Metaverse can be ‘less Black Mirror’ and more hopeful for consumers

Being “less Black Mirror and more hopeful”, the metaverse can become the perfect destination for a myriad of consumers. 

These were the thoughts of Ben McDonagh, CEO and Co-Founder of Green Jade Games, who joined CasinoBeats, as part of our Heavy Meta series sponsored by SBC Advisory, on its virtual adventure through the uncharted digital landscape of the metaverse.

Delving into how this virtual terrain could look and feel to players online, McDonagh expressed that “there will be no end to how this side of the experience evolves”.

The CEO noted that this new space could allow online casinos to focus and offer a product to those with limited physical abilities who, unless assisted, would struggle to experience the “whoops and hollas” of the live gambling scene. 

“We can focus on those that are introverted and can hide behind a digital persona that allows them to be ‘who they dream of being’ or just fancy playing the role of (think Aech from Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One),” McDonagh expressed.

“We can open the world to a community that wants to spend time together, even if it’s just to people (avatar) watch and let the day pass by and where colour, creed and perceived worth are values left in an unjust IRL world.”

When quizzed on if this environment could replicate the experiences of brick-and-mortar casinos, he pinpointed that technology is still the “limitation” on making this experience accessible – highlighting consumer hardware tech expenses and pixel count on phone screens. 

However McDonagh expressed that once the industry “gets started”, the human imagination and ethics surrounding the application of AI is what will “limit the ‘look and feel’ for players.”

Providing an example, Green Jade’s CEO stated: “Data shows that men can take more risks when a pretty female is nearby. If this correlates to making decisions at the blackjack table, for example, what is to stop the AI in the environment not creating a digital avatar of the female form the player finds more alluring, to walk past in line of sight and therefore subconsciously influencing their decision? 

“Whether the player knows that the character in the metaverse created by the AI is an NPC or a real person behind a screen somewhere else in the world matters little when the dealer deals the next card. The activity has already happened.”

Looking into the payment structure of the metaverse, McDonagh claimed that the notion of this virtual platform most likely working through cryptocurrency or tokens, given the convergence of fintech and decentralisation changes, are not “necessarily true”. 

Citing a recent example from Atari, who advertised that they plan to offer a casino on its in-house chain that will utilise its own token as currency, McDonagh expressed that there is nothing to stop a traditional operator creating a virtual world and allowing customers to play in fiat rather than crypto or tokens, like the above. 

He added: “Knowing how many different companies have worked on this over the last decade, well before metaverse was a thing, we can assume that online gambling within the metaverse would work in much the same way as we play today, whether physical casino or online. The major change is again in interface and therefore, experience.”

Traversing through the metaverse, the conversation of responsible meta gambling, a notion which McDonagh believes that within the virtual space, there will, and is, multiple layers of responsibility to consider. 

“First we need to ensure that the consumer passes the normal sense checks – are they of age, is it clear from their information provided that their source of funds are legitimate?,” he stated. 

“These checks still belong to the licensed operator, assuming here that this is a white operation and not black, so I don’t believe that we need to reinvent the pre-emptive responsible gambling checks. 

“What we don’t measure today that becomes more prevalent is time in the virtual universe. Who is to judge what a healthy time to be connected is? Responsible gambling can suddenly include the responsibility to remind participants to change their environment and detach – reconnect with the real world rather than stay immersed in a subverted reality. 

“This exists in some regulated markets, the time check, but here the time will likely be measured as how long you’re in the casino rather than how long you have played one particular game.”

Looking into the risks associated with the metaverse, McDonagh joked on the “short shelf life” of living room TVs as it seems everyone in an Oculus headset invariably ends up smashing the television – if Instagram and TikTok reels are to be believed. 

However, on the matter, he expressed that the range of risks are “vast” but likely not necessarily “too far away” from issues that the sector already deal with. 

Returning to Atari for a case study, McDonagh stated: “Imagine Atari creates an incentive scheme that rewards players with ATRI for longer playing sessions, then the players are encouraged to strive for that token by modifying their behaviour outside of their initial intention. 

“How different is this to checking out at the supermarket and being told that if you spend another €6.45 you’ll get additional cash-back? The two are barely comparable but the mechanism of reward in online casino is already a hot topic for regulation but what is different in meta is suddenly there are other items of value that you can hope to acquire such as NFTs (think jackpot in a slot being an NFT rather than a cash-money value) and other rare items. 

“I’ve already covered immersed time and now we can get really deep into how one derives meaning in life, because who’s to say that living in a simulation isn’t the ultimate goal?

“Humans are believed to be the only ones who can imagine and dream in the way that we can so, what better utilisation of our superior brain power than to get lost in a living fantasy! 

“If we continue to improve the automation of elements we need to sustain existence then time is something a growing population will have in abundance, and we’ll have entered a period in our nascent human evolution where art is the ultimate human creation. 

Casting his eye into the pixelated future, McDonagh expressed his hope in seeing the continued development of the esports industry where competition in gaming and gambling can happen in casino arenas. 

He explained: “Pitting skill with RNG and lucky influencers would make for highly entertaining fayre. Make that happen in the metaverse and even better! I can stand on the virtual pitch and watch the action in real time, with a competitor running through my avatar on the way to winning the Galaxy Wing Cup, sponsored by Green Jade Games!” 

Looking into the near future, McDonagh stated that the potential for a casino within the metaverse is a further increase in the entertainment factor of gambling, expressing that elevating that experience through the inclusion of additional senses will “be fantastic”. 

“The quality of the games has to get significantly better, too,” he concluded. “Imagine being able to play your favourite slots and be flown into the bonus round so that you are on the green field rolling the dice seeing how many spots you can jump forward as your multiplier increases. 

“Oh it’s going to get messy and I cannot wait!”