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Trends 2023: You, Me, and My Avatar

Online identities are set to develop in the metaverse. Customizable self-expression is a must. What’s the role of community and identity in the metaverse? GWI, an audience insights technology company, explains what exactly should brands know about Web3 in 2023. Taker | Maker has highlighted the key insights and numbers for you.

What’s the role of community and identity in the metaverse?

The role of early adopters

No “true” metaverse exists yet, but consumers and brands are exploring and experimenting in online gaming spaces like Roblox, Fortnite, and The Sandbox. Together, they’re helping us understand what the metaverse could eventually be, and its huge disruptive potential.

Our research among kids tells us that young Roblox players are more likely to be interested in coding and adventure, but the impact will be even more profound as users get more freedom to experiment with self-expression and identity play.

Early adopters in the metaverse are more likely to identify as male, white, heterosexual, from high-income households, and tech-driven – but people who prefer to spend their time online are a much more diverse group.

Gaming’s open world

2022 saw the first ever mixed reality drag show and virtual broadcast of a football match.

In fact, the number of adult gamers playing Roblox has increased by 32% in the last year, and they play an important role when it comes to digital identities.

These early lessons around identity are key to the success of the metaverse, giving users the opportunity to experiment, interact, and reflect.

But among players of Fortnite and Roblox, they’re set apart by citing reasons like being able to stand out, and having more control over how people think of them.

It has given members of the LGBTQ+ community new experiences to learn how they could express themselves online, interacting with other members of their communities in safe spaces, with regions and celebrations. It’s been a space where people could reflect on their personalities, adopt new identities, and observe how others interact with their avatar.

Unlike broadcast-based social media platforms, these digital spaces give people somewhere to hang out with their communities, and create a sense of shared identity. It’s a change from follower count to community, and brands are becoming more aware of this shift.

The likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Gap opened virtual offerings in Roblox with community-oriented experiences, championing individual style and expression.

Gaming is one of their favorite pastimes, and they’re also socially conscious, with teen players of Fortnite, Minecraft, or Roblox standing out from their peers for saying that protecting people from bullying, and seeing all types of people in ads, TV shows, or movies are important to them.

The key is customiza­tion

Early studies showed customization is an important feature for increasing play satisfaction and autonomy, like having more choices, and being able to explore. It’s little wonder that with increasing virtual opportunities, 47% of consumers say they’re interested in creating an avatar.

The physical appearance of the character (e.g. hair color), and the identity of the character (e.g. age, gender), are the most important customization options.

It shows just how important identity play is. Users want to change their appearance more than their wardrobe, underlining the need to allow users to be themselves in a different way online.

Take Meta, for example. It offers more than a quintillion different attribute combinations for Meta avatars, from skin tones and facial shapes, to assistive devices like hearing aids, so that more people can feel represented and included.

But the benefit of the metaverse is that creating customization options doesn’t just lie with major tech companies, but many startups also have a growing influence.

What’s next in 2023?

Virtual worlds have long given users anonymity and independence from their everyday lives, allowing them to adopt new personas without fear of disapproval from their real-life social circles.

Now the focus is on the metaverse to create new experiences and environments where users feel welcome.

Consumers want to experiment and interact in new ways that they can’t in the real world, or existing digital offerings can’t provide. Businesses will need to step up their efforts to build inclusive settings and products, enabling users to be creative, express their digital identity, and discover their unique style – all while having fun.



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