Games That Embrace the Spirit of Satoshiby@camrandell
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Games That Embrace the Spirit of Satoshi

by Cam RandellMarch 13th, 2023
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Gamers need to recognise that there is a big difference between games using crypto currencies to exploit their users and those that are using it to empower them. Not every game-based crypto currency is in the spirit of Satoshi Nakamoto. Any decent game should be a game first and a crypto currency venture second.

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It has been over 13 years since Satoshi Nakamoto dropped Bitcoin on an unsuspecting world. It was the blueprint for a digital currency and for monetary freedom. Today, 91.5% of Bitcoin’s 21 million coins are in circulation and Bitcoin has spawned countless copycats, including central bank digital currencies. The genie is out of the bottle.

Unsurprisingly, computer games have embraced Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Gamers were strong early adopters of Bitcoin. However, gamers need to recognize that there is a big difference between games that are using cryptocurrencies to exploit their users and those that are using it to empower them. While cryptocurrencies are by their nature trustless, can you trust the motive of the company shilling their in-game coin? Not every game-based cryptocurrency is in the spirit of Satoshi.

The ethos of Bitcoin

Bitcoin has more in common with gold than fiat currencies. For thousands of years, people have stored gold as a hedge against the vagrancy of official currencies. Many cultures as far back as early Mesopotamia even used gold and other precious metals to make their coins.

Today, the value of our fiat money is determined by the market: demand and supply. Demand moves as the economy moves, but supply is at the whim of governments and their central banks. If they find themselves in a tight financial spot, the temptation to print money can be hard to resist.

In contrast, Bitcoin, like gold, has a fixed supply. No matter what happens, there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins.

Bitcoin is also trustless. It is decentralized and so leans on no government or company to oversee or control it. Holders are free to trade it how they like with as much anonymity as they like. The system is maintained by the economic incentives of mining and transaction fees. New supply is only created through demand (i.e. mining releases new Bitcoins as a reward for the verification of transactions made).

“The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that's required to make it work.” Satoshi.

In these ways, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies based on Bitcoin are a return to freedom from state monetary control and abuse.

Translating the Bitcoin ethos into gaming

It is clear to see which games are in keeping with the ethos of Bitcoin. Such games provide their users with more control over in-game currencies and items, control that is, as much as possible, free from the control of the founding company.

This includes freedom from having to use Bitcoins. Forced adoption of something even if it is beneficial is not freedom. This is where many games fall down and others are exposed. Any decent game should be a game first and a cryptocurrency venture second. If users are forced to set up metamasks and wallets just so they can cosplay in the metaverse or fight in outer space or ancient Rome, this sounds like a convoluted financial scheme, not a game.

An example of a game doing it the right way

Infinite Fleet by Pixelmatic is an MMO space-based game where users take control of a fleet of ships and mechs to explore a procedurally-generated galaxy, expand their control, exploit resources, and exterminate the Atrox alien threat.

Pixelmatic was founded by Samson Mow, who is best known for his work on titles like Company of Heroes, The Smurfs and Co., and Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade. Interestingly, further on in his career, he was the COO at crypto exchange BTCC and Chief Strategy Officer at blockchain technology company Blockstream.

Infinite Fleet entered beta release in July and has several innovative features including a camera and control style that blends cinematic action and high-level strategy. It also has a user-controlled directed narrative so that players feel like they are masters of their own universe.

The game has also recently launched a crypto wallet and is close to launching its in-game cryptocurrency (INF), NFT ships, and mechs.

Unlike many other games with blockchain components, Infinite Fleet’s cryptocurrency and NFTs are completely optional. A wallet is automatically set up for players when they register an account, but they need not ever use it to play and succeed at the game. Instead players can join the game for free and can progress through skill and luck. Players earn INF by completing missions with no in-game shortcuts to purchasing INF.

However, as players learn and get interested in blockchain, they can choose to engage with their wallet on their own terms. This approach reflects Mow’s joint passion for gaming and blockchain, while maintaining his commitment to the libertarian ethos of Bitcoin.

“So the approach we're taking in Infinite Fleet is that the game currency is secondary. What we're building is a AAA MMO strategy game. And that is the first and foremost thing.”

Ships and mechs are NFTs and while Pixelmatic naturally manages the issuing of ships, mechs, and INF, users are free to trade all three outside of the game P2P.  This includes atomic swaps, which allows digital assets to be exchanged with no counterparty risk. No need for a third-party exchange that charges fees, shares their data, and takes 2 to 3 days to complete an exchange. Players have complete control of the game’s assets in a trustless environment.

“Players will always find a way to exchange their goods, so I figured, why not embrace the secondary market? Why not give power to the players and allow them to trade how they wish?” Samson Mow.

Final thoughts

New technologies are often quickly turned towards exploitative uses. Cookies and social media have become the tools of advertisers and AI facial recognition has become the tool of police states. Bitcoin was born in the spirit of freedom and has that ethos baked into its design. Imitators, including gaming studios, have embraced that ethos or watered it down. Players are free to vote with their keyboards, but my hope is that gaming can teach future generations the dream and promise of Satoshi Nakamoto.