‘Free Guy’ sees the metaverse through rose-colored glasses

Ryan Reynolds’ new movie, free guy, is not what you would call light on schtick. It’s a movie about a non-playable character (NPC) in a video game, after all. But the first and most common are sunglasses. In Free city, the fictional shooter at the center of the story, sunglasses are what a player means: someone who can shoot a bank, steal a car, hit a stranger. These are, says Guy (Reynolds), the “heroes”. Similar to the shades in the movie They live, players’ glasses function as augmented reality specs in the game, showing scores, bonuses, loot, and more. Sunglasses are the lens through which gamers are meant to experience Free city‘s metaverse and decode its mysteries.

(Spoiler alert: Minor spoilers for free guy to pursue.)

These shades are pink in color. Guy, the audience finally learns, is more than just an NPC in Free city– it’s actually an artificially intelligent piece of code left there by the original game developers, and it’s just starting to gain sensitivity. When he steals his own pair of sunglasses, the scales fall from his eyes and he sees his world as players do. The twist, however, is that he isn’t trying to kill his human overlords; he’s just trying to make his world a more hospitable environment, free of shootings and daily robberies, where nothing explodes and trolls don’t rule. More than artificially intelligent, he is artificially empathetic. “AI is taking us to a more utopian type of oneness, this idea of ​​agency and oneness, and creating change agents,” Reynolds told WIRED in a recent interview. “I loved this idea. that it was not Terminator or something. This guy gets sensitive in an open world, a pretty hostile video game.

To be clear, Free city is not technically a metaverse; the movie’s home players don’t play it in virtual reality headsets. If anything, gambling is a substitute for what it is like to be super online: fun, but there’s danger around every corner. For Guy, an NPC, Free city is the whole world; it’s like he’s living in a metaverse but doesn’t have an offline counterpart. When he gets his sunglasses back, he realizes that this can be a world without violence, a place where gossip is not encouraged. (One of the movie’s most poignant recurring themes: The original game developers were building an online utopia, but the company that bought it thought no one wanted to play such a thing, so it turned into a game. shooting.) Guy’s sensitivity comes with a mission to stop crime and right the wrongs. Players who broadcast his antics turn him into a viral savior and question their own digital bloodlust. Guy’s vision of a pleasant flooded place by Mariah Carey (… sweet, sweet fantasy, baby / when I close my eyes you come and you take me …) seems possible. Sweet dream.

It’s here that free guyThe virtual world deviates too much from the real world, and its (applaudable) optimism goes too far. His video game environment and the culture around it (Twitch streamers, arrogant game CEOs, overworked developers) seem painfully real, if not premonitory. Its main character does not. As an Everyman who can crack a joke, there’s no one better than Reynolds, but as an AI Guy doesn’t. Don’t be too literal, but artificial intelligence is molded from the data received. If Guy had actually lived and learned in a world populated by violent trolls, he probably would have absorbed their ways. At best, he would have picked up jokes out of color; at worst, he would have ended up like Tay, that Microsoft Twitter chatbot who only needed 12 hours online to turn into a “Rude racist Holocaust denier. “And frankly, it’s probably not the worst. free guy argues that having a world of gamers and internet fans re-evaluating their perception of an NPC might cause them to re-evaluate how they see each other; maybe, just maybe, everyone could see the people they meet in virtual worlds as people. This is perhaps the best gag in the movie.

The thing about the internet and the metaverse is that they are one, and yet one functions as a fully realized part of everyday life and the other, while currently a buzzword, remains in its infancy. Contrary to the dystopian view that Neal Stephenson had in Snow accident, the design of the metaverse today– that of Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to build– is a virtual and augmented reality full of human connections where people work, train, play and make things. It’s a place for NFT art and Ariana Grande concerts in Fortnite, where your headphones tell you fun facts about the things you’re watching. Ugly versions exist too, but many modern hopes for the Metaverse seem entangled in concepts similar to Ernie Cline’s OASIS. Loan Player One. The internet, meanwhile, the bridge to the metaverse, is guarded by trolls and full of misinformation, hatred and misogyny. At its most serious, it’s a place where each person’s thinly veiled dark side is left free to roam and wreak havoc. The internet and the metaverse can exist on the same network, but they often exist on very different planes. free guy, it seems, wants to argue that from the primordial slime of the internet, a better virtual world could emerge, with the help of AI made in mud.

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