As the popularity and adoption of blockchain permeates many industries around the world, there are some in the gaming sector that foresee NFT’s and blockchain as “the future”. Undoubtedly, blockchain is but one of many futures, and it will all come down to how the technology is adopted. With new blockchain games materializing almost out of nowhere every week, and news outlets struggling to keep up with the emerging trends, there is a growing unsettling factor that needs to be addressed when it comes to how blockchain, and most especially games, are handled in the media. In the age of blockchain games, who can you really trust when popular opinion could directly correlate to personal wealth?
In this episode of MMONFT, I'm not going to look too much at the technology, nor will I render any verdicts on whether NFTs and blockchain are good or bad for the industry or gamers. I actually have a huge episode coming up next month that will undoubtedly cover the most popular arguments on both sides of the spectrum. Instead, this article, and the latest episode of MMONFT is more a personal point of interest that hasn't been touched on in relation to blockchain games and how developers, games media, influencers, and even our fellow gamers talk about these games. My primary point of contention, lies in the inherent nature of what playing play to earn games mean for those of us who cover video games, and how that will translate to you, the reader.
As a quick refresher, an NFT (Non-fungible token) is essentially a cryptographic token attached to a digital good. Most NFT’s make use of Smart Contracts, which essentially executes a function when an NFT is sold. To understand an NFT simply, it's basically a virtual item that players can sell and earn money, but the developers also earn a percentage of that sale, and every sale thereafter. I’ve been busy learning, interviewing industry leaders, and researching blockchain for a little over a year now. During that time, we’ve seen a small handful of games from what some would expect to be a niche, turn into a massive industry shake-up, where it is now not only common, but almost expected for development studios of all sizes to at least consider the use of blockchain to some degree.
Now, nearly every traditional gaming outlet is covering blockchain games, as the big publishers cement their intentions of investing in this technology. As this coverage becomes more common place, we also run the risk of conflicts of interest, where those that hold crypto-assets in a particular game, may render an opinion of a game based around their intent to increase the value of the assets they hold. Why does this matter? Let me ask you this. If I had penned an overwhelmingly positive article, and later you found that I held assets within an NFT game, but withheld that, would it tarnish that opinion I expressed?
For some of you this may seem like an arbitrary worry. Why would my expression of a positive opinion matter at all? One thing we've learned over the past year, is that the crypto market can swing wildly at the drop of a hat. There are instances in the crypto market where a single tweet from the right person can send a relatively worthless crypto token soaring to new heights, or crashing to the floor. While it's unlikely that games journalism has the same kind of influence as multi-billionaire business magnates, it doesn't mean that there isn't a chance for gaming-crypto market manipulation, even if it is on a smaller scale.
That's why I believe that if you’re browsing sites that cover games that have to do with crypto assets, whether the slant of the article is positive or negative, you should know whether the writers, or influencers, own assets of the games they are writing about, even if it's just a news article. As nearly pointless as that may seem to some people, designating your conflict of interest can at least provide some transparency and maybe a little perspective. After all, it's completely possible to have substantial sums of money wrapped up in NFT's, and not disclosing that information isn't exactly telling the whole story, especially when cracker-dry news gets editorialized.
To that end, from this point forward I've decided that I'll list what relevant assets I hold (if any) of the blockchain games that I continue to cover. In the future as blockchain games are more common, these lines between a player and an earner will continue to be blurred, and in my opinion, there needs to be some transparency between those of us that cover these kind of games, and those that look to journalists for their opinions on these emerging trends.
I've also put together a short list of features to look for when you're reading blockchain game coverage. Here are three red flags to look out for when you happen upon a blockchain game article.
Red Flag Number 1: Does the article inject opinions on news of blockchain or a blockchain based game as overly negative or overly positive?
If you’re searching for information on a blockchain game and you hit on an article that depicts the game as an unparalleled money maker, definitely take that with a grain of salt. Check out our previous episode on whether you can really make money through play to earn games. There are two sides to every story and do not play a blockchain game with the belief that you’ll get rich quick.
On the opposite end, if you read something excessively negative about blockchain games, stating they are nothing more than a scam, take a minute to evaluate where you’re getting your information from. Many more traditional gaming sites these days are finding it difficult to stay up to date with blockchain as a technology. Because of this, their information can often be outdated, and their opinions may not be informed on the topic as a whole. In the video I bring up a common argument, that blockchain is environmentally unfriendly. Those that say blockchain is bad for the environment usually don't understand that there are different kinds of blockchain protocols. Some, like Celo, Phantasma and Algorand are even carbon negative blockchains, that offset their small environmental impact with green initiatives so that their carbon footprint is less than neutral. This is just one example of the many, many incorrect assumptions that I see frequently.
Red Flag Number 2: Do you know if the writer holds any NFT’s or tokens from the game they are writing about?
As I've stated earlier in this article, if a writer owns cryptoassets from a game they are covering, it should be disclosed in the article for the sake of transparency and integrity. It seems as though in the very near future, gamers and gaming journalists will likely take part in blockchain games. Due to the nature of play to earn monetization, that also means that, even if journalists never sell the items they earn in game, they should still disclose that they own assets, because, as we’ve seen from some of the crypto tweet-rallies, and reddit manipulations, the right words can change the value of any assets earned.
Red Flag Number 3: Is it a game or an investment?
When it comes to reading about blockchain games directly from the developers, or there is information provided to news outlets directly from PR, it's not uncommon to see a lot of articles written about investment rounds, and the success of NFT sales on grey markets. If you’re only hearing about the amount of money potential players have spent, and you haven’t really heard anything about the game itself, that’s a major red flag.
As gamers, many of us look at video games as relaxing, fun diversions from our real life. Many of us aren't against spending a little money on a project we believe in, but we need to know if there is a game there to actually get excited about. Blind investing in startup blockchain development studios has become more and more common, but as we learned with kickstarter games that turned out to be nothing more than scams, all gamers need to be careful of what they are actually getting themselves into.
- Does the blockchain game in question have a website?
- Are there videos of gameplay?
- Is there more to their social media and website than the marketplace and play to earn?
Not every blockchain game is going to be an honest attempt at a real game, but that doesn’t mean that every blockchain game is an egregious scam.
Watching out for these red flags when reading about blockchain games may just be a small step, but an important one, in what will likely be a long arduous journey of separating the real blockchain games from the quick cash-grabs that only mean to piggyback on the crypto-market hype.
[Number of Crypto Assets Held related to corresponding video: Blankos MT6, Infinite Fleet 2, Ember Sword 1, Dogecoin LT1000]