Rundown (1/23-1/29) Mostly Full Transparency

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Wherein I discuss my transparent tendencies, how the NFT game dream is better fulfilled without NFTs, and how much I like Japanese critter designs.

Something I try to do with Nigma Box is present my thoughts, my self, and details about me with basically no filter. I’ve discussed my childhood, my adolescent masturbatory habits, alluded to plenty of details about my education and career as a tax accountant specializing in cryptocurrency, and more. If you really dig deep through Nigma Box, you can and will find a catalog of personal information about me, as I’ve been running this site for nearly 10 years. I mean, I privated the first two years of my stuff, because it was garbage, but my point still stands.

Now, what I’m doing is nothing too revolutionary in these modern times, but I’m probably doing it for a rather uncommon reason. Most people who share their lives online they do it to amass a following, and to foster engagement from both their friends and anonymous strangers. I am a bit different though, as I do not really care about being noticed, getting views, comments, or anything of the sort. I just like making these things, these Reviews, Rundowns, Rambles, and stories for the sake of making them. And I share personal details about myself on Nigma Box because… it is an environment where I am comfortable sharing things.

From the ages of… 7 to 18, I felt the need to keep a lot of secrets. About my interests, about my thoughts, about myself. And the core reason why was because to share these things, I would need to interface with a person. A person who could judge my words, who could mock me if they disagreed with me, or reject me and deem me as someone of low-worth in the social system. 

This still affects me to this day, as I do not like talking to my boss or family about any personal details, and I do not feel comfortable holding conversations in ‘online public places.’ I have Discord open most of the time, but I rarely ever say anything in channels unless prompted, and I mostly use it for announcements and for one-on-one interactions with my only friend, gammaflux. When I do talk in a channel, it is often because I was called upon, or because I created something to share. And even then… I don’t even bother posting my Scenario reviews in the Student Transfer Discord, as I do not like it there. It’s too noisy.

So, why do I feel comfortable sharing all of these details on Nigma Box? Well, it’s rather simple. Because Nigma Box is my site. It is my domain. And it is an ecosystem that I fully control. Everyone who comes to Nigma Box is a visitor, and I am the webmaster. Anybody who comes here comes for something I made. They are coming to me. And if they are coming to me, and have the opportunity to leave whenever they want, then I feel comfortable enough to express myself fully, without any social barriers.

Now, there are some things that I do not share, such as work-related details, inane drivel about my daily life, and how I listened to this video of an anime teen girl saying the N-word a bunch, on loop, for 10 straight minutes, because I think it was funny, more due to the inflection than anything. ..Wait, I wasn’t supposed to say that, but I just did… Look, I listen to enough 90’s rap music that I’m basically numb to that word. Though, I do have a personal rule to never use it in a piece of writing, let alone say it, because I’m white.

…Okay, so I lost track of my topic and started loosely discussing racism, so… let’s talk about something inextricably tied to racism! Modern video gaming!

…Unfortunately, this week was fairly light on news. 

Elden Ring and Horizon: Forbidden West went gold, and I’m sure they will be discussed for varying lengths of time over the ensuing year. 

Pokémon legends: Arceus launched and was met with a positive reception critically, which bodes confidence in the final product. I would comment on my initial thoughts, but my delivery got delayed on account of the surprise snowfall here in Chicagoland. 

Um… Ubisoft apparently released Hyper Scape, a sci-fi flavored battle royale game, back in August 2020. A title that did so poorly that it has not received an update since April 2021. As such, it is not surprising to hear that Ubisoft is shutting the game, and that it will be 100% dead on April 27th. As expected, there is no end-of-life plan or intention to preserve this work of art that they invested tens of millions of dollars and thousands of hours of labor into. Stay classy, you nasty home for abusers. 

Actually, I know I said I would not talk about Ubisoft’s products, but there is another Ubisoft story that I want to indulge in. This past week, VP of Ubisoft’s Strategic Innovations Lab, and head of the Ubisoft Quartz NFT project, Nicolas Pouard, was interviewed by Finder. The interview centered around the reaction to and failure of Ubisoft Quartz and their integration in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint. His general stance during the interview was that NFTs are the future of gaming, represent a great value to players, but the players simply do not understand how valuable they are. 

