Right now, there’s an article trending around Twitter claiming that “The metaverse already has a police department.” It’s about VRChat’s Loli Police Department, a group of cop cosplayers (copsplayers?) that act out law enforcement scenarios across the game’s many shared worlds. It’s an unmistakably weird group, but having personally visited LPD headquarters years ago in-game, I can say this: I would take one thousand of their precincts over whatever’s happening with automakers, NFTs, and something called Decentraland.
I’ve talked about NFTs here before, but Acura decided to make one for the new Integra, so now I’ve gotta beat this bullshit drum all over again. For those out of the know, NFTs are the most efficient way to decimate entire rainforests just so you can tell people you own a jpeg of a gaht dang hot dog. Acura is offering a “base NFT” to the first 500 people who preorder a new Integra, which the company says will “upgrade into a unique Integra NFT upon delivery of the customer’s purchased 2023 Acura Integra vehicle.”
Note that this unique NFT isn’t even based on the actual car you buy. Rather than mimicking a buyer’s exact build, with colours and trim packages and options intact, your shiny new car picture will “feature the surreal textures and colours [3D artist Andreas] Wannerstedt is known for, and each will be a unique artistic representation of the next gen Integra.” After all, if there’s anything I want included with my new car, it’s a very shiny image of a similar car that, purely by existing, accelerates our descent into a Mad Max hellscape.
Acura is going further than most automakers, however, and opening a “Virtual Showroom in the Metaverse.” It’s an OutRun-styled showroom in a webapp called Decentraland, which looks like if RuneScape had worse music and took an incredible amount of CPU power to run. As we all know, the best way to check out if a car should be your next incredibly expensive purchase is to look at a low-poly render of it that’s bathed in a sea of neon light. Surely it can’t get better than this.
The Acura Integra will, in all likelihood, be a fantastic real car in the real world. But the NFT side of its launch, as nebulously tied to the car as it is, leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Automakers always want to be a part of Whatever The Kids Are Into, whether it’s NFTs or not being able to recognise Buicks, but only one of those is actively destructive to the world. I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t the Buicks.