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Is the Future of Film on A Minecraft Server? Inside MyMetaStories Festival


The concept of the Metaverse has puzzled many, and perhaps because so many people are still perplexed by it, it’s hard to justify the fact that Facebook invested $13.7 billion in it by the turn of 2022.

The idea is simple, yet the conversation around the idea often makes it seem complicated. The original pitch of the Metaverse was basically an enhanced, immersive edition of Second Life — town squares, shopping malls, social activity centers and more that can be enjoyed by users in the comfort of their own homes via Facebook (hoped Mark Zuckerberg) with their in-game avatars.

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It’s curious that Zuckerberg and company haven’t yet approached the concept from the angle of video game development, almost as if they’ve been deliberately trying not to admit this is what it requires. Their focus therefore floated over to just how we can make conversation in their ethereal world, seemingly before they considered what could be done to make the Metaverse a viable environment for conversing in the first place.

The game folks, meanwhile, had other ideas.

Although the concept of a Metaverse is still in disconnected fragments, some figured out that, since video game communities have been bustling since the advent of online gaming, we’re closer to a virtual town square than the Silicon Valley overlords presume they can reach. Now these creative developers are getting the jump on the giants.

Which brings us to Minecraft.

Say what you will, a total overhaul mod of the core Minecraft game with the intention of bringing short films to people across the globe is undeniably ambitious, and even kind of daring. But the mere fact that it takes place in the game’s building-block universe does an awful lot to draw the experience into the realm of the bizarre.

Loading into the World of MyMetaStories

When actually loading into the world of MyMetaStories, you’re met by a vast town plaza designed solely for the festival experience and populated with cinema workers, film critics, and directors for you to interact with … and to complete quests for. That’s right, quests. The game-ification of the festival is immediately clear. When extended out into the rest of the experience, it feels particularly segmented.

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The twelve movies shown are on hourly rotations, meaning players have to jump in at the right time to catch the films they’re intent on seeing. It drip-feeds in a similar atmosphere to that of a standard film festival, echoing the from-home workarounds that the London Film Festival, for instance, came to employ during the pandemic. But the question here is whether, and just how much, these films can be taken seriously in that environment.

One shining example is the beautifully shot and sorrowfully told story of Scrap. The short follows the relationship of two Irish boys as one distances himself from the other to save face due to his itinerant Pavees heritage. It’s a film that takes itself mighty seriously, and has every right to in its examination of Ireland’s social classes and ingrained prejudices. But sat in the virtual cinema, transfixed by the concept of being there alone, I turned to my left and right to see other Minecraft players in their square-headed glory, and felt like it was undercutting the sincere work of director Jamie O’Rourke.

Asking the other users in the game’s chat what they thought of the film, I was met with, well, nothing. They were either completely un-immersed following the short film or disinterested in engaging in the social aspect of the film festival at large (or possibly bored by me as an individual player!). Either way, it became clear all in an instant that players weren’t here for the films. They were here for the novelty of being in a film festival in Minecraft.

It’d be silly to assert that Minecraft-based film festivals are any kind of norm. Users can’t embrace it in their lives in a way that can approximate their regular trips to the cinema or get-togethers with friends. It was clear by the introduction of PvP arenas and creativity games in the server that mods were trying to keep players engaged via Minecraft’s most foolproof methods, but the vastly slim sum of fellow players willing to interact with them proved they were inclined to get this kind of entertainment elsewhere. Which begged the question: What exactly were we all doing here?

The Missing Key

It’s impossible to say right now if what’s drawing players to MyMetaStories is the experience’s oddball novelty or any kind of sincere interest, but it feels as though the former is the real decider here. Short film festivals are traditionally a clubby thing for the short film director community, and roping ordinary moviegoers into them is a tough proposition. If we’re looking for ways to get people in the door, why shouldn’t curators use the digital landscape of a Minecraft server to get them there? The game has been around for over a decade now, after all, and still holds communities of fans firmly in its hands. Exploring Minecraft’s sandbox world full of fetch quests and mini-games through this lens certainly helps to make sense of the idea.

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In theory. But in practice MyMetaStories does the opposite of what it wants to do — it brings short films to Minecraft fans, rather than a Minecraft world to short film fans. And there’s the rub. It’s hard to see how the format will take off, even allowing  that Zuckerberg’s dreams of the Metaverse may someday come true. There’s Interactivity, yes. But with limited native communications players don’t have many ways of experiencing the festival with friends in a meaningful way without using third party chat systems like Discord. The missing key, then, is an organic, natural-feeling means of connecting, networking and being present alongside other festival attendees. And so far, the virtual festival simply can’t replace the physical act of showing up to a local theater and being part of it all alongside other flesh-and-blood moviegoers. With the Metaverse still seeming too much like the flighty brainchild of Silicon Valley billionaires who’ve never smelled the rewarmed snack bar popcorn with the rest of us, that kind of real, palpable connection might be a challenge that just can’t be surmounted.

Tomorrow might not come today, or ever, for MyMetaStories or the Metaverse at large, but we can now say the experiment’s been made. Which itself is arguably worthwhile. If it someday happens that the London Film Festival finds its new format in a game that lets players punch each other with free will and travel to alternate dimensions to kill otherworldly dragons, then we can at least say we saw the groundwork being laid.

From this we learn.


About the Author:
Joseph Kime is a journalist, author and podcaster from Devon, UK. He is the Senior Trending News Writer for gaming site GGRecon, writer of the self-published essay collection Building A Universe, and co-creator of The Big Screen Book Club podcast. After graduating from Plymouth’s MarJon University with a degree in Journalism, he’s written for the likes of The Digital Fix, Zavvi and FANDOM. He’s Nobuhiko Ōbayashi’s biggest fan, and will talk your ear off about the significance of Kiki’s Delivery Service.
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