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NFT, web3, gamification, crypto

Written by
Jimmi Sandham

All the buzzwords in one: NFT, web3, gamification, staking, crypto, utility, etc, and there are plenty more.

You'll see all of these themes thrown around in NFT and crypto projects, sometimes just to create a buzz that doesn't really go anywhere. There's no doubt that emerging technologies will continually reshape the digital world. Whoever has the exact roadmap for developing and combining these technologies and themes to their full potential has the billion (possibly trillion) dollar ticket to changing the world. We don't think anyone has the exact answer yet, but there are some teams going in the right direction.

Here's what we think about it all:

NOTE: We're still learning. The sphere moves so fast, it's all you can do. Learn, learn, learn! Nobody can be an expert in every field. We're artists and storytellers who also love technology, economics and philosophy; naturally, we were drawn to NFTs. We don't claim to be experts on what we discuss below, but we hope to show we have a strong grasp of where we want to go and how the technology ties into our vision for next-generation storytelling.

Firstly, we don't think these technologies should be used to attempt to reinvent the wheel. An NFT/crypto/web3 project isn't intrinsically valuable. The technology can (at best) capture or amplify value, not obtain it intrinsically. So, it's better to focus on creating value and amplifying the value with the technologies available rather than focusing on developing technology features for the sake of hype, e.g., staking and token rewards.

Storytelling has created value for thousands of years. One of our most effective value adds will be creating a world that people love to be immersed in, a world that captivates people and wins their attention with characters, creatures, places, things and narratives that they love. Attention is valuable. Entertainment is valuable.

Naturally, people should ask us, 'Well what has that got to do with all of these emerging technologies?'

We feel these technologies can enhance the nature of the experience for users and contributors, and that they will create paths of least resistance to the next generation of digital worlds. Gamification, collecting, interactivity, etc. are improved by web3 technologies.

The digital world is seemingly becoming an infinite web of centralised and decentralised efforts that amount to what will most likely be considered the 'Metaverse.' Yet, age-old human themes will prevail, such as the desire to own things, to measure progress, to accumulate and demonstrate wealth, to be rewarded for contributing to society, the power of storytelling and entertainment, and so on.

Below, we look at how some of these emerging technologies have the potential to bring age-old human desires into the metaverse.

Unified login through decentralised digital identity

It seems absurd that we still need a separate login and content for each social media account we want to use. My Twitter account doesn't carry over to Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc. Essentially, I have to create 3-4 different personas. As human behaviour becomes increasingly digital and the number of digital worlds increases, this is clearly a massive source of resistance. The moment a feasible system for decentralised digital identity exists, that will become the path of least resistance for users and centralised system builders will have to adopt it.

With the right structures, platform creators will still be able to capture and monetise users' data and attention, but the user will be able to go from one platform (digital space) to another and take their one digital persona with them. Of course, people may choose to have several digital personas, but this would become a choice rather than a necessity.

It's possible that a centralised entity could make a unified digital identity work, however, we feel it's much more unlikely that users and other entities would be willing to accept a fully centralised solution. Would you trust a central/single entity to have control over everything you do in the digital world? Would it be ethical for any one entity to have ultimate control over someone's digital identity? It's unlikely, and so a decentralised solution seems more plausible once the technologies are developed and adopted.  

Collectability and ownership

For thousands of years, people have collected things that they value and desire. Before decentralisation, you couldn't assert your ownership of a digital asset beyond that asset's centralised system. Sure, I could login to RuneScape and show my friends the rare Party Hat I'd acquired, but that ownership would be limited to Jagex's closed system, and my account and the item would remain at the mercy of Jagex. If given the option to have full control over the digital asset vs partial control (all user-experience debate aside), we feel people will prefer full control. Decentralisation enables this. The tech may not be perfect yet, but it's going to get better and better.

Cross-world interoperability

As the online world grows, we envisage barriers between worlds disappearing. With the right frameworks and open systems, a user should have full ownership of their avatar, their digital items, and they should have as many options of what they'd like to do with these things as possible. A user might want to take their RuneScape Party Hat from World 1 to World 2 (developed by a completely different team, with a completely different setup). And because their RuneScape Party Hat has obtained historical and social value, they are likely to want to be able to show that they own an original, and those others wearing similar ones don't in fact own an original.

Some people respond to this with something along the lines of: What does it matter, it's just a digital item? It's easy to see that humans are putting more and more value on digital experiences. There are people who prefer to flex wealth in real life, e.g., people who value having a genuine designer shirt that costs $10,000 compared to an exact replica worth $100. We feel this aspect of human nature carries into the digital world.  

Why is it that rare items in MMOs can obtain values of thousands of dollars, if people don't value digital items? It's clear that we do value digital items. And as the barriers between digital worlds reduce, we feel people will value the opportunity to move those items between digital worlds. It seems like a path of least resistance in terms of user experience. Decentralisation makes this all more possible than trying to interlink centralised systems.  

