Here's a story that'll make your head spin. Tee Grizzley, an up-and-coming rapper from Detroit, has signed a major partnership with eSports lifestyle brand XSET…inside a GTA Online roleplaying server.
Alongside his rap career, Grizzley is an avid gamer and Twitch streamer who has his own custom GTA roleplay server Grizzley World RP. The partnership with XSET—which is apparently about helping ex-convicts improve their lives by providing them consoles and inviting them to join Grizzley's role-playing server (Grizzley himself served time for an attempted robbery back in 2014)—was officially sealed by the two parties inside the RP server. The moment was captured and posted to Twitter by Jake Lucky, the co-owner of FullSquadGaming:
I just watched an Esports Org sign a rapper inside a GTA RP server… lol what theXSET officially signs Tee Grizzley to the team pic.twitter.com/Qyualcim6AApril 6, 2022
In the video, you can see Grizzly's avatar receive an in-game phone call from an XSET representative, before he and his "Grizzley Gang" entourage move to an in-game spa to seal the deal. In a press release issued shortly afterwards, Tee Grizzely said he was "excited to join XSET and take Grizzley Gang Gaming to the next level", adding "I've always loved gaming for fun, but now it's so much more than that. I've seen how this industry can really change lives and I can't wait to provide more opportunities for people who have faced similar challenges and adversities as I have."
If you're a fan of Grizzley or XSET, this will obviously be a big deal in and of itself. But the way the deal was signed has broader implications too. It is precisely the kind of interactive overlap between reality and virtual worlds that advocates of the Metaverse claim the technology will bring. The ability to meet, conduct a real-life business deal, and celebrate it all within a virtual world is basically the groundfloor pitch for the Metaverse.
As for what this means, well, it can be interpreted in two ways. It could be a vindication of the concept of the Metaverse. Up to this point, the Metaverse has been a largely meaningless buzzword used by governments and corporations hoping to distract people from ongoing scandals, presented to us via deeply cursed proof-of-concept videos. The Grizzley and XSET deal clearly demonstrates the functional potential for this hybridisation of reality and virtual worlds.
Alternatively, the deal shows that Metaverse-like platforms already exist in scattered bubbles such as GTA Online and other virtual spaces like Second Life. From this perspective, the sudden corporate frenzy over the Metaverse looks more like a scramble to wrench this emerging phenomenon from hands of individual users and self-regulated communities and place it under the control of tech giants and billionaires, which, given the damage companies like Meta have done through their non-meta social media platforms, would probably be an extremely bad thing.