Crypto is not an incremental innovation. Rather, it unlocks fundamentally new ways of doing things that were not possible before. This is true across a wide set of domains: corporations reimagined as decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), traditional financial vehicles reimagined as permissionless DeFi protocols, legal agreements reimagined as smart contracts, and other constructs that we don't even have the language to describe yet.
The most interesting and important applications of crypto will lean heavily into the new affordances provided by blockchain technology, instead of just offering incremental improvements to existing applications. This is the same pattern that we've seen with previous computing platforms: smartphones, the World Wide Web, and the personal computer itself. In each of these examples, the longest-lasting and most impactful applications of the tech use the tech to do new things, not to do old things better. Think social media apps versus newspaper websites, online stores versus digital catalogs, or interactive TV versus... well, the Internet.
What does this mean for crypto gaming?
Gaming is a leading indicator on up-and-coming technologies. Games are a technically demanding yet relatively low-stakes environment to explore scalability and usability problems early in a technology platform's lifecycle: security and compliance concerns in games are less critical compared to more "serