ICC Metaverse Project
Vol.2 ETO Kouichirou Origin and Evolution of Virtual Space Interviewer:
ETO Kouichirou
Our guest for the second session is ETO Kouichirou, a media artist who has been researching computer network, and creating art works with it since the early 1990's. Looking at the history of virtual worlds of the past two decades, he pointed out possibilities and issues of today's Metaverse projects. *

Virtual worlds had already existed in the 1980's (before ETO entered college), in the form of online games and communication services where users participated through the computer network. The former - virtual worlds of online games - has always achieved steady success. However, the latter - virtual worlds made for communication/virtual shopping malls - has constantly followed a certain pattern: despite initial publicity, they fail to gain popularity among general users and eventually end their services.

Network games and virtual worlds categorized as Metaverse have different characteristics: in network games, the provider has total control over the environment of the virtual world and items within it, and users are unable to make any changes; whereas in Metaverse services, users have a certain amount of freedom. However, this freedom is not effectively linked to the revenue structure, therefore, even "Second Life," the most prominent of the category, is struggling.

In terms of freedom and flexibility, a successful model can be found in "Facebook," a social networking service that is booming globally, where users are allowed to communicate with each other by using applications specifically built for its platform. Also, there is a Japanese social networking site for mobile phones, which gathered a huge audience by providing free games. These services are examples that succeeded by merging contents and communication, not handling them as two separate aspects.

Having studied online virtual worlds for more than a decade, the following can be noted: they do not necessarily have to use 3-D graphics, and text-based platforms can be effective as well. And if catering for general consumers is not feasible, it might be a good idea to narrow down the target to a specific group of people or a particular organization.