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Video games are under no real threat of collapsing. While the console bubble did burst in the early 1980s in the United States once, the industry has come a long way since then. Today, gaming is too diverse and too big to fail due to similar errors. But that doesn’t mean the industry couldn’t fall apart in new and more interesting ways. If this business is going to stumble, it’s going to require a vampire-like threat. Gaming publishers and developers will have to welcome a blood-sucking monster into their homes. Unsurprisingly, just such a creature is lurking at their doors in the form of NFTs (non-fungible tokens).
NFTs are gaming’s best existential threat of the year because of their multifaceted uselessness. They accomplish nothing new except for poisoning any game they touch. Like all buzz-worthy new tech these days, NFTs are products of the blockchain. The short explanation is that they are receipts that live on decentralized spreadsheets. A shorter explanation is that NFTs are almost indistinguishable from a star registry.
Even before you begin to worry about the climate ramifications, which are considerable, NFTs are a near-immoral proposition. The promise of the internet since its inception was one of digital abundance. But as a species, we’ve selected an economic system that organizes itself specifically around a few people controlling scarce resources. So instead of choosing progress and designing new economic models that can reward people even if copying data is essentially free, we are cowardly seeking a way to force scarcity onto the internet.
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When it comes to video games, NFTs are incompatible with decades of game design. They would replace the key verb of “play” with a new key verb of “invest.” And that could diminish games as we know them.