From Players to Gods: Games & Autonomous Worlds
Gaming has always operated at the absolute cutting edge of technology. The earliest video games (think Pong, Space Invaders, Doom, Quake) were deceptively simple, but pushed the limits of early computer graphics and network capabilities—eventually birthing companies like NVIDIA, which would go on to revolutionize not only the gaming industry, but technology entirely. Gaming continues to be a meaningful playground for frontier technologies today, from AI/ML to blockchains to VR/AR. However, to understand exactly where and how these technologies can fundamentally improve games requires a first principles understanding of games themselves. In this post, I’d like to deconstruct the elements of a game and explore opportunities to actually make them more immersive and ultimately, fun.
“‘What is a game?’ Marx said. ‘It's tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. It's the possibility of infinite rebirth, infinite redemption. The idea that if you keep playing, you could win. No loss is permanent, because nothing is permanent, ever.’” - Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, Gabrielle Levin
Games are a unique art form because they engage one of the most dynamic aspects of humanity—agency. Consider other modes of media such as image or film. While the resulting form of those mediums is the final object, the object of a game is the action itself.
In his classic study of the art of play, Homo Ludens, Johan Huizinga coined the term “the magic circle” which refers to the theory that a game should draw clear distinction from reality. Games create spaces where players willingly subject themselves to new rules and constraints. In this way, games are fundamentally irrational, a suspension of reality. However, these “arbitrary” limitations enable players to experience new forms of agency, allowing them to pursue world conditions that suit their own goals and desires.
While the magic of a game is its abstraction, to understand what truly makes a game tick, you must inspect its wires. Successfully plucking a player out of reality and wholly submerging them in a new world is not a simple or easy feat. Let’s turn our attention to video games which we’ll focus on in this post. A video game is a complex, cybernetic software system in which the player interacts with a machine (console, PC, mobile device), which typically consists of some input device (keyboard, controller, screen) and some sort of UI (screen) which is loaded with the game’s software. Designing a video game then requires careful equilibrium between three principal actors:
- Environment (the game itself)
The Player - Environment - Machine triad is a powerful schema we can use to investigate how to craft lively, conscious games (Part I), before exploring how onchain elements can help further imbue games with new life (Part II).
Part I: A Framework for Understanding Games
THE PLAYER(S): AUTONOMY AND EMERGENCE
The relationship between game developer and game player is a delicate one. The game, a canvas of rules and boundaries, unfolds as a collaborative act, scripted by one and performed by the other.
We can categorize the player experience in two categories: player-to-game and player-to-player.
The player-to-game relationship chiefly concerns itself with how much autonomy is given to a player. After all, we stated earlier that the best part about games is their ability to explore agency. In exchange for willingly submitting themselves to a game’s landscape, the player must be given assurances that in this fictional world, their journey is unique and that their choices matter.
However, there is an interesting tension here. Granting unlimited agency to players actually diminishes the quality of gameplay. Fun emerges from the challenge to creatively problem-solve and push against a game’s boundaries, rules, and limitations. Therein lies the difficulty of giving players autonomy. The relationship between developer and player is a pact forged in code and design. The player seeks the sensation of agency, the belief that their actions have consequences. The developer, meanwhile, must shape these actions, guiding the player along the chosen path, yet artfully concealing the strings that bind.
Emergence is a game design principle closely aligned with autonomy, a balance between structure and agency. Emergence essentially refers to a structure where there are a few, simple rules, but the overall gameplay is designed such that unexpected patterns can still organically surface. Emergent gameplay gives players a sense of ownership and power over a game, allowing them to develop their own unique tools, strategies, and experiences.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a popular open world game where players are given goals, but can explore and interact freely with the entire map and its objects in whatever combination, sequence, and pace they choose. There is never only a single way to achieve goals within the game. If you look up walkthroughs (guilty) for any quest, there will be a wide variety of methods and items players use to accomplish a task.
Alternatively, emergence is often designated to player-to-player interactions in multiplayer games. Give players as much ability to self-organize and coordinate as possible, while arming them with the structure and tools to do so. Different permutations of people then use different tools to make different decisions resulting in different outcomes. EVE Online is a game famous for its emergent properties, designed around how players collaborate.
