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A16z: Virtual Society, Blockchain, and Metaverse

In 1986, early internet provider Quantum Link and entertainment company Lucasfilm Games released the first MMO game called: Habitat Social World Based on Virtual Characters, a world that players can access through a 300 baud modem ($0.08 per minute) and a user’s Commodore 64 ($595, or about $1670 at today’s price). Habitat moved away from the text-based MUD games that dominated the early networking market at the time (it was multiplayer, but lacked images) and the freely distributed USENET forums (text-based, of course, but lacking formal gameplay).

In short, Habitat is a virtual civilization with real-time player chat, trading, and interaction. Arguably, Habitat is also today a controversial (both by definition and territorial) “Metaverse” that could one day set a precedent.

Developers Chip Morningstar and F. In his reflections, published a few years after Habitat’s launch, Randall Farmer describes the complexity of a world with emerging forms of political, economic, and user-generated content. The Habitat environment looks and feels different: a universe that has grown to more than 20,000 regions, including players’ homes, shops, arenas, theaters, newspapers, workshops, and a “wilderness” area where crimes such as theft and murder can be committed (a Greek Orthodox priest who leads a chapel in the aforementioned Habitat environment strongly opposes this practice in his digital “Holy Walnut Church”).

There is a story about in-game currency arbitrage, a loophole that allows some aspiring players to buy low-priced in-game items from ATMs and then sell them at higher prices in stores on the other side of the city, resulting in hundreds of thousands of in-game tokens printed overnight. The game includes treasure hunts created by developers and commercial adventures created by users. The whole reflection on Habitat has an atmosphere of novelty and lawlessness. Even the Internet standards established by Habitat will cease to exist in a few years: OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) “presentation” and…


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