14 or 15 years ago I trolled Bill Sheridan of the Maryland Association of CPAs on Twitter about uncovering a weapons cache they’d stashed on CPA Island, a then-revolutionary virtual space in the game Second Life MACPA had set up for…accounting things. Back in 2008 CPA Island was the first (only? It never really caught on IIRC) of its kind and promised to be an exciting hub of pixels for accounting professionals.
Here’s a 2008 Journal of Accounting write-up:
Second Life is a virtual world with education, public relations, and economic implications. CPA Island is the center of the public accounting profession in Second Life.
At a minimum, CPA Island presents a creative communication medium to appeal to a new generation. This generation has grown up with high-speed Internet connectivity, instant messaging, and multiplayer online gaming.
The spirit behind CPA Island goes beyond clearly demonstrating an awareness of the different skill set of this new generation. It embraces and celebrates these skills as important to the future of the accounting profession.
The economic implications of Second Life are just now unfolding. Suspend disbelief, log on, and experience CPA Island and the other aspects of Second Life for yourself.
I was MACPA’s target audience back then — a perpetually-connected, Internet-consuming, gaming-since-the-80s 20-something with an interest in accounting — and jokes about weapons and cool outfits hidden around CPA Island aside, I watched eagerly in the hope CPA Island would take off and inspire a rich digital world in which to do accounting things. Perhaps it was ambitious of the always-ahead-of-the-game Marylanders to think the profession was ready for a virtual space of this magnitude, perhaps it’s that Second Life users with no life and perpetually-connected roleplayers angrily chased off the CPAs. We may never know. I’ve emailed MACPA to find out what happened to it. The last I remember hearing about it was some time in 2013 I think for an event I attended — physically — at MACPA offices in Towson.
All these years later, a small handful of accounting firms are taking the leap into the metaverse. Which is almost exactly like Second Life except…well, I’m struggling to come up with a reason why it’s different. Because people are putting money into it? Prager Metis spent $35,000 on virtual three-story property on a metaverse site it bought for nearly $35,000 last December, PwC Hong Kong purchased imaginary real estate on The Sandbox – a game where digital land has previously been purchased for a fee of upwards from $10,000, and this past February KPMG Canada bought “the highly acclaimed World of Women (WoW) non-fungible token (NFT) collection.”
Unsatisfied with the joy of owning non-fungible tokens, KPMG is going all in on this metaverse thing. From a press release yesterday:
Today, KPMG in the US and KPMG in Canada announced the opening of the first KPMG metaverse collaboration hub, where employees, clients and communities will connect, engage and explore opportunities for growth across industries and sectors. The collaboration hub is the next step in both’ journeys to lead their firms people and clients into Web 3.0. Both firms have formed dedicated teams to help clients develop and execute their own metaverse strategies.
“The metaverse is a market opportunity, a way to re-engage talent and a path to connect people across the globe through a new collaborative experience,” said Laura Newinski, deputy chair and chief operating officer at KPMG in the US “The unique experience provided by our collaboration hub will tap the creativity and passion of our people and clients to accelerate innovation.”
“Launching a collaborative space in the metaverse is a natural evolution in our journey as an innovation-driven firm,” said Elio Luongo, chief executive officer and senior partner at KPMG in Canada. “The world has changed drastically over the last few years, and our people and clients are interested in exploring new ways of working. This offers them a new immersive space to exchange ideas.”
CPA Island was innovative. 14 years ago. Back when the original iPhone had just come out.
With virtual reality what it is these days, we assumed the metaverse would look more like Overwatch 2 and less like original Half-Life released in 1998. Yet…let’s get in a time machine and visit MACPA headquarters in Second Life circa 2008:
And KPMG’s new “Metaverse Collaboration Hub” that’s making the rounds in the accounting news sphere today:
Mark has a rockin’ haircut. Does that come in KPMG lootboxes?
Perhaps it’s because we’ve been disappointed by this “accountant meeting space of the future” thing before, perhaps it’s because I played first-person shooters in 1999 as well as in 2022 and expect this “innovative” space to look, well, more innovative than a 23-year-old video game. Whatever the reason for our disappointment, expect more self-congratulatory press releases about exciting new Half-Life metaverse spaces with accounting firm logos on them to come as we trudge ever onward into the glorious virtual future.
Anyway, here’s Wonderwall.
Especially appreciated this bit where everyone is lagged out in this weird hallway with their arms outstretched as if eager to commit sexual harassment.
According to the Ready Player One timeline the sleek, immersive virtual world of Oasis was created in 2025 so who knows, maybe we’ll get something better than business casual VRChat within our lifetimes.
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