Aside from collaborative gameplay, emergent player-to-player interaction can be facilitated through virtual economies. A basic virtual economy can be rather simple, but as games get more multiplayer, interactive and complex, such as massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), economies must become more robust in order to function properly.
For example, the virtual economy must be able to adapt to the fluctuating number of players and the resulting inflation from constantly inflowing currency. Games then must create needs to spend currency (completing tasks, buying/trading assets) and the requisite opportunity costs (time/risk to craft/obtain assets or complete tasks). The game also then needs to create mechanisms to manage the supply and demand of resources and crafted assets (rarity, item upgrades/destruction) and their pricing (centralized (NPC) vs. dynamic (player-to-player)). These are just a few examples of potential considerations for virtual economies, but evidently, these economies can be just as, if not more lively, than real-world economies.
Players can also generate new user-generated content (UGC) as a means of emergence. This could include new maps, new assets/items, as well as new markets/economies for newly-introduced features, objects, and mods. A classic example of a game that thrives from UGC is Minecraft where players can spin up new mods/servers and design them with entirely distinct aesthetics, assets, and goals. At some point, the modding may even become the gameplay itself, rather than the original designated game objective.
UGC even includes creating entirely new games, a major driver of innovation in the video game industry. Take Counter-Strike, which is considered one of the best games of all time on Steam (according to user reviews) and one of the most played on the platform (Counter-Strike 2). Counter-Strike began in 1999 as a mod of Half-Life. Valve (creator of Half-Life) would then acquire the rights to the mod and release it as a standalone game in 2000, going on to include several games in the series since then. Dota 2, also currently one of the most played games on Steam, began as a mod for Warcraft III called Defense of the Ancients (DotA) in 2003. DotA would then go on to lay the foundation for the entire multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) category. Valve acquired the rights to DotA (even though Warcraft was originally created by Blizzard) and released Dota 2 in 2013. Auto Chess then started as a community-built mod for Dota 2 called Dota Auto Chess, later becoming a standalone game and the original inspiration for many autobattler games that would soon follow—i.e., Dota Underlords from Valve.
Types of Players
Before putting principles like autonomy and emergence into practice, we must consider that there are different categories of players, each with unique goals, motivations, and preferences for gameplay. Jon Radoff designed a general framework for classifying players, drawing upon the classic work of Richard Bartle.
In this simplified framework, Radoff uses two dominant axes for types of games: number of players and type of rewards. He then identifies the dominant mode of player motivation for each style of game.
Based on these player archetypes, game designers can better assess how different types of players may engage with different types of games and design experiences accordingly. For example, a player who values a more immersive, multiplayer experience may value autonomy and coordination tools more than a player in an achievement-oriented single-player game who may want explicit rewards and point systems. A game might appeal to only one of these player quadrants, while another might try to appeal to a variety of players.
THE ENVIRONMENT: NARRATIVE, GAMEPLAY, PHYSICS
The true essence of a game derives from the interplay of narrative and gameplay in its overall environment. Different genres of games may focus on these components with varying intensity, but they go hand-in-hand.
Adventure games, role-playing games (RPGs), and visual novels usually focus on narrative, the winding story that unfolds as a game narrates lore to the player. Meanwhile other games, like platformers and casual mobile games, tend to be more concerned with gameplay, giving players clear tasks and rules and the means to accomplish them. Different players with different preferences may value narrative and gameplay differently.
In both cases however, the ultimate goal of a game is immersion—successfully drawing the player into the experience:
Narrative immersion: The goal of narrative immersion is to make the player feel like a living entity in the game world; the transition between character and player becomes practically seamless. The keys to narrative immersion are rich storylines and characters with strong personalities or backgrounds. An example of a game with strong narrative immersion but perhaps limited gameplay is Persona 5 Royal, which is structured as a visual novel where the player is taken through a rich, manga-style storyline, but active participation is basically restricted to turn-based combat or limited choices.
