By Riley Kaminer
Those of a certain age might fondly recall afternoons hunkered down in front of a Windows XP machine playing Second Life. The game – which by some accounts has had upwards of 60 million users – immersed players in a parallel virtual universe.
For Jared McCluskey, early games like Second Life shaped the way he conceptualized video games and the metaverse.
“I grew up playing video games,” McCluskey told Refresh Miami. “But very quickly I asked myself, what if I make video games instead?”
With some support from his parents, McCluskey began to build his own games using some basic programming software. Around 2007, he got hooked on Second Life. What attracted McCluskey to the platform was the ability to make and sell virtual goods through the game. “A lot of the fun was that I realized that I could make real money off of what I was doing as a hobby.”
Tech would continue to play a major role in McCluskey’s life. He’s written code for SpaceX and taught programming at the University of Denver – all without a computer science degree. The tech world also brought McCluskey to Miami. He relocated here from Denver to take a job at local ecommerce startup OpenStore.
In December, McCluskey left OpenStore to launch his own startup, The Mirror. Think of it as a sort of next generation Roblox. The idea is that you have both players and creators on the platform. Users can build in The Mirror’s metaverse, which is powered by open source game engine Godot.
The open source nature of The Mirror is a key differentiator. “Quite simply, we don’t believe that you can build the metaverse with a proprietary game engine,” said McCluskey, likening it to early debates about the technology that would become the internet.
Anything built on The Mirror’s platform is interoperable with other games in the Mirror. So if a user builds a car in one game, you could transport it over to another game. “This creates possibilities that have never existed before,” asserted McCluskey.
The Mirror plans to partner with brands to help them create their own experience in the metaverse. But McCluskey explained that The Mirror’s take will be different from other metaverses’ approach, such as Miller Lite’s bar in Decentraland. “We want to think beyond what is possible on earth – what life is like based on the rules of physics,” he said. “We want to do things that are not actually possible in our physical space.”
Thus far, the startup has raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from investors including Florida Funders. The platform is currently in a closed beta. They are aiming to onboard a few hundred users before opening up to a broader audience within the next two to four months. The Mirror’s team has expanded from three people in January, when the company was founded, to 17. Two of those full-time employees are based in South Florida.
Looking forward, McCluskey is particularly excited by the prospect of creating an educational company – not just a metaverse company. “I’m a living example of someone who learned how to code from building in Second Life when I was a kid. And that’s gotten me so far. I want other people to have that opportunity.”
Interested in checking out The Mirror? Sign up for their beta by visiting TheMirror.space.
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