Lego and Fortnite makers team up for a ‘safe’ children’s metaverse

Lego Emmet runs away from a Fortnite screenshot.

Picture: Lego / Epic / Kotaku

Right now, every company in the world is scrambling to announce something with the word “metaverse” in their pitch. The jamming because it’s essential that it be done before anyone actually understands what a “metaverse” might be, and all the wind blows out of it like stale air from a forgotten Whoopee cushion. Two such companies are Epic and Lego, which just said they’re working together to “shape the future of the Metaverse to make it safe and fun for kids.” Urk.

“The two companies will team up,” says the freshly released Press release“to create an immersive, creative, inspiring and engaging digital experience for children of all ages to enjoy together.”

If you’re wondering what that means or what it might look like, good question. But that’s not enough empty buzzwords, so it just goes on,

The digital family experience will give children access to tools that will empower them to become confident creators and provide amazing play opportunities in a safe and positive space.

Wait a second! [Record scratch.] Maybe I was too quick. Are they saying they plan to make an online Lego game? ! This is revolutionary stuff, people. Unless you count the 2010s Lego universe (TEAR), Lego Minifigures Online (TEAR), Lego Legends of Chima Online (TEAR), Lego Worlds (still alive!)…

The absurd buzzword “the metaversenow means “shared online spaces with avatars,” the likes of which haven’t existed for decades. And since their creation, they are absolutely not safe spaces for children. And neither will they ever be, because if such spaces are designed to be inhabited by children, they will always be preyed upon and exploited by people you don’t want near your children. But Epic is still optimistic.

The press release states about this project: “The LEGO Group and Epic Games will combine their vast experience to ensure that this next iteration of the Internet is designed from the start with the well-being of children in mind. .”

This is quite the extraordinary request! The company is not talking about a game here. He seems to be claiming some kind of frontline position in development the Internet.

The two companies then flexed their kid-friendly credentials, with Epic mentioning its purchase of SuperAwesome, and Lego boasting about their “all-live moderated social app for kids.” Neither stops to wonder why kids need such a thing, though the Lego family image is presumably tied to a lot of that message.

For 90 years, the LEGO Group has inspired generations of children through play with the endless creative possibilities of the LEGO brick, which remains the core of its business.

Read between the lines of the ridiculous claims made (“[Epic] is at the forefront of popular culture”), it seems that what they are referring to here is essentially Roblox, but with “LEGO” on the label. That in itself raises a whole other set of concerns, given the extensive and serious allegations made against the very popular Roblox for its alleged failures to protect children, and even exploitation charges.

Oh, and maybe in VR? See, you thought I forgot that the Metaverse is something something something VR. And yes, even setting aside the generations where we’re a long way from VR controls detailed enough to satisfactorily put together imaginary Legos, what better than an online game your child plays through a concealed headset, where you can’t not see the screen or hear what is playing in their ears.

Since MinecraftThe incredibly huge success of Lego, especially as a game that children play in shared spaces, Lego has been desperate to find a way in, at the same level of acclaim. The blocks belong to Lego, damn it! It looks like their latest attempt to find a way for their quintessential (and still hugely successful) physical toys to exist in an online space.

A press release that spends 90% of its words explaining how safe their imaginary product will somehow be, based on vague assurances, rather highlights the centrality of this issue. That he does not say at any time what they are working on reveals quite another. This race to the metaverse is as delusional and ethereal as everything else associated with the undiluted bullshit that is Web 3.0.

Updated: 04/07/22, 10:15 a.m. ET: Text updated to attribute a quote to the content of the press release, rather than to Tim Sweeney specifically.