Gameplay immersion: Gameplay immersion relies more on engaging tasks, clear rules, and smooth game mechanics. Bad UI and clunky tech are absolute killers of gameplay immersion, where the immersion goal is often to encourage “button-smashing.” Examples of game genres that usually prioritize gameplay include casual mobile games, certain types of combat games, or racing games.
We make the distinction between narrative and gameplay immersion not to say that one is objectively better than the other, but to understand that each form may have different design priorities and tradeoffs. Whether through narrative or gameplay, achieving full game immersion is crucial because this is where players choose to buy into the rules of the game. The player enters willingly, suspending disbelief, embracing the new reality of the virtual world. But the developer must set the stage and provide the tools in order to compel the player.
Digital Physics and Map Design
The way a player fundamentally interacts with a virtual world is determined by its digital physics (a crypto-native term, but we’ll use it more broadly here) and map design.
Digital physics is similar to real-world physics insofar as it creates the baseline constraints for how objects appear, interact with each other (collide), and move through space and time. Sound digital physics are instrumental to keeping players engaged with the narrative, coordinating players, and maintaining a game’s mechanics and performance.
Timekeeping is an important aspect of designing a virtual world not only for sake of gameplay immersion, but also as a core mechanic for how games update. For sake of simplicity, you can generally think of games as turn-based or real-time games. In turn-based games that are basically “I go, then you go,” configuring time is straightforward; time progresses only when certain events and actions occur. However games that are based in realism usually simulate real-time. Effectively simulating continuous time and motion requires the game to update its internal logic/state and the player's console and display to render frames to the player at smooth speeds—known as ticking (tick rate) and framerate (frames-per-second), respectively. These mechanics, usually determined in a game engine, are essential game primitives that can be technically challenging to design across players with different hardware, software configurations, internet speeds, and geographical locations.
In regards to map design, an open world’s topography crucially informs its gameplay. For The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the open world design was actually incredibly difficult to pull off. During development, the team had to completely redesign the terrain of the game world in order to nudge players towards different parts of the map without giving them marked paths.
Climate is also closely related to topography and can be used as a core mechanic of a game. A game’s climate can trigger certain characters, events, and challenges, or it can even dictate a player’s pace. In Zelda, weather is a very contentious topic that drives discussion and community among players. Many players appreciate how immersive and realistic the effect is, while others find it extremely inconvenient and unnecessary.
THE MACHINE: FORMAT AND CROSSPLAY
The machine is the primary conduit through which players can express physicality in a virtual world. Remember, we began this exploration by describing a video game as a cybernetic software system in which the player and machine play each step of the game together. Innovation at the machine-level inevitably bubbles up to its environment and players.
Machines, historically, informed much of game design. Consider the arcade game—often played in a public place where play is restricted and timebound. These games often are designed around the concept of finite lives whereas computer/console games require a single purchase and then can be played freely on one’s own device. These games are often measured by health score, rather than finite lives, allowing longer, more flexible gameplay including incremental power-ups, pauses, and saves. Similarly consider the advent of mobile games, where games are often designed around scrolls or fluid finger motions rather than clicks or button-smashing combinations.
As a counter-example to the importance of the machine-game relationship, mobile gaming and multi-platform/cross-platform support have emerged over the past few years as paradigm-shifting developments.
Crossplay will likely prove instrumental to the next decade of video game development at-large due to the pressure it places on gaming studios and publishers both from technical and distribution standpoints. Technically speaking, each platform from PlayStation to Nintendo consoles to mobile has different technical and graphics requirements that make adapting games to be multi-platform a nontrivial lift. From a distribution standpoint, platforms historically develop moats from the games/IP they offer. For example, most Nintendo games can only be played on Nintendo consoles, meaning Nintendo gains massive IP moats from series such as Mario, Zelda, etc.
While still nascent in development, the convergence of meta-trends like crossplay and mobile gaming drastically limit moats that gaming companies traditionally rely on such as tying IP to consoles, making the probability of a more open, player-driven future for gaming much higher.
