Last week, I spoke with creative digital strategist, Vincent Buyssens, whose Antwerp-based digital consultancy agency Voidwalker helps brands navigate along the communities, content and currencies that make up our internet society. Vincent believes the metaverse, Web3, and the future of the internet don’t just belong to the Silicon Valley elites and others. His mission is to help the people, organisations and communities that are not so internet-native, to claim their place in it. He also teaches about Internet Culture and the Creator Economy at Thomas More University, where he helps the new generation of creators navigate through the Metaverse and beyond. Vincent, it’s fantastic to have you on the show!
From growing up with the massive multiplayer online role playing game World of Warcraft to delving deep into the world of social media after graduating college, Vincent found and embraced the power of online communities early in life. Having achieved a feeling of comfort and familiarity in the virtual world, Vincent wanted to invite others to “get onboard” as well. To him, Voidwalker is about helping people navigate the new space that is emerging: as a kind of “guide” or captain, he hopes to allow people to connect to various experts in the space, encouraging exploration and engagement of all people and eliminating barriers to entry or gatekeeping. He achieves this not only through his work engaging with everyday people as a consultant for Flanders’ tourism board, but also as a teacher at Thomas More University, where he relishes inspiring, educating and learning from young people who grew up as digital natives.
Vincent noted how we are already seeing the signs of the metaverse to come in the way online communities have formed in their own distinctive ways. Today, with Reddit and Discord, people are able to connect, discuss and share amongst themselves, and when paired with platforms like Patreon, entire ecosystems are able to form that empower creators to connect directly with their fans, get feedback, interact, and produce, all with total financial control. In the decentralised future, we will have to embrace that the majority of interactions and discussions around brands will happen in communities like these, so we won’t be able to track everything like KPIs as we are currently accustomed to doing.
To Vincent, the metaverse isn’t only the place where the physical and digital world come together, it’s also philosophical. He believes we’re at the dawn of a new age, one where we collectively determined that social media like Facebook is too central, and that you’re going to see people much happier to spend more time in their “small little cocoons” with their small communities.
Naturally, it’s hard to say what the metaverse will look like, but Vincent warns that a lot of developers are repeating the same mistakes online role playing game developers made years ago. While he believes they ought to collaborate to learn from each other, he also believes the metaverse needs to be its own distinctive entity, not just a copy of a gaming experience, especially if it is to welcome non-gamers into the fold. He believes a main mistake developers could make would be ignoring the creative freedom of the virtual world and instead trying to simply recreate the real one online. For instance, why would anyone want to wait in a virtual queue in a virtual store? Walk down a virtual aisle? Instead, we should embrace that we are not bound by physical laws in the metaverse: our virtual shopping experience could be far more delightful and unique if developers let go of these constraints!
Vincent notes that we’re already seeing the metaverse in the way some young people value their digital lives more than real life, spending more of their money on digital assets, so one of the main features we’re likely to see are ways for people to show off their NFTs. Of course, Vincent notes at first, it will be tricky to navigate the multiple metaverses that will emerge on the decentralised web, but that once we have interoperability across these, it will become much easier for those hoping to show off their NFTs to a wide audience.
In wrapping up our conversation, Vincent shared a few pieces of key information he’d share with younger listeners, which included: 1. Start a Twitter account, 2. Be skeptical of new technology, but pursue that which makes your life easier, and, of course, 3. March to the beat of your own drum.
From his predictions of our impending AR breakthrough to his drive to educate skeptical artists about NFTs’ potential, Vincent is a true believes in the value of the metaverse – or rather metaverses – great potential to change life for all of us, not just the digital natives. To listen to our full conversation, find the episode here.