The convergence of gaming and gambling continues to progress at a rapid rate, especially with the integration of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology.
This blog is an essential read for clinicians who want to stay up to date with emerging trends and gamer culture to better serve clients and their families.
Blockchain is a method of tracking transactions using a public, globally-distributed ledger. It is most commonly used for cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. Blockchain automatically and securely keeps a historical record, or ledger, of all transactions. As it works across a network of computers, cryptocurrencies can operate without a central authority.
The benefits of blockchain include:
Blockchain and cryptocurrency technology will be one of the next evolutions in gaming design. It is already revolutionizing online gambling1 and we are beginning to see video games using these innovations.
One of the emerging trends in gaming culture is the integration of cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs allow blockchain to issue one-of-a-kind digital assets with unique attributes. This means that players can acquire in-game assets that are stored securely.
Mythical Games is a game technology studio at the forefront of NFT-driven gameplay and development. Its Blankos Block Party2 multiplayer game demonstrates how NFTs can fundamentally change the way that video games operate. Players build game worlds and collect and customize Blankos – digital characters and objects that live on a blockchain. Each Blanko is an NFT which can be bought or sold via the company’s Mythical Marketplace for real-life money or cryptocurrency. This NFT marketplace is what Mythical Games is really interested in building.
Co-founder, Rudy Koch, explains the concept: “What NFTs allow us to do is to bring the player into the economy so they can participate in the value that they bring to the game. Through the items that they earn, through the levels that they build, through the customizations that they make — they own the NFTs. They own the items, for the first time. And they can play with them, they can sell them.”
Mythical Games is not the only game technology studio wanting to integrate NFTs in gameplay, but it is ahead of the curve and has developed extensive in-house expertise. Its long-term plan is to license blockchain technology to other game developers.
Digital horse racing is another way that gaming and gambling are converging with the help of NFTs and cryptocurrency. Virtually Human Studio has created ZED RUN3, an online platform for digital horse racing built on blockchain technology. The ‘horse’ is an NFT which players can buy, sell, breed and race against people from around the world. Race winners are decided by an algorithm and streamed on Twitch and Discord.
Players can also take part in various NFT-based activities during the game and become stable owners, race track owners and horse breeders. There are now over 15,000 stable owners, with some digital horses selling for six-figure sums. Gamers can buy digital race horses with a credit card using OpenSea, the world’s largest NFT marketplace. However, in order to enter paid races or breed racehorses on the ZED RUN platform, they need the cryptocurrency Ethereum.
Renee Russo, a 25-year-old entrepreneur from New York, said that racing her digital horse, Glacial Planes, feels more like playing a video game than taking a gamble. She said: “I own this horse, I’m not betting on another horse, so I feel like I have complete control of where it’s going, who it’s racing and who I want to breed it with.” Read more4.
A concerning trend is social media influencers and gaming celebrities promoting alternative cryptocurrencies (known as altcoins) to their young audiences. In June 2021, members of the esports organization FaZe Clan promoted a cryptocurrency charity token called $KIDS. The cryptocurrency was part of a campaign called Save the Kids with a portion of proceeds going to charity. Shortly after the coin went live, it appears that many of the influencers who were involved in promoting the coin immediately sold, causing the coin value to plummet and their fans to lose money. FaZe Clan has made a statement5that they had no involvement and suspended or cut ties with several members.
However, this scam is not an isolated incident. In November 2021, a cryptocurrency called SQUID inspired by the Netflix hit TV show, Squid Game6, was found to have scammed investors. This alternative cryptocurrency was linked to a ‘play-to-earn’ platform where players could take part in digital versions of games from the TV show. CoinMarketCap (the price-tracking website for cryptocurrencies) had listed SQUID on its platform with a warning: “There is growing evidence that this project has rugged. Please do your own due diligence and exercise extreme caution. This project, while clearly inspired by the Netflix show of the same name, is NOT affiliated with the official IP.”
CoinMarketCap has listed 10,000 smaller cryptocurrencies7on its website which is nearly twice as many as a year ago and, according to a report by the Federal Trade Commission8, more than $80 million was lost in crypto-related scams between October 2020 and May 2021.
Clinicians need to understand the convergence of gaming and gambling involving blockchain and cryptocurrency technology in order to reduce the associated risks, which include problematic gaming.
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