Part II: Opportunities for Onchain Gaming
When discussing the intersection of crypto and gaming, the framework often looks something like this:
- Web 2.5: games bring assets (i.e., skins) onchain with NFTs; use ERC20 tokens for in-game currency, and build onchain market infrastructure for assets and tokens; most, if not all, game state/logic is offchain
- Web3: all game state and logic is fully onchain
The reality is that different types of games with different structures and goals are probably better suited for different onchain elements (if any), and it may be better to structure the conversation around game-technology fit rather than rely on a purity spectrum. With the high-level framework for game elements we developed in Part I, we can explore ways that onchain components can improve and revolutionize games.
PHYSICS/ENGINE + GAMEPLAY
The absolute primitive components of a game are its engine and physics—the substrate for designing a virtual world. The more open this level is, the more malleable the levels above it become.
Games built with blockchains at the base layer enable truly open modding, rather than relying on companies to issue composable tooling that they can close at any time or underground hacking (jailbreaking, reverse-engineering) that cannot easily scale. With natively open modding, players can permissionlessly and directly contribute to virtual worlds they already love, rather than having to create separate, derivative environments from scratch—and they can continue to do so until the end of time, regardless of any permissions or whether or not the original client continues to exist. Similarly, bringing all game state and logic onchain opens the design space for permissionless new clients which can even be built cross-platform, a usually centralized and demanding task as discussed earlier.
We’ve already seen onchain modding manifest in games such as Dark Forest. Without core developer intervention, players have created new marketplaces, guilds, game modes, and an entire library of plugins, all of which are onchain.
Compare this to earlier examples of modding we considered, where a general pattern appears: company provides game tooling (Warcraft World Editor, Half-Life SDK, Dota 2 Workshop, etc.) → community builds mod (Counter-Strike, DotA, Dota Auto Chess) → IP gets acquired by a big company and is released as a stand-alone, closed game. The overall effect of this dynamic is fragmentation and cold-start problem for newer games, versus having the ability to seamlessly extend an existing world.
There is a more existential question to be asked, however: Do players genuinely want more control and autonomy over their games? The nuanced answer here is that there will likely be players that prefer games that look more like curated theme parks and players that prefer games that look more like buildable cities. Neilson has an excellent meditation over the complex role of player autonomy in games here:
“Players are becoming designers, creating new rules for the game, automating new players, creating new autonomies—a process of positive feedback. [...] There are games in which players play at design while still remaining firmly inside the game, RollerCoaster Tycoon and Fortnite are somewhat like this. That is ok. However, when a player is fully able to change the rules of a game, they are no longer inside it. That is also ok. To truly make players into designers is to upend the game entirely.”
Perhaps the most material implication of open modding for core game developers is that they must pay careful, close attention to determining which constraints and details of a world must be formally and strictly defined (i.e., laws of time and physics, alchemy of materials, etc.) and which details may have softer boundaries and be open to change. The immutability of blockchains means that the original developer can still instantiate permanent rules that ensure the integrity of the virtual world; after the introduction of these rules, no party can alter them.
In some ways, these capabilities bring a game even closer to reality than further from it—allowing players and developers to build, interact, and coexist in a lively world that still remains stable and unyielding in its core fabric of reality. These ”Autonomous Worlds” may very well defy our perceptions of not only games, but of digital spaces entirely.
There are many complex challenges to bringing game physics—namely time, state, and collision—onchain. We covered some of the basics of timekeeping and the challenges it presents, but bytes and yonada detail in-depth considerations for onchain timekeeping in their post “Timekeeping For Digital Gods.” To summarize: implementing ticking in a blockchain context based on discrete blocks and transactions is not a trivial task.
There are currently workaround solutions to these challenges such as custom rollups to implement ticking, designing games around unsynced time, or more broadly “lazy updates,” but each approach comes with its own complexities and is still in early experimentation.
Another interesting consideration for building onchain games is the challenge of incorporating hidden information into a global, shared environment (blockchains). Hidden information is a major cornerstone of gameplay. The thrill of a game is making strategic decisions despite not knowing the statuses of your opponent(s) or what treasures/traps the virtual world may hold in store. This becomes especially crucial when you consider that developers have open access to onchain game state and data and can build other features atop them.
