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To boldly go … into the Metaverse

Today we pay tribute to the great Nichelle Nichols, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 89. Nichelle was an American actress, singer, and dancer, but she is best known for her portrayal of translator and communications officer Nyota Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series and its film sequels. In honour of Nichelle we’re taking some time to reflect on Star Trek’s cultural influence, and take a look at what to expect from a Star Trek-inspired Metaverse.

Creator Gene Roddenberry’s intention for Star Trek was to show how problems on Earth, portrayed and paralleled by space-faring adventures, could be overcome through a combination of humanism and optimism, with the addressing moral and social issues such as slavery, warfare, and discrimination. Nichols shared one of the first interracial kisses to be aired on television, with Captain Kirk actor William Shatner, just one year after the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage. After the series, Nichols used her fame to speak for women and people of colour, and against their exclusion from the United States human space program. Nichols subsequently worked for NASA to bring both women and people of colour and women into the program.

As a multibillion-dollar industry, the Star Trek franchise has a huge back catalogue of globally recognized intellectual property at its disposal, in the form of brands, movies, characters and stories. And, like many global brands, it has the distinct challenge of deciding where to begin when trying to create an entirely new virtual world. But there are a number of focus areas that should be prioritized when it comes to forming a Star Trek-inspired Metaverse

At its heart, Star Trek is about exploration of the unknown. A key facet of the Star Trek Metaverse will therefore be the ability for visitors “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations”. The scale of exploration will be huge, encompassing our solar system, the hundreds of planets and systems that make up the fictional Star Trek universe (including Talos IV, which featured in pilot episode The Cage), and new user-generated worlds. Star Trek is known for its famously passionate and committed fanbase, and any Trekkie worth their salt will be champing at the bit to create their own virtual world populated by new species and alien creatures.

Gameplay could be a purely exploratory experience, or form part of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). In any case, gameplay will be a major feature in any Star Trek Metaverse, and Star Trek owners’ Paramount can leverage the multitude of Star Trek games that have been created over the years. Day one plans should include a Starfleet Command-esque mode that allows players to engage in all-out space battles, a take on the virtual reality (VR) game Star Trek: Bridge Crew, which puts players on the bridge of a Star Trek vessel, and a Star Trek: Online-inspired mode that mixes space combat with planet-based, while giving players freedom to explore the universe.

Even the more obscure Star Trek references could be leveraged in the Metaverse, including the multitude of fictional recreational activities in the Star Trek franchise. Take Dom-jot, a cross between billiards and pinball. Over time, this could be developed into a global esport, complete with league-based participation and national representation.

Other key features of any Star Trek Metaverse will be opportunities for social interaction, that allow fans to hold virtual conventions, convene mass screenings of films and television shows, and engage in classic Trak Trek debates, and opportunities for visitors to create, buy, sell and trade digital assets. These could be limited edition bespoke federation uniforms, tricked-out star ships, or even whole planets. Finally, any Star Trek-inspired Metaverse will require currency, or multiple currencies that allow visitors to make in-Metaverse purchases or trade with one another. Federation credits? Klingon Darseks? Or Gold-Pressed Latinum?

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Jeremy Thomas/Unsplash

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