Meanings of the metaverse: Liquid death in life

“Liquid Death”: Whenever the metaverse gets rebranded into something more consumable, I would suggest that for its new name. It’s edgy, it’s memorable, and it hits the bullseye.

Liquid Death, the edgy canned water, has already proclaimed itself, in one of its edgy TikToks, the “official water of the metaverse.”*

@liquiddeath The official water of the metaverse @vyralteq #murderyourthirst #deathtoplastic ♬ original sound – Liquid Death

That’s apt. Liquid Death is, after all, the first product to exist entirely in the metaverse. In fact, calling it a “product” seems anachronistic. It just reveals how ill-suited our vocabulary is to the metaverse. Words are too tied to things; we’re going to need a new language. I guess you could say LD is a “metaproduct,” but that doesn’t seem quite right either. It suggests that, behind the metaproduct, there is an actual, primary “product.” And that’s not true at all.

Let me explain. We used to think that avatars were virtual representations of actual objects, digital symbols of “real” things, but LD turns that old assumption on its head. The real LD is a symbol, and the stuff you pour down your neck from the can is just a physical representation of the symbol, a derivative. The water is the avatar. The actual “product” — everything is going to need to be put into scare quotes soon — is the sum of the billions of digital Liquid Death messages and images that pour continuously through billions of streams. The actual product is nothing.

Jean Baudrillard, philosopher of the hyperreal, would have put it like this:

Liquid Death: more watery than water

That’s why LD can market itself as an alcoholic beverage — the “latest innovation in beer,” as the Wall Street Journal described it — even though it’s just water. In the metaverse, a tallboy of water is every bit as intoxicating as a double IPA. More intoxicating, actually, if you get the branding right. And if you’re still partying in the “quote-unquote real world,” as Marc Andreessen puts it, drinking a symbol of an alcoholic beverage without actually drinking an alcoholic beverage is the first step to becoming a symbol yourself. Liquid Death is the metaverse’s gateway drug.

Liquid Death: more boozy than booze

Whether you call it a product or a “product” or TBD, one thing’s for sure: Liquid Death is a prophecy. Mark Zuckerberg says that his immediate goal is to “get a billion people into the metaverse doing hundreds of dollars apiece in digital commerce.” That’s his “north star.” Meeting the goal is going to require that commerce accelerate its long-term shift from goods, as traditionally defined, to symbols. Which in turn will require a psychic shift on the part of consumers, a kind of caterpillar-to-butterfly transubstantiation. We’ll need to do to the self what Liquid Death has done to booze: shift its essence from the thing to the representation of the thing. The avatar becomes the person, the non-fungible token of the self. The body turns into an avatar of the symbol, a derivative of a derivative.

Liquid Death operates a virtual country club—called the Liquid Death Country Club—which you can join, it says, by “selling your soul.” That’s what I love about Liquid Death. It tells you the truth about the metaverse.

*When edginess achieves cultural centrality, is it still edgy?

This is the sixth installment in the series “Meanings of the Metaverse,” which began here.