Becky slipped on her headset and closed her eyes as the home screen loaded, and let out a deep breath. She had been looking forward to this all day. It was her escape, her safe place where she could be happy and free.
She had always loved the idea of virtual reality, ever since she first read about it in science fiction books as a kid. Once the technology became available, she spent hours on end lost in different worlds, exploring and escaping…because in the real world, she was struggling. She faced challenges every day that seemed impossible to overcome… she felt unworthy of being loved and ashamed of her past. She felt alone and unable to make friends.
So she turned to the Metaverse as her way out. Each time she returned to the real world she felt more disheartened, making it easier and easier to spend more time in her virtual reality. She wondered, “is there a world out there where I can finally live a happy and free life forever?” In the chase for that dream, she withdrew more and more from her family, went out as little as possible, spending time she should have been doing other things in her virtual world.
Virtual reality is now a reality
Virtual reality is no longer an idea of the future from books or movies, but a reality that we can all experience right now in some capacity. With devices like the Oculus Quest 2, created by Meta, we can escape to the Metaverse- a digital world that feels more real than any video game we’ve encountered yet. But with this new technology comes new challenges and questions. In this article, we’ll discuss what’s available now in the Metaverse and how we envision it can be used to connect with people that are trying to escape their reality.
See Our Metaverse Experience (Webinar Replay)
What is the “metaverse”?
WIRED sums up the problem of explaining the Metaverse perfectly: “To a certain extent, talking about what ‘the metaverse’ means is a bit like having a discussion about what ‘the internet’ meant in the 1970s. The building blocks of a new form of communication were in the process of being built, but no one could really know what the reality would look like. So while it was true, at the time, that ‘the internet’ was coming, not every idea of what that would look like is true.” In the same way, not everything people are saying about the Metaverse is true, but we don’t know yet exactly what form it will take.
Right now, you can play games, stream movies, TV, and videos, exercise, hang out, have meetings, watch sporting events, go to church, sight see, in short, mostly things you can do online now, but because the screen is right in front of your face, the experiences are more all-encompassing and feel more real. A great example is when my wife, Shawna, first tried the Oculus 2. She was not especially excited about it, and when I told her how it feels so real, she said, “I’m always going to remember it’s not real. I’ll know it’s just basically a video game.” I put on the Jurassic World: Blue VR Experience. For reference, when we watched the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies, she reacted like most people…some gasps, some light shrieks, some “oh no’s!” But as soon as she entered the Jurassic World simulation, she was awestruck. She tried talking to Blue and reached out to touch him. I won’t spoil anything, but at a certain point she was on the ground screaming at the feet of a T. rex. Unfortunately, she made me promise beforehand not to take any videos or pictures. ☹️
The Concern and The Invitation
Some people are concerned that everyday life will start to look like the world in Ready Player One, where people live their entire lives online. They never leave their homes- they go to school, work, hang out with friends- everything online. Like every new technology, there is a risk that people will take it too far and let it become an addiction. For example, have you ever seen your stats for time spent on your phone or a certain app and been shocked? I know I have. But do I think most people want to live their entire lives online? I don’t. For one thing, I think COVID has shown us how much we need and want human interaction. With that said, I do think it will be a temptation for some people to be able to withdraw from society, and we want to be ready to try to reach out when that happens.
Before we collectively freak out about what the metaverse might become, let’s talk about where we are now. There are already people disconnecting from society and escaping their daily life through TV, social media, and other online platforms. We’re not going to stop new technologies from being created and growing in popularity, so we have to accept the invitation to use any means necessary to connect with the hurting and share the love of Jesus with them. Christian radio, nonprofits, churches, and individuals are already using many different platforms as tools to reach people looking for hope, and virtual reality platforms will be no different. We’ll be able to reach people not otherwise accessible. We’ve been created for this time, as uncertain and scary as it can seem.
The One Constant On Digital
Though technology is changing, the one constant is there are hurting people everywhere that need Jesus. Only time will tell what new ways there will be to connect with and serve the hurting. Let’s be ready.
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