Dark Forest used ZK to tackle hidden information, enabling the game to verify critical information, like player and asset location, while keeping the information hidden from other players. This method of verifying and storing game state without publicly sharing that information is critical to making games like MMOs and real-time strategy games (RTSs) work onchain.
While there are certainly challenges to hiding information onchain, there are also net-new unlocks that are enabled by a new form of data privacy. Intuitively speaking, the more data you have to work with, the better you can program games dynamically and expressively. And the more that that data is also able to be kept secret, the more that the data can be utilized without disrupting gameplay or compromising user privacy (i.e., more robust third-party clients because game states are provable).
The set of privacy tools for games is quickly expanding, incorporating other cryptographic mechanisms like MPC, TEEs, and interactive shielding. However these fields remain nascent, expensive, slow, and overall difficult to implement.
NARRATIVE/LORE + UGC/P2P COORDINATION
An immersive world fosters an engaged community that desires to contribute and proliferate its narrative. The popularity of fanfiction sites like Wattpad (acquired by Naver in 2021 for $600M), Fanfiction.net (12M+ registered users), or Archive of Our Own (6M+ published stories) make this clear.
With the ability to co-author a virtual world comes the power to build its lore in much more meaningful ways. Related to our earlier discussion around emergence, players can contribute to a game’s lore in two principal and often overlapping ways:
- User-generated content (UGC)
- Player-to-player (P2P) coordination
We spoke previously about UGC mostly in terms of building entirely new games and assets, but UGC can also materialize in much simpler ways—creating new stories, theories, memes.
Another Zelda example: Koroks, although a relatively small character in the game, became a major theme for many players. In Tears of the Kingdom, players were able to interact with Koroks more “creatively” than in Breath of the Wild, unleashing a swath of player engagement around a feature mostly inconsequential to the main game.
Traditionally, these forms of UGC exist in siloed, side forums like Reddit but more decentralized, open games offer opportunities for players to integrate UGC more directly and expressively into games without permissioned access. However, it’s important to note that open access does not render incremental features such as creator tooling, content-exchange, and content moderation irrelevant. If anything, making these tools accessible to a wider audience becomes more essential.
Player-to-player coordination is another primary channel of lore-building. Player-to-player coordination can vary from chatting on side forums in Reddit to game-native chat rooms or collaborative core gameplay. Much of the lore in EVE Online was developed by stories about its players, rather than the game itself. There’s even entire books detailing the various wars players have independently waged against each other in EVE Online. It’s also worth mentioning that EVE Online announced the development of a game in 2023 called Project Awakening, which will leverage blockchain technology.
Making community-developed and community-owned features like UGC and P2P coordination first-class game citizens creates a core dynamic shift between game stakeholders. Usually, major companies and game developers are trusted to design a game with adequate guardrails and considerations for fun and safe gameplay. However, the more a game is community-driven, the more that power shifts to players, creating the need for strong mechanisms around player governance and identity.
Governance tools are paramount for games that are team-based or inherently collaborative in nature, enabling players to effectively self-organize into teams, organizations, guilds, etc. Informal governance tools largely already exist in games today but making these tools more powerful and programmatic becomes more crucial as games become increasingly open and community-driven.
Governance tokens are an existing model for more open and organized governance that have yet to be fully utilized in games, specifically. A more exploratory vision for game governance tools are mechanisms that allow players to directly govern a game’s code. For example, players that obtain a level of achievement in a game (through the accrual of tokens or otherwise), could be programmatically granted more access to the core mechanics of a game.
A precursor to effective player governance is robust tooling and mechanisms for identity and reputation. Most gaming platforms have methods for players to build profiles, but in a world in which 1) games persist beyond single platforms (cross-platform play), 2) more independent and community-developed games/forums gain industry power (driven by more open tooling and open play), and 3) games generally become more player-driven, identity must become extensible and interoperable.
Onchain identity tools—ranging from cross-platform wallets to soulbound tokens (SBTs) to attestations and flexible signatures—enable players to build holistic reputation across games and platforms, to more effectively self-organize and socialize with other players, to discover new relevant games and be identified by new game developers, and to build stronger trust with each other, rather than relying on a central authority to create restrictions or guardrails within single games (increasingly difficult in an open-game paradigm).
