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Tales from the Crypto | Listener Response: Crypto in the Gaming World

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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In this episode of Endless Thread, we hear from a listener who sent an email response to our Tales from the Crypto series. They make the case that crypto and NFTs could improve the video game industry, even though they aren't a typical crypto fan. Ben and Amory also give their final thoughts and reflections on our series, Tales from the Crypto.

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Full Transcript:

This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text. 

Ben Brock Johnson: Do you feel good about yourself, Amory?

Amory Sivertson: Gosh, in what aspect of my life? That's a big question.

Ben: Well, I mean, you made us do this series. This was your idea.

Amory: Oh, gosh.

Ben: So, how do you feel about it? Do you feel good about yourself? Are you happy?

Amory: There were some mornings there were some mornings when we were working on this that I woke up and was like. “Damn it, Amory.” (Laughs.) Just rolls right off the tongue, and I feel it in my core.

Ben: No, I'm glad. I'm glad that you convinced us to make this because. It just won't stop. The crypto news don't stop.

Amory: Crypto don't quit.

Ben: Crypto don't quit. No. Biggest headline this week, do you know what it is? It was on the radio this morning. I'm sure you were listening dutifully as I do.

Amory: No, I actually don't know what it was.

Ben: Kim Kardashian.

Amory: Oh, yeah. She, uh, NFT…

Ben: Sure.

Amory: I don't remember what it was exactly. It's been a long day.

Ben: Kim Kardashian has to pay a fine to the SEC.

Amory: That's right.

Ben: To the tune of $1.3 million, thereabouts.

Amory: Chump, chump change.

Ben: Chump change for Kim Kardashian. Because she promoted an NFT token…

Amory: Without disclosing that she had been paid to do.

Ben: So on Instagram, she's paid a quarter of $1,000,000 to promote this.

Amory: Wow.

Ben: And now she has to pay that back plus a mil.

Amory: Okay. So to her, that's like a nickel and a quarter.

Ben: Well, how do you feel? I mean, do you feel like after all of this discussion of crypto and Ukraine, crypto and people buying islands, El Salvador. Do you feel like you know more and do you feel better about crypto?

Amory: Well, better is very squishy in this case. What I've been thinking about recently is that when we started this series, crypto had not fallen. Why are you laughing at me?

Ben: No, because it was like 10,000 years ago.

Amory: Yeah, 10,000 years ago. In 10,000 B.C., crypto had not fallen. We had not had the crypto crash yet. That's how long ago.

Ben: Yeah.

Amory: We started this series and so I've thought a lot about how it would be if the ways in which it would be different if crypto was still if you know, currencies like Bitcoin especially were still flying high.

Ben: Yeah.

Amory: When we put the series out.

Ben: Bitcoin's down like 70% I think.

Amory: Right.

Ben: I keep going back to this thing that Ed Zitron said. He said, “Imagine money, but worse.”

Amory: (Laughs.) Yeah.

Ben: It's like, I feel like he was so cutting. Also, we got some heat from some people about the crypto kids episode because we were accused of being glad-handy with the kids like congratulatory with the kids for, or just like...

Amory: Like their…

Ben: …too nice to the kids for their success. Which is kind of funny because like, I don't feel like that episode felt all that nice in some ways. Like, I actually, I felt a little guilty about just maybe pointing out some of the awkwardness and like listening to Miss Teen Crypto and, and then having Ed Zitron come in and I think he called it “utter pablum nonsense.”

Amory: Mm.

Ben: Um, so I don't, you know, and. Oh, here's one other thing. Ever since we started putting out, putting this stuff out, my crypto spam through the roof.

Amory: Really?

Ben: I'm getting, I'm getting spammed on Telegram, which is something I never use. I'm a, I'm a Signal guy myself.

Amory: Okay.

Ben: I got added to a Telegram channel the other day about crypto. Someone just put me in the channel, and I started getting notifications. I kid you not. It was like bling bling, bling bling, bling, bling, bling, bling. My phone was blowing up. I've never been that popular.

Amory: I mean, would I have managed to avoid this? But I don't have a Telegram or a Signal.

Ben: Dude. So it's starting to be in my tweets, my mentions now. The crypto has crept in the crypto creeps.

Amory: So how do you feel about us doing this series? Are you glad we did it?

Ben: No, I am. I mean, I feel like it's one of those things. It's just it goes back to this sort of age old thing that we always land on, which is like it's a tool. It can be used for good. It can be used for evil, I think. We always want to see people use new technologies to empower themselves and each other and care more about themselves and each other and. Unfortunately, that's rarely the case.

