There may well be a Memorial Day parade, event, ceremony or, well, memorial somewhere in the many burgeoning metaverses, but we didn’t find one.
To be fair, metaverses are relatively new at this point and, as immersive virtual worlds go, definitely are works in progress, even if you do have an Oculus-style visor for the 3D experience.
Still, given that Google comes up with 1.37 billion results for “Memorial Day event” on the Web, you’d think there would be something. And it isn’t as if the metaverse hasn’t hosted special events before, though they’ve typically been of a far less somber nature — Decentraland’s big fashion show got great coverage, decent reviews and attracted many top labels.
The Daily Beast had a story last month about the burgeoning wedding industry cropping up in metaverses like Decentraland — there’s a Dolce & Gabbana tiara NFT for $300,000 in actual money available if the bride is into conspicuous consumption. And Cointelegraph noted in February that Decentraland hosted what may have been the first legal wedding ceremony in the metaverse, which was overseen by a law firm with a Decentraland virtual office. The nuptials were overshadowed by technical problems that prevented some guests from seeing the bride.
Despite the glitches in a 2,000-person wedding, some metaverses can handle enormous crowds, as seen from the 12.3 million people attended Travis Scott’s “Fortnite” concert. When (or if) the immersive 3D virtual worlds that are promised live up to their hype, we may get a place where events don’t have to be tied down by geography, marchers by infirmity or celebrations by budgets.
That’s why the metaverse is, in many ways, an ideal place for a celebration of a holiday where many of the people being honored would have trouble getting to a real parade. Last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs noted that only about 240,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were still alive — and 1945 was 72 years ago, so any vets should be at least 90 years old.
Veterans in the metaverse could walk across Omaha Beach to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, visit the USS Arizona Memorial next to the Arlington National Cemetery, stop by the Korean War Veterans Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and then head over to a beach party with virtual friends and loved ones from the comfort of their own homes.
But there’s the rub. In addition to remembrance, Memorial Day and other national holidays are about getting together with those friends and loved ones. Zoom meetings may be fine for a work meeting and potentially better in a 3D metaverse, but they provide a mighty-low-calorie hug from Grandma. Virtual fireworks don’t reverberate in your chest any more than stovetop hotdogs taste as good as ones cooked over a charcoal grill at the park.
Beyond that, masks are largely tucked in drawers and air travel seem like a lot less of a gamble than it has been over the past two COVID-cramped years. And there is something to be said for having to make the effort to put on shoes and go outside to a parade if you’re trying to honor someone.
Besides, given the history of solemn ceremonies being trolled in massive multiplayer game worlds like “World of Warcraft” and “Fortnite” — we’re looking at you, WoW Funeral Raid — maybe honoring the veterans who fought for our country is something that should be carefully considered and planned before jumping in.
It’s hard to say that Memorial Day hasn’t become commercialized already (Anyone need a new bed?). But given the stampede of brands into the metaverse, it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be plenty of opportunities to be marketed at that could be both more intrusive and more subtle.
For example, NFT drops of Memorial Day-themed virtual items, ranging from 8-bit WW2 Punks styled on the ludicrously overpriced CryptoPunk NFT avatar collectables to brand-sponsored flags — we didn’t find any, but there were almost 2,000 “USA Flags” available on top NFT marketplace OpenSea as of Thursday (May 26). Designs range from straightforward and 8-bit pixelated to wildly colored and with bitcoin price charts superimposed.
On the other hand, we couldn’t find any immersive virtual mattress sales either.