Loneliest Pub in the Metaverse: St. Patrick’s Day in The Sandbox

Think about camaraderie. Of community. From the invigorating joy that comes from getting together with your neighbors, family and friends, and sharing with them songs, debauchery, pain and laughter, plus whatever else comes. These are the essential bonds that make us human beings. And there aren’t two concepts that better encapsulate this humanity than St. Patrick’s Day and the Metaverse.

So imagine this journalist’s unbridled delight when he receives an invite to the very first Irish pub in the metaverse, which opens in The Sandbox on St. Patrick’s Day! Take the ever-bustling Irish holiday and mix it up with technology ready (they say) to redefine community and the shared online experience forever. Name a better way to spend an afternoon appreciating human culture with one eye on tradition and another on the cutting edge.

I arrived at the Irish Shebeen ready to dance, to talk, to listen and to meet people from all over the world (that’s the advantage of a virtual pub). I even had a Guinness on standby in my fridge, in case the digital pints stopped being enough.

Ready to enter The Irish Shebeen in The Sandbox. Image: Decrypt

Upon entering the premises, however, I heard no shouting or drunken looks. The place was quiet – silent – except for an eerie, incessant loop of elevator music. A few avatars sat alone at scattered tables, gazing silently ahead of them, seven pints of untouched green beer stuck to the tables in front of them. Here and there, small groups of avatars stood in circles, talking animatedly. I approached them, waved my arms and danced around a bit, trying to introduce myself. They didn’t answer.

I approached the bartender, who also refused to speak to me; in a fit of frustration, I punched him in the stomach, but even that gesture elicited no response. After doing a few turns of the bar, it became clear that none of the other patrons were moving except for light, repetitive animatronic movements. Panicking, I called my friend and told him to meet me at the Irish Shebeen in The Sandbox. Something was afoot.

He arrived soon after, or so he said. But I couldn’t find it. He was staring straight into a half-empty, silent, pixelated pub overflowing with trefoil decorations, and so was I. But we couldn’t see each other.

A survey of Sandbox representatives clarified things: the pub, created by a pair of Web3 journalists and Hermit Crab Game Studio with support from Kinahan’s Whiskey and 28 other organizations and named entities, is for now a purely experiment. solo. Customers are mere robotic spectators. Multiplayer support is planned for the future, apparently.

I turned in silent horror – the few dead-eyed patrons scattered around the Shebeen were really dead. I was at the pub completely alone. Through a chat box I could communicate with other visitors hanging in their own lonely Irish pubs. I told everyone who might be there that I was a reporter and was curious who else was at Shebeen and why they came. Nobody answered. After a minute I asked, more rhetorically than anything, if it was better than going to a real pub. Someone named Alkai immediately replied, “No.”

A virtual pub with no real humans behind the revelers. Image: Decrypt

Drained of enthusiasm, but now at least aware of the context of my virtual existence, I headed to a music stage, where an Irish band was playing. They strummed harps and blew flutes, but, worryingly, made no sound. The stage was as quiet as anywhere else in the four-storey pub – except, again, for the incessant and unavoidable hum of lift music.

“I love these musical sessions, everyone can participate and play!” a fake man named Shane told me near the stage, nodding in a rhythm that didn’t exist. “That’s one of the reasons why these pubs are so comfortable for everyone.”

Beautiful artwork outside The Irish Shebeen. Image: Hermit Crab Games Studio

I went on stage, but my hands weren’t allowed to grasp the many instruments lying around. They were all glued to chairs.

Finally, resigned to waiting out my sentence, I sat down at the bar next to a definitely not real man named Shay.

“The Isle of Innisfree Lake was written by the famous WB Yeats!” Shay told me.

I hadn’t heard of the poem, so I looked it up. This is an island of Ireland which, without fail, still vibrates to the gentle and steady rhythm of the Earth:

“I’ll get up and go now, forever night and day
I hear the water of the lake lapping in a low voice near the shore;
While I’m standing on the pavement, or on the gray sidewalks,
I hear it deep in my heart.

I found the poem very beautiful, so I thanked Shay for recommending it to me, on St. Patrick’s Day as well.

“The Isle of Innisfree Lake was written by the famous WB Yeats!” he replied smiling.

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