Loneliest Pub in the Metaverse: St. Patrick’s Day in The Sandbox
Think of camaraderie. Of community. Of the invigorating joy that comes from gathering with your neighbors, family, and friends, and sharing with them in song, debauchery, pain, and laughter—plus whatever else comes. These are the essential connections that make us human. And no two concepts better encapsulate that humanity than St. Patrick’s Day and the metaverse.
So imagine this reporter’s unbridled delight upon receiving an invitation to the first-ever Irish pub in the metaverse, opening in The Sandbox on St. Patrick’s Day! Take the ever-lively pub-packing Irish holiday, and meld it with the technology poised (so 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 perk of a virtual pub). I even had a Guinness chilling on standby in my fridge, in case digital pints ceased to suffice.
Upon entering the premises, though, I heard nary a shout or drunken tune. The place was quiet—dead quiet—save an eerie, ceaseless loop of elevator music. A few avatars sat alone at scattered tables, silently staring forward, seven or so untouched pints of green ale glued 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 a bit, attempting to introduce myself. They did not respond.
I approached the bartender, who also would not speak to me; in a fit of frustration I punched him in the stomach, but even that gesture elicited no response. Upon lapping the bar a few times, it became clear that none of the other patrons were moving, save mild, repetitive animatronic motions. Panicked, I called my friend and told him to meet me at the Irish Shebeen in The Sandbox. Something was afoot.
He arrived soon thereafter, or so he said. But I couldn’t find him. He was looking straight into a half-empty, silent, pixelated pub overflowing with shamrock decorations, and so was I. But we couldn’t see each other.
An inquiry to 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 named organizations and entities, is purely a single-player experience for now. The patrons are simple robotic bystanders. Multiplayer support is planned for the future, apparently.
I turned back around in silent horror—the few dead-eyed patrons scattered about the Shebeen really were dead. I was in the pub completely alone. Through a chat box, I could communicate with other visitors suspended in their own solitary Irish pubs. I told anyone who might be out there that I was a reporter, and that I was curious to know who else was at the Shebeen, and why they had come. No one responded. After a minute, I asked, more rhetorically than anything, if this was better than going to a real pub. Someone named Alkai immediately answered: “No.”
Drained of enthusiasm, 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. They strummed harps and blew into flutes, but, disturbingly, produced no sound. The stage was as silent as anywhere else in the four-story pub—save, again, the incessant, inescapable overhead hum of elevator music.
“I love these music sessions, anyone can join in and play!” a fake man named Shane told me by the stage, bopping his head to a rhythm that didn’t exist. “That’s one of the reasons those pubs feel so cozy to everyone.”
I walked onstage, but my hands weren’t permitted to grab the numerous instruments lying about. They were all glued to chairs.
Eventually, resigned to wait out my sentence, I settled in at the bar next to a definitely-not-real man named Shay.
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree was written by the famous W.B. 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 pulses to the gentle, steady beat of the Earth:
“I will arise and go now, for always night and dayI hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”
I found the poem very lovely, so I thanked Shay for recommending it to me, on St Patrick’s Day no less.
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree was written by the famous W.B. Yeats!” he replied, smiling.