holocaust survivor stories for future generations. dead Musicians take theater in the form of polyphonic music. Virtual funerals were even held in virtual worlds, including a virtual funeral for a famous player held in World of Warcraft, which was later raided.

Moving on to the second question: Do death experiences exist in virtual worlds of living users? How will death be depicted? What is the psychological impact on the user?

Death in video games and virtual worlds

One window to understand this is to look at how death is depicted in virtual worlds and online multiplayer games. Wanda Gregory, PhD, a faculty at the University of Washington who studies game design, media studies, and UI/UX design, describes death as an important game mechanic and a window into our beliefs and feelings about mortality.

Death as a failure to achieve a goal and a reinforcement of a sense of urgency

In games, death can symbolize failure to achieve a goal and is a way to slow down the gameplay and give the player a chance to learn and replay. It’s a way to offer just enough challenge and a sense of urgency to get the flow going. Dr. Gregory points out that even in Candy Crush, the player is given a “life” rather than a “turn” to engage the player.

Death as a restart or “reset”

Some virtual worlds choose “death” which has little effect on the user. At Second Life, a virtual world that has been running since 1992, the death It is just restarting. When an avatar takes enough damage that the heart health reaches 0 percent, the avatar is moved to its original location. “Death” is not permanent, and the user does not lose any inventory.

Partial death

In some virtual games, death is transmitted as a partial resurrection. Dr. Gregory describes the experience of an earlier version of World of Warcraft, where upon the death of an avatar, the player has the option to pay a fee to the Angel of Death and revive it with less power or choose to go on a “ghost run” as a spirit trying to find the body.

virtual death Out of body experience

Virtual reality study They discovered that giving users an ‘out of body’ immersive virtual reality near death experience lowered their fear of death. This raises the question of whether near-death or virtual death experiences are possible provide Changing how people feel about mortality. These virtual experiences may vary depending on culture, religion, or my soul beliefs. Developers of these experiences will need to consider cultural implications and ensure that the experience does not harm or excite users.

Death is a reflection of death
How psychologically death is experienced in virtual spaces is strongly influenced Developers and players. Dr. Gregory describes how keeping her avatar alive became vital while she was undergoing treatment for cancer. Survival in the game took on a new meaning. “As a video game player and developers get older, as you get older and think about mortality, how will that change the way you play the game, and what will you notice in the game?” asks Dr. Gregory. As virtual spaces evolve, so will our views of death and digital legacies.

Transcend Death: Digital Immortality
Finally, the metaverse and Web3 will likely open more opportunities for digital immortality – the promise that people can exist, evolve and interact in virtual spaces indefinitely. Some virtual worlds such as Somnium Space have chosen to eliminate death and introduce the “Live Forever” mode.

In 2000, Microsoft researchers Gordon Bell and Jim Gray predicted that digital immortality It will become a reality in this century. Manifestations and Avatars will continue to evolve without restrictions on the physical body. Our lives in virtual spaces will continue to change the way we view and deal with death.

Part 1: Could Empathy Be Exist in the Metaverse?

Part 2: Five Kinds of Empathy in the Metaverse

Part 3: A Roadmap to the Many Worlds of the Metaverse

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Wanda Gregory, PhD, for her insights and discussions about death in video games and virtual worlds.

Copyright © 2022 Marlynn Wei, MD, PLLC