Series | Challengers

This virtual world could be the next Fortnite

Zenith, the most successful Kickstarter for a VR project ever, aims to create a troll-free virtual world.
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A new virtual world called Zenith will soon provide a magical escape from the physical realm, allowing players to represent themselves authentically and inhabit a universe in which they want to live.

The idea of this virtual world that’s constrained by nothing but our imaginations, in which players can become who they truly believe ourselves to be, is the brainchild of Lauren Frazier and Andy Tsen.

The duo is currently beta testing a brand new universe in their massively multiplayer online role-playing game. This unique virtual world has already captured the interest of thousands of gamers and it stands to make a positive impact in the gaming industry as a whole.

Zenith – A Virtual “Third Place”

A “third place” is a location where people gather together and share meaningful experiences, outside of the home or workplace. Cafes and bars are most often where people go to socialize, bond, and connect. However, the future of these third places could exist in virtual reality.

In fact, Tsen and his wife were married in-game with their online friends, before they were married in physical reality. He and Frazier hope Zenith’s metaverse will serve as a new kind of third place. Their VR MMORPG is a world that individuals can live in, rather than just play in.

There are dozens of tangible benefits of video games like this. Inside a virtual world like Zenith, players have opportunities to learn about problem solving and cooperation. It’s also an environment which embraces empathy and positive interaction with others.

The virtual world that Frazier and Tsen hope to create is one that unlocks the power of VR while addressing the challenges plaguing online communities. Many video games today have become hubs for abject toxicity. Harassment, threats, racism, sexism, and bigotry are made far-too easy when the aggressor can hide behind in-game anonymity.

“When you look at a lot of what’s going on in the world right now,” says Tsen, “it’s driven by fear and it’s driven by isolation.” The intent for this new MMORPG is to create a virtual world that’s a force for good, acting as a social environment just as much as a gaming environment.

Frazier explains, “You can have experiences that you just physically cannot have in the real world. We think that we can help people to be their best and most authentic selves and that will spill out into the real world.”

Building a Virtual World From the Ground Up

While there isn’t a blueprint for designing societies and cultures in a brand new universe, Zenith’s builders recognize that the first step is to make their anime MMORPG a fun and interactive one that gets players invested.

In Zenith, players can create avatars which reflect how they wish to be seen. They can create a player whose height, face, skin tone, hair, and voice all reflect who they believe to be their truest self. There are also built-in positive feedback loops that encourage players to be friendly to each other and to realize the potential within themselves.

Its first iteration includes “Player vs. Environment” content to create a sense of community involvement as players collaborate with others to complete various tasks. From the outset, Frazier and Tsen want to make their virtual world more social rather than isolating.

They hope to create an environment in which the positive outcomes in-game can leak into the real world, enacting social change.

What Sets Zenith Apart?

Zenith is the first cross-platform, VR MMORPG. This means that while it is a virtual reality game, it’s also playable on other devices such as home gaming consoles, PCs, and even mobile devices.

This functionality creates an unprecedented ability for continuity and adds to the idea that Zenith isn’t simply a virtual world to visit; it’s one to be lived in. With connectivity across multiple platforms, players can become even more invested in their characters, checking in on the virtual world from anywhere.

Additionally, a crowdfunding effort for the game on Kickstarter hit its target in just four hours and was funded at over 625% in less than two weeks. This made it the most successful VR-tagged Kickstarter project ever.

While the game isn’t yet in the hands of consumers, its creators are already building a sense of community around the game. There are about 6,000 passionate members of a Zenith chat stream on Discord excitedly awaiting the release of the game.

Its creators are hopeful that the metaverse will spark more positive social interaction in the real world. Only time will tell if Zenith will achieve this goal that Frazier and Tsen have set out to accomplish, but one thing is certain: their mindset and approach in counteracting toxicity in the gaming industry is a giant leap in the right direction.

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