Or in other words, an executive is blaming the customers for not understanding the true value of a product, which means one of two things. Either the people running this project did a poor job of selling it, meaning it is the fault of Pouard and his team. Or Pouard and his team are out of touch with reality, and believe that something with little to no value is, in actuality, highly valuable. Wait, why did I say either? Both of these things are true. Ubisoft’s terminology made it harder to understand what Quartz was supposed to be, and Pouard clearly does not understand what the true endgame is for Ubisoft’s NFTs.

Pouard claims that “the end game is about giving players the opportunity to resell their items once they’re finished with them or they’re finished playing the game itself.” However, that is not the actual endgame. The actual endgame is when the game is, from a cultural and zeitgeist standpoint, ‘dead’ and few people are playing it, if anyone at all. What value do these NFTs have then? How can players sell items to an inactive and niche market that, most likely, will never become active again? Well, they can’t. They become the people at the bottom of a pyramid scheme, holding worthless assets they cannot sell, because there is no one to sell them to.

Now, what I find frustrating about this NFT push is that… the games industry has already created marketplaces where players can trade limited digital goods using a proprietary currency with a real money exchange rate. Blockchain technology is not necessary to create an economy where users can trade digital goods with a cash value. In fact, the industry has been doing just that for… 20 years by now. You can look at plenty of Web 1.0 social games like Gaia Online or Habbo and see how their economies are startlingly similar to the economies imagined by folks like Pouard. The only difference is the lack of a blockchain and the ability to cash out.

Companies are repackaging the ideas introduced in these games, mingling them with cryptocurrency, and acting like this is a revolutionary new invention. Instead of being something that people have done for actual decades. Hell, Roblox, one of the biggest video games of all time, a game that sees more than 40 million daily active users, has an economy where players can use real money to buy a proprietary currency, known as robux, use robux to buy limited cosmetic digital items, which are basically NFTs, and sell these digital items for robux, which players can convert into cash… kinda. A cash to robux transaction happens within seconds, but a robux to cash conversion is a lot slower. Also, the robux to cash conversion rate includes a 65% transaction fee, which is so absurd that I have to ask why it is even legal.

Roblox’s economy is basically a NFT-based cryptocurrency economy… but better. Roblox does not need to deal with a blockchain, integrations with cryptocurrency platforms, or any repercussions with making data public. They control a walled garden, they dictate the price, and while people can make money from Roblox, there is a lot going against them. 

From a corporate perspective, Roblox is the endgame economy that NFT pundits are actually thinking of. A perpetual live service economy where the owners of the economy make money on every transaction. An economy where the publisher makes most of their money by selling cosmetics, taking obscene transaction fees, and paying content creators in… what is basically scrip.

So… yeah. Pouard, stop trying to push NFTs and make a Roblox instead. Even though the market does not exist for a Roblox competitor. You could try, but the introduction of competitors would either result in the end of service for all participants, or all challengers would fail to catch on or chip into Roblox’s market share.

…Anything else I could talk about? Well, Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel, the latest free-to-play rendition of the trading card game, came out two weeks ago, and a bunch of people have been playing it. Not me though, but seeing this game made me nostalgic for the franchise. While I never cared all too much for the show, I collected the cards as a child, had binders full of them, and I would build decks for fun, but I never played the card game more than a few times. 

However, Yu-Gi-Oh! was, and is, more than just a card game. It is a multimedia project with multiple TV series, merch, and a bunch of iconography. To me, the characters, designs, and general vibe of the series is what allowed it to persist for so long, and it’s what keeps many people coming back. It was from this halcyon era where companies could build media empires based on critter designs. While critter-centric franchises still exist to this day, they rarely get to the multimedia phase, and seldom ever achieve international acclaim. 

Though, that is more due to greater cultural issues, fragmentation of media, tastes changing with time, and Pokémon monopolizing the whole iconic critter concept. Which is a bit of a shame, as I might actually like the monster designs of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Digimon a bit more than Pokémon, as they get uglier and have less of a style guide. However, this does make them far less marketable… Now I’m just imagining a fat Pikachu wearing jorts, with war paint on their face, and two gatling guns for arms. Because if there was anything that prevented Digimon from taking off, it was stuff like Gargomon! …And a character who was called BlackWarGreymon.

In my head, Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon are all living together in the same dorm room, so there is bound to be a lot of crossover between the three.

Anyway, thank you for visiting my gulag. I’ll see you next week with a bit of self-indulgence known as Psycho Bullet Festival 2222.

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