Everything in crypto is becoming a game — and that’s good

More than ever before, crypto is unabashedly embracing its most reductionist and obvious purpose — turning everything into a game of buying low and selling high

OPINION
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Midjourney modified by Blockworks

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In the craziest highs of ZIRP mania, there was a popular internet adage that Coinbase and DraftKings were the same product, but just didn’t know it. Well, it sure as hell seems like they know it now.

Crypto is currently tumbling off its high water mark precisely as sports betting seems to have reached its fathomable peak. With the number of gambling platforms ads and live in-game betting lines, watching an NBA playoff game in 2024 is essentially staring at a roulette wheel with a sideshow of world-class athleticism. The best player in baseball is embroiled in a gambling scandal that defies any semblance of reason and reminds us all that the richest among us have no idea how much money is in their checking account. 

Zooming out, we’re currently experiencing the ultra financialization of every aspect of American society. You can now ruin lifelong friendships betting on Hungry Hungry Hippos at Dave and Busters. One of the largest private equity firms is making futures bets on life insurance policies. Brown computer science students are making more than the median American salary reselling Carbone reservations on the secondary market. As the always eloquent Neeraj Agrawal at Coin Center said on Twitter, “let’s tokenize that shit.” 

More than ever before, crypto is unabashedly embracing its most reductionist and obvious purpose — turning everything into a game where you can seamlessly buy low and sell high. 

What came before

In previous crypto boom cycles, there was a subtle pretense that utilitarian, normie use cases beyond vibes-based speculation were a prerequisite for any crypto technology to hold true value. 

In the ICO era, every coin was trying to convince buyers that there were super legit, world-changing companies behind the tokens. 

NFTs had an even wilder grifter-industrial complex, trying to shill themselves as the future of personal identity. Or art? Or was it entertainment? 

Mercifully, tokens like Jeo Boden have no such delusions of grandeur. The memecoin is — quite literally — just the President’s name spelled differently. With sincere apologies to Marshall McLuhan, it appears that the memecoin is now the message.  

When the powers that be pivot and start talking about world-changing use cases again, know that they need exit liquidity. When the grand utopian promises of reimagining the concept of currency rear their heads again, the fat cats are looking for a new generation of retail suckers to offload their bag on. In related news, Stripe just announced they are re-entering crypto after a six-year hiatus. To the lifeboats, lads! 

There’s a certain midwit approach to crypto that suggests that anything less than the full reform of the global financial system is an unworthy and cynical goal. At its best, crypto is a fun way to make money and vibe with good people. 

The real egalitarian appeal to crypto is not that it will democratize payments — but that a wintergreen ZYN-fueled degenerate in his mom’s basement can outperform an MIT trained quant who spent a decade at Goldman. If even a single hedge fund trader quits over the shame of being shown up by a degen to pursue a career in theoretical mathematics or civic analytics, we should give Satoshi the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

The counterpoint to this logic, of course, is that sophisticated institutional investors often prey on the naivete of everyday retail traders. In a sense, the powers that be amplify the stories of the underdogs who beat the system so that others are naive enough to buy at the top. 

But here too, the macro brand of crypto is evolving in a positive direction. One of the sneaky benefits of this current crypto run being less ideologically driven is that retail investors are simply more willing to take profits. When crypto is less identity politics and more a means to an end of securing a bag, people will take the money and run. This is a good thing. 

None of this is to say that the initial promise of a peer-to-peer electronic cash system or a next generation smart contract is unworthy. But bifurcating the grand ideological notion of permissionless currency from the broad appeal of “number go higher” will be good for both causes. 

To date, crypto has been two different value propositions with two different customer profiles bundled under one abstract idea. 

There are still plenty of zealots who care a lot about a 1/4 inch drill. But the hundreds of millions of regular people still to be onboarded into Web3 just want a 1/4 inch hole. And that hole is basically a fairer playing field for speculating on how to make money. 

Depending on where you sit ideologically, this is either the perfect embodiment of late capitalism or the wheels of an unfettered free market dripping in grease and pumping out incremental equity value. 

But one thing is for damn sure — everything is a market that can be tokenized. 



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Despite crypto gaming related projects and funds raising close to a billion dollars in November 2021, there have been only a handful of games that have attracted users apart from mercenary capital, and have had sustained activity for longer than a few months. Crypto gaming is going through an infrastructure phase. Theoretically, crypto gaming stands to benefit from purpose-built, high throughput chains, where blockspace is cheap (especially for games which are fully onchain). However, despite the launch of many gaming-focused chains, most crypto games are lacking in quality and quantity. Most new crypto gaming infrastructure either have no games or only a few games launched (e.g. Xai) or have failed to garner meaningful attention (e.g. Immutable X).

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