The most experimentation in onchain gaming has undoubtedly been in onchain economies—colloquially known as GameFi. A very direct method to drive player engagement is to create monetary incentives where upside and downside are demonstrably high. For sake of scope, we’ll focus on games outside of casino game genres.
Game assets such as skins have proven over the past few decades to be a robust market, with certain assets selling for thousands of dollars, and some sources estimating the size of the gaming cosmetics market to be $50B. Platforms like Steam that run asset marketplaces can take fees on these sales and can also direct portions of sales revenue back to game developers. Trading points or in-game currency within games or gaming marketplaces is a much less common and usually banned practice unless trade is native to the game’s economy; doing so is also usually technically impossible without trading account credentials.
Recall that earlier we discussed the complexities of designing a sustainable virtual economy. Currency inflation/deflation, asset supply/demand, and pricing all must be carefully manufactured in order to keep a player engaged and active in the game’s economy. While these parameters are usually strictly and manually controlled by the developer (often for good reason), the appeal of tokenizing in-game assets is that it makes these assets more dynamic. Onchain assets and in-game entities (NPCs) can interact more programmatically and autonomously, making the economy more robust and lively.
Onchain game assets are also more easily updatable, composable and interoperable across games. This is ideal in an open, Kingdom Hearts-type multiverse where players can combine game lore—technically possible in a fully onchain world, but unclear today how narratively feasible that is. Perhaps more realistically, bringing game assets onchain makes it easier to combine, upgrade, and trade assets and characters between players. Onchain game assets also present possibilities for game access controls based on asset ownership.
As a more meta note on tokenizing in-game assets: in a world in which “canon” is fluid and player-driven, it’s perhaps easiest to canonize the introduction of a new asset by attaching “value” to it in the form of a market price (whether purely in-game or real-world).
Early play-to-earn games like Axie Infinity explored at-scale the prospects of bringing game assets onchain (NFTs) in order to earn in-game currency (ERC20s) that could be swapped and withdrawn for fiat currency. However, designing open, sustainable in-game economies is a difficult endeavor when gameplay is bifurcated into players and farmers and retention is highly unpredictable. At its peak, Axie Infinity had almost 2.8M monthly active players, whereas today that number is closer to 300K.
As a traditional gaming example, Diablo III (2012) introduced an auction house for official in-game trading, but was quickly lambasted by players as they felt that the core game loop was completely broken to focus on the auction house. The auction house was later removed.
Other areas for experimentation in onchain gaming economies include prediction markets and more nascent mechanisms like staking and AI-powered components like sentient NPCs and AI-generated assets. For example, ZK and ML could be combined to leverage ML models verifiably in games, creating “sophisticated agents/NPCs and concurrent storylines” as outlined in EZKL’s “ZKML and Autonomous Worlds.”
Onchain game economies also enable powerful flywheels for mod incentives. While most mods in traditional gaming are separate instances, onchain mods allow value to flow programmatically through the core game and back to its contributors—both core game developers and mod developers—creating powerful social and economic network effects. Designing aligned incentives between large gaming companies and players may seem like a secondary concern, but it becomes more important as you zoom out to the meta trends we’re seeing in gaming at-large. Gaming is becoming more player-driven. The moats companies traditionally rely on are being chipped away by developments like mobile gaming, crossplay, and more indie game development and subsequently more digitally-native game discovery. Creating strategies for value alignment between core game developers and their communities will become a crucial requirement for sustainable game development.
Games are a fantastic playground for exploring the applications of frontier technologies, but games first and foremost have one mission: to create fun, immersive experiences for their players.
We built a general framework for understanding the elements of a game, examining the intricate relationships between players, game environments, and machines.
Understanding player autonomy and emergence as fundamental principles highlights the importance of giving players agency while still maintaining the integrity of gameplay. Within a game itself, the interplay between narrative and gameplay must be carefully crafted to create game immersion, with different genres of games prioritizing these components differently. The machine, as the conduit for player interaction, has historically influenced game design, but the rise of cross-platform play is reshaping the gaming landscape. This development reduces the influence of platform-specific IP and challenges game studios to adapt to a more player-driven future.
