A Complete Newbie Explores Blockchain Gaming
With her first virtual event under her belt, it’s time for Jazz to dip her toes into one of the most popular elements of the NFT industry – play-to-earn gaming.
When I say I’m not a gamer, I really mean I’m not a gamer. Despite my childhood attempts to like Crash Bandicoot as much as all the other kids, my adolescent desire to fit in when my friends played Mario Kart, and my recent attempt to play Overcooked at the request of my partner, I just can’t get into it.
I’m finding, however, that I can’t write about NFTs without writing about blockchain games, and I can’t do that without actually playing them – and so once again I’ve been drawn into a world of RPGs, racers and card games that I thought lay fixedly in my past.
This time, however, there’s an incentive that Crash Bandicoot just couldn’t offer.
Play-to-Earn (P2E) is a phenomenon that is revolutionising gaming and, given my recent investment in the world of NFTs, is suddenly a very appealing aspect of a hitherto unappealing hobby. Aside from the joy of gameplay, there’s a veritable fortune to be made from reselling game assets on the secondary market, as well as earning tokens that can be exchanged for cold hard cash, and I won’t pretend that I don’t like the sound of that.
So, off I went to figure out how to become a gamer. The truth is, I’m a lover, not a fighter, so games that involve any kind of conflict are automatically anxiety-inducing to me. Couple that with a complete lack of hand-eye coordination, at least when it comes to gaming controllers, and you can see why I never got on board with gaming in general. If I can’t button-mash, then I’m not interested.
The Adventurer’s Guild
For that reason, I decided to start with something that wouldn’t require any skill with a controller, and immediately found the perfect thing.
I’d already heard a lot about The Adventurer’s Guild (TAG) on Discord and Twitter, as well as witnessing the ever-present and helpful creator himself, and, as a Discord-hosted, text-based RPG, it was exactly what I needed to dip my toes into the world of blockchain gaming.
I spent a handful of WAX on a Beta Pass NFT and set off to connect my wallet and start my adventures. I had no idea what to expect, but I found myself immediately fighting goblins and slimes and training up for the quests that would await me.
Aside from being a lover, I’m also a big reader, and the words on the screen came to life in my head, making it a remarkably rich experience. The sharp-fanged, pointy-eared, ghoul-eyed goblins in my mind would put any graphics engine to shame.
Surprisingly, I still felt that rush in my chest as I struck out with my imaginary fists against my imaginary enemy, but it was less anxiety than excitement. I even found myself thinking things like ‘Suck it, goblin!’ with genuine gusto.
After completing my initial training, it was time for my first quest, and, embarrassingly, I promptly died in a battle against a wooden chest. This was a good sign that it was time to equip myself a little better, and that’s where the NFTs come in.
I’d already earned a Branch NFT during one training battle, and felt a little jolt of glee at seeing it appear automatically in my WAX wallet. Unfortunately though, without a couple more elements I couldn’t craft any weapons. The noble choice would have been to keep training until I’d earned a few more NFTs, but impatience got the better of me, so off I trotted to the secondary market to find myself something nice and shiny and deadly.
I perused my many options before happily forking over a mere 20 WAX (about $5), and my Adventurer was now ready to face that dastardly chest with a Burning Javelin.
I battled my way through several other foes too, accompanied by plenty of internal exclamations of ‘Take that, Slime!’ and ‘This Mimic is a bastard!’ and I must say I had an excellent time.
When I emerged victorious with the villager’s stolen magic boots, I was rewarded handsomely with half a GUILD – the TAG token earned through gameplay, and exchangeable for WAXP and other tokens.
That reward mechanism, along with the excitement of battling foes, makes for an addictive experience, and at the end of my first session, I’d completed my allotted 10 quests and earned back a small fraction of what I’d spent on my weapon, as well as the title of Level 5 Adventurer.
Emboldened by my victory, I decided it was time to try something else. Splinterlands is a name that’s unavoidable once you enter the blockchain gaming world – the fantasy card game is one of the most well-established in this space and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Although I got into Pokémon cards as I kid, I have to admit that I’ve never played a trading card game in my life – I just liked collecting things. For that reason, I started out with some practice battles – to get a taste before investing in the Summoner’s Spellbook required to play the game proper and start earning.
For someone who’s played Magic: The Gathering, or Hearthstone, this sort of game will probably come as second nature, but for me it was a whirlwind of Summoners and elements and Mana points that surprised me with their complexity and layers. Soon, though, I started to get a feel for the basics and, once again, found myself muttering curse words to myself whenever my opponent killed one of my cards, and cheering whenever I returned the favour.
What’s interesting about Splinterlands is that the gameplay itself is automatic, playing out without any user interaction, which means it’s all in the pre-game strategy. The more you play the game, the better you know your cards, and the more strategic your decisions can be. That sort of preparation literally pays off when each winning game is rewarded with in-game tokens.
If I wanted to take advantage of its Play-To-Earn nature, I could complete daily quests to win NFTs, packs, tokens, or in-game currency.
Splinterlands is one of the heavy-hitters in terms of earning potential, and if you’re into that sort of thing, you can make a very pretty penny from such a hobby. This became painfully apparent when I stumbled across their secondary card market, and saw some cards priced in the five figures. That information alone left my head spinning and I exited quickly before I was tempted to throw in the towel on this writing gig and leave you, dear reader, without an end to this story.
After regaining my bearings, I finally felt I was ready to try my hand at something in three dimensions.
I’d been hearing about Costume Clash since the moment I landed in the WAX NFT space, and had already witnessed the racer’s gameplay many times on various Twitch streams.
As a former noughties emo-kid, the Halloween-themed game is actually right up my alley, and my partner, ecstatic that I was finally showing an interest, gifted me a Magicoon NFT. This cute little creature sounds like a raccoon and looks like a cat and, either way, is responsible for driving my car.
So, with my Magicoon in the driver’s seat, and my fingers on my keyboard, I was off! I’d like to report that I whipped through the racetrack with grace and aplomb, elegantly sliding in at first place, but what really happened was that I smashed into every wall I possibly could, and got stuck in a rock several times. I cheered to myself when I crossed the finish line, despite coming in last, because, honestly, it was an achievement for me to make it there at all.
Although I continued to get myself stuck in a lot more rocks in subsequent races and basically blow myself up trying to get out, I can say I’m already a huge fan. There are plenty of fun, colourful, themed maps to race through, populated by a smattering of head-nods towards other projects in the WAX space. This, once again, illustrates just how supportive and inclusive the WAX crowd is, and gives me an extra incentive to keep playing Costume Clash and digging deeper into this community.
Speaking of incentives, just by owning my Magicoon, I earned a handful of Hallow Cores, which I can cash out for WAXP if I want to, and, if I eventually get myself away from those rocks, I can compete in weekly leaderboards for NFT rewards. There’s already a whole microculture springing up around the battle for first place, and I’ve witnessed, live, the intense but playful races between users intent on reaching that coveted position.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Blockchain gaming is expanding rapidly, and, whilst some of the games I started with required buying entry to start earning (or having a generous boyfriend with a spare Magicoon), many titles are free-to-play, making the barrier to entry virtually zero.
While I might not be a gamer at heart, I’ve certainly rethought my previous disinterest in this space – and it’s not just the earning potential that’s convincing me.
I’ll be honest and say that I was almost late in completing this article because I got caught up in the ‘research’ portion of things – battling goblins, and learning my cards, and trying desperately to avoid rocks. I guess that’s a good sign that I may have found a new hobby in blockchain gaming after all.