Tokenisation can create a more fluid transfer of value in digital worlds

Smart contracts and decentralised cryptocurrencies enable a new economy, some of which we have barely began to imagine. For the first time in history, tokens of value transfer, AKA 'money', is programmable. Programmable money enables us to reimagine how people can contribute value to society and be rewarded for it, especially in digital worlds.  

The growth of the 'Metaverse' will require creators and contributors of all sorts. People (and artificial entities) will provide programming, graphics, information, entertainment, computing power, energy, and many other contributions that facilitate digital experiences. Tokenisation and programmable value transfer can create paths of least resistance in these fields. At the moment, transactions are rather clunky online. If I want to read a paywalled article, I have to sign up with a new user account and input my traditional payment methods. I've likely got to sign up for at least a month, even if I want one article. It's a pain in the ***.

At the most basic level, web3 offers the opportunity to make consumption of paid content much more fluid. If my browser-wallet can enable me to transfer value at the click of a button and that transaction can grant me access to content, more opportunities emerge between the content creator and the content consumer. Clunky payment processors like PayPal are removed from the equation. We can look at micropayments of pennies per article, etc. and almost any other pay-to-consume content model possible.

Now imagine when the 'Metaverse' (or whatever the next-level of digital world will be called) is even more diverse and expansive. I want to explore several digital worlds in one day, or interact with several producers of digital assets. I'm in World 4 created by Team Amazing and I spend hours exploring there because it's so damn enchanting and fun. My account is preloaded with TOKEN and my time enjoying that world costs me 1 TOKEN per hour. This is an amount set by Team Amazing and agreed upon before I enter the world. As I engage with the world, the appropriate amount of TOKEN is taken from my wallet and goes straight to Team Amazing. No cumbersome card payment, no PayPal login, and it's immensely efficient (no fees to a 3rd party, only the on-chain tx fees which have proven to have the potential to be much lower than traditional payment processors).

While I'm in World 4 I hear about a famous shirt maker (named Favatar808) who vends from World 5 and I want to check it out. I enter World 5, which is developed by another team, say, Team Stag. I agree to pay 0.5 TOKEN per hour to explore World 5 (if I don't spend an hour there, that's fine, the equivalent TOKEN relative to 0.5/hr will be paid). I find Favatar808 and I like a shirt called EtherRobe. It's all ethereal and flowy and magical. I use a search engine to check out the features of this robe in different worlds. I only really care about Worlds 4, 5, 10 and 16, because I use those the most, they're my favourite. Turns out that the robe has some pretty cool features in those worlds, and in many more, should I wish to use them. I buy an EtherRobe for 10 TOKEN. Favatar gets 9 TOKEN, and the smart contract in World 5 takes 1 TOKEN and pays it to Team Stag, who have pre-set the economics of the world and users who have chosen to interact with that world have accepted. Of course there are many considerations to be made with a scenario like this because we're simplifying a scenario into a completely disrupted digital world equivalent to the next generation of the internet. But, all complexities aside, this sounds fluid and appealing, doesn't it?  

Storytelling is enhanced by digital experiences

Storytelling has come a long way in 200 years. From song, spoken word and theatre to mass-printed literature to screen, and from black and white to colour to CGI, 3D gaming and beyond. The tenets of good storytelling haven't changed, but the technology and mediums through which they are delivered have. Graphics will continue to get better and virtual reality experiences will transform beyond recognition. And now, we can interact with these storytelling experiences more lucidly than ever. We can immerse ourselves in fantasy worlds and even own parts of them, whether it be virtual land or a legendary sword, a trinket or a character. Before now, digital experiences couldn't quite capture that delight and connection involved with owning something completely. NFT and decentralisation have made this more possible. The experience can be more tangible than ever before. As storytellers, we want to make the most of this.

And it certainly doesn't stop at collectability. People are naturally drawn toward a sense of progression. People like to build their persona. These experiences can be enhanced with decentralisation and tokenisation because we can gain a much more tangible sense of the things we own in the digital world. This is especially more significant when we want to take our digital persona and things across multiple digital worlds.  

But this is all conceptual, there's a long way to go

The technologies are still being developed. The whole web3 / Metaverse thing is still its infancy. Who knows how it'll unfold. Perhaps new technologies we haven't imagined yet are needed to bridge the gaps and make everything work. As a small team, we can't create or pioneer new technologies, but we recognise that there are some cool things out there that we can make the most of. Everything we do has to be feasible and developed one step at a time. We can't run before we can walk. We're much more likely to be successful if we're realistic and play to our strengths.

In our next article, we discuss some of the things we'd like to do in the nearer future. These things begin setting the foundations for the themes discussed above.