Looking ahead with this framework in mind, opportunities for blockchain rails to revolutionize gaming emerge:
FOR GAMES THAT ARE BUILT AROUND OPEN MODDING
Robust onchain game engines allow mods to become more composable, enabling players and mod developers to combine and expand upon existing game mechanics and assets seamlessly. This composability creates a flywheel effect for value creation, as modding becomes more accessible and the community grows. Core game developers benefit from the influx of creative content and can even monetize successful mods. Simultaneously, mod developers are still able to benefit from the network effects of existing games, while earning social capital and programmatic rewards for their work.
FOR GAMES DRIVEN BY PLAYER-DRIVER LORE AND COLLABORATIVE GAMEPLAY
Onchain games empower players to become co-authors of their favorite games' lore. They can actively shape and expand the game's narrative, which was previously confined to external venues like fanfiction sites or community forums. This newfound power to contribute directly to a game environment adds depth and new life to the storytelling, enhancing player engagement and immersion. With more player power comes the need for extensible identity and governance tools, which can also be facilitated by onchain mechanisms such as attestations, wallets, and DAO tooling, just to name a few. These tools improve players’ abilities to self-organize and collaborate, whether it's forming teams, guilds, or engaging in cross-platform play. Trust and recognition become more transferable, fostering stronger social bonds among players.
FOR GAMES DRIVEN BY UPGRADEABLE, DYNAMIC GAMEPLAY
Games that rely on dynamic, ever-evolving gameplay can benefit immensely from composable onchain assets. These assets enable faster-paced generation and upgradeability (perhaps aided by generative AI), allowing game developers to introduce new content and mechanics rapidly. Players can adapt and customize their in-game experiences in real-time, keeping gameplay fresh and exciting.
FOR GAMES DRIVEN BY MARKETS AND ECONOMIES
In games where markets and economies play a pivotal role, onchain economies enable markets to dynamically evolve and thrive. Players can trade assets, purchase items, and engage in sophisticated economic activities permissionlessly, with clear real-world value. The ability to convert in-game assets into real-world value adds an exciting dimension to gameplay, attracting a broader audience while providing tangible rewards for players' efforts.
These opportunities were identified within the scope of how we understand games today, which I felt was particularly important for setting the stage and context for what current users and players expect from their games.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that new developments in crypto and other rapidly emerging technologies may create opportunities that we can only dream of—truly testing the limits of not only the question “What is a game?” but also “what is a world?” While the exact details of the future are unclear, it is glaringly obvious that we are hurtling towards a more user-driven paradigm of play. As players and technologists ourselves, we’re excited to explore that future with you.
Thank you to GVN, baz, Tarrence, Lia Zhang, Neilson Koerner-Safrata, Dante Camuto, guiltygyoza, Emerson Hsieh, Brian Cho, Vivek Bhupatiraju and my Archetype colleagues Katherine Wu, Benjamin Funk, Danny Sursock, Nick Pai, Aadharsh Pannirselvam, and Dmitriy Berenzon for thoughtful review and feedback on drafts of this post.
Reference list of sources instrumental to this post:
- Games: Agency As Art by C. Thi Nguyen
- Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture by Alexander R. Galloway
- Gamecraft by Mitch Lasky and Blake Robbins
- “The Open Problems of Onchain Games” by Charlie Noyes and Doug Feagin
- “Autonomy & Automation” by Neilson
- “Infinite Modding” by Rafael Morado
- “Timekeeping for Digital Gods” by bytes and yonada
This post is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute investment advice or a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any investment and should not be used in the evaluation of the merits of making any investment decision. It should not be relied upon for accounting, legal or tax advice or investment recommendations. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment or legal matters. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources, including from portfolio companies of funds managed by Archetype. This post reflects the current opinions of the authors and is not made on behalf of Archetype or its affiliates and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Archetype, its affiliates or individuals associated with Archetype. The opinions reflected herein are subject to change without being updated.