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

Think of harmony. of the community. of the exuberant joy that comes from gathering with your neighbors, family, and friends and sharing with them the song, the debauchery, the pain, and the laughter—as well as all that comes. These essential relationships are what make us human. And no two concepts better encapsulate that humanity than St. Patrick’s Day and the Metaverse.

So imagine the unbridled joy of this reporter who receives an invitation to the first Irish pub in the metaverse to open at The Sandbox on St. Patrick’s Day! Take the ever-lively pub-packing Irish holiday, and mix it with forever ready technology (so they say) to redefine community and the shared online experience. Think of a better way to spend an afternoon appreciating human culture with one eye on tradition, and the other on the cutting edge.

I got to dance, talk, listen and meet people from all over the world at an Irish shebeen (that’s a perk) Virtual Pub). I also had Guinness chilling on standby in my fridge, in case digital pints weren’t enough.

Ready to enter the Irish Shebin in The Sandbox. Image: Decrypt

Upon entering the premises, however, I heard the woman shouting or intoxicated. The place was quiet – absolutely quiet – save an eerie, continuous loop of elevator music. A few avatars sat alone at scattered tables, staring silently ahead, with seven or so unopened pints of green ale tipped on the tables in front of them. Here and there, small groups of avatars stood in circles talking animatedly. I approached him, waved my arms, and danced a bit, attempting to introduce myself. He didn’t answer.

I approached the bartender, he also would not speak to me; In desperation, I punched him in the stomach, but even that gesture elicited no response. Upon licking the bar a few times, it became clear that none of the other patrons were moving, except in light, repetitive animatronic motions. Panicked, I called my friend and told him to meet me at The Irish Shabin in The Sandbox. Something was going on.

He arrived shortly thereafter, or so he said. But I didn’t get that. He was looking straight into a half-empty, silent, pixelated pub filled with shamrock decorations, and so was I. But we could not see each other.

An inquiry from Sandbox representatives clarified things: The pub, created by a pair of Web3 journalists and Hermit Crab Game Studios with support from Kinahan Whiskey and 28 other named organizations and entities, is a purely single-player experience for now. The patrons are simple robotic spectators. Apparently, multiplayer support is planned for the future.

I turned back in silent horror – some of the dead-eyed patrons scattered around the Shabin were indeed dead. I was all alone in the pub. Via a chat box, I could communicate with other visitors suspended in my lonely Irish pub. I told anyone who might have been there that I was a reporter, and I was curious to know who else was at Shabin, and why they had come. No one replied. After a minute, I asked, more rhetorically than anything, whether this was better than going to an actual pub. Someone named Alkai immediately replied: “No.”

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

Exhausted from excitement, but now at least aware of the context of my virtual existence, I walked over to a music stage where an Irish band was playing. He played the veena and the flute, but being disturbed did not make any sound. The stage was as silent as anywhere else in the four-story pub—again, save the constant, inescapable overhead hum of elevator music.

“I love these music sessions, anyone can join in and play!” a fake guy named Shane told me onstage, banging his head to a beat that didn’t exist. “It’s one of the reasons those pubs feel so comfortable for everyone.”

Beautiful artwork outside The Irish Shabin. Image: Hermit Crab Game Studio

I went on stage, but my hands were not allowed to hold the many instruments lying around. Everyone was clinging to the chairs.

Eventually, resigned to await my sentence, I settle in at the bar next to a decidedly real man named Shay.

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

I hadn’t heard of the poem, so I looked it up. It’s about an island in Ireland that, without fail, always pulsates the gentle, steady beat of the earth:

“I’ll get up and go now, forever for night and day
I hear the water of the lake murmuring near the shore;
While I’m standing in the street, or on the sidewalk,
I hear it in the core of my deep heart.

I loved the poem, so I thanked Shay for recommending it on St. Patrick’s Day.

“The Lake Isle of Innisfree was famously written by WB Yeats!” she replied, smiling.

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