Amory: I think part of my, my general feelings was that the root of my feelings about a lot of this is that I don't like big money. So the pursuit of big money, just for the sake of big money without a, you know, like I'm going to make $1,000,000 and then I'm going to build a school without…

Ben: Yeah.

Amory: You know, without a vision, whatever that vision may be, and maybe, maybe people have it. But I think that I have maybe unfairly linked big crypto wins with big aimless money. That is just big money for the sake of being big money.

Ben: Hard agree.

Amory: I think where I land with it is that crypto is a tool that we have not figured out – and so is money – that we have not figured out how to have. Like a responsible, fulfilling, productive relationship with, that actually does do more good than harm. You know what I mean?

Ben: Beautifully said. Just a minute ago you said the pursuit of big money, but it sounded to me like you said “the pursuit of big bunny and basically all of my smiling.

Amory: But I do believe in…

Ben: Right, all my smiling is that, is like knowing that that's the case. Like Amory is not down with the pursuit of big money, but she's definitely down with the pursuit of big bunny.

Amory: Yeah.

Ben: Well, okay, we have mixed feelings about this. Yeah, but I think what we should do is we should call up the redditor who wrote us, and was like, hey, I'm not the type of person you would think to be pro-crypto and pro-NFTs…

Amory: Mmhm.

Ben: …but I am. And here's why. And she's a listener. She wrote to us. Her name is Shelby. I think she's in Philly. Let's call her.

Amory: Great.

(Ringtone.)

Ben and Amory: Hi Shelby.

Shelby: Hey hi.

Ben: Hi.

Amory: We should have done that more in harmony, Ben.

Ben and Amory: (Sings.) Hi Shelby.

Ben: I thought you were going to go down.

Amory: I did go down.

Amory: Is this a good use of your time, Shelby?

Shelby: Yeah!

[SPONSOR BREAK]

Ben: First of all, thank you for listening to our show.

Amory: Yes, big time.

Ben: Shelby, can you give us what we would call a quick self-ID? So who you are, where you are, what you do.

Shelby: I'm Shelby. I'm from Philadelphia, and I am a geographic information systems analyst.

Ben: Tell us why you were inspired to write to us.

Shelby: Yeah. Okay, so um, so blockchain crypto. It's weird stuff that a lot of people have a lot of feelings about.

Ben: Mmhm.

Shelby: I'll also caveat that I write to podcasts I listen to semi-often.

Ben: Well, that's why you're a true gem.

Amory: I love that.

Ben: That makes you a true gem right there.

Shelby: They usually just get, like, stock replies that are like, Thank you for listening. So, this was a really exciting one.

Ben: Well, also, it proves we're not special, Amory, so remember that. Yeah.

Amory: No, she writes, she's writing another podcast right after this.

Ben: All right. Cool, cool, cool.

Shelby: But, yeah, so, I'll preface my setting of where I am. This bookshelf is full of Pokémon cards, and the floor next to it is Pokémon cards…

Ben: Whoa…

Shelby: …and there's some other cards, but it's mostly Pokémon cards. It's a lot of, it's thousands of dollars of Pokémon cards.

Ben: Okay, what's your coolest? I don't know anything about Pokémon, but what's the coolest, what's your most valuable Pokémon card?

Shelby: So the thing is, I've been collect – you know, I started collecting Pokémon cards when I was a kid. So, I have like the old ones. I don't have any I don't have any grade ten holographic first edition Charizards unfortunately.
Amory: But what about a Jigglypuff?

Shelby: I've got plenty of Jigglypuffs.

Amory: Okay.

Shelby: Got, got some of those. (Laughs.) But I, yeah. So I just, you know, pandemic started. I basically got my like, first like, permanent adult job post grad school during the pandemic. So I found myself with a level of income that I'd never had before in my life…

Ben: Hmm.

Shelby: …and decided to get back into card collecting. Yeah, so I guess I got into Pokémon cards and then there’s like a bunch of online TCG games.

Ben: TCG is…

Shelby: Trading card game.

Amory: Oh, okay.

Ben: I'm going to ask you, if you don't mind to just read us the email that you sent us.

Shelby: Okay. I can do that. All right. Okay.

“Hey, Endless Thread, I'm a big fan of the show, and I was really tickled by the episode about the waterfalls in the Catskills. It felt very nostalgic for me personally. Also want to say that I appreciate the relatively neutral way that you all have been talking about crypto. And I wanted to bring up two perspectives that I assume you've come across in your research but weren't really touched on at all in the show.

I also want to preface both of these with some info about myself: I am 27-years-old, I use she/they pronouns, I am kind of far-left politically, proponent of socialism, into punk rock, I have two cats, and I have a master's degree related to environmental stuff.

I hate money, but we live in a society and money exists and I doubt capitalism is going anywhere anytime soon. One of the most predatory industries these days, and an industry that I'm heavily entrenched in as a consumer is the video game industry.

From micro-transactions in mobile games, to skins in first-person shooters, to digital trading cards for Magic: The Gathering, gamers are trading money for assets that they do not actually own. I've personally spent hundreds of dollars on Pokémon Go and if I were to try selling Pokémon I've caught for real money, my account would be banned.

I think that one of the best-use cases for blockchain, both cryptocurrency and NFTs, is in the video game sphere. A lot of people are strongly against this idea because they're thinking about NFTs and video games as an extension of micro-transactions. But I view it more as a power to the player, alternative to them. In the real world, when I buy Pokémon cards, I own those; I can sell them to other collectors and that's 100% allowed and appropriate and even encouraged. But in Magic: The Gathering Arena, which is the game's online alternative, selling cards is a bannable offense. Gods Unchained is an example of a blockchain card game that uses NFTs, which is similar to Magic: The Gathering Arena where players can either buy using real money or Ethereum card packs, and you can even win them completely for free just by playing the game. And they're not like, crazy prices. They're like $3 a pack. And most cards you get will sell for $0.10 each. If you're lucky, you may get some that sell for $10, $50 or even a couple hundred. And it's basically a 1-to-1 price point as it is in Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon cards, or any other real life trading card game.

The TL;DR for that was that blockchain can partially eliminate exit costs to gaming, and players can sell their assets when they're done with the game, just like with real life games. It also potentially offers a return on investment that usually is reserved for like high, high-level Twitch streamers.

Then I want to talk about proof-of-stake, which is thought to be a crypto thing that is like low environmental impact. So the other much more contested issue is the environmental impact of crypto. The proof-of-work model is bad and expensive, I agree 100%, but more blockchains are switching or coming around based on a proof-of-stake method, which as far as I know and I'm not an expert, but I have read a fair bit about it, is not much more carbon intensive than sort of any other electronic online service like Twitter or Reddit. There's also like there's a blockchain called WAX where a lot of people will use, they'll do sell a lot of like cheap NFT and stuff. I put a little plug here: my friend Crypto Flash sells some really cool art NFTs for like $4 a pop. And they're not those crazy million dollar art things. They're just like, fun, little fun little snippets to support an artist. You know, WAX uses proof of stake, and Ethereum just did a big migration over to the proof-of-stake method as well. And I think that it's something that's overlooked a lot.

While people are largely focused talking about, you know, the OG, they're talking about Bitcoin and its impact. I think it's one of the least interesting blockchains in the space because people don't use it for anything except lots of money, and money is boring.”

Anyway, that's the, that’s the email.

Ben: (Laughs.)

Ben and Amory: Well done.

Ben: Shelby, don't ever stop writing emails to podcasts that’s my suggestion.

Amory: Never stop. I also love that the subject line was “Crypto thoughts from a normal person in parentheses, I swear.”

Shelby: Yeah, that's how I try to preface it. I mean. I'm like, yeah, you know, I'm. I'm like the, I'm like the type of person that's usually very anti-crypto. And I just think if people could like, learn a little bit more about it, they'd, you know, maybe have some different thoughts.

Ben: Shelby. I love that. Thank you very much. Please don't allow Pokémon cards to completely take over your 700 square foot house unless you want that.

Shelby: And we're moving to a bigger house soon, so.

Ben: Oh, okay.

Amory: Oh boy, oh boy.

Ben: Just because you needed more space for, for Pokémon cards, right? You needed a bigger, better reason.

Shelby: That was the only reason.

Amory: We’re going to need a bigger shelf.

Ben: All right. On that note. Thanks, y'all. Thanks for listening to our crypto series.

Amory: And write to us.

Ben: Write us the emails.

Amory: Yeah.

Ben: Yeah, all right. Talk to you next week.

Amory: Goodbye.

Ben Brock Johnson Twitter Executive Producer, Podcasts
Ben Brock Johnson is the executive producer of podcasts at WBUR and co-host of the podcast Endless Thread.

More…

Amory Sivertson Twitter Senior Producer, Podcasts
Amory Sivertson is a senior producer for podcasts and the co-host of Endless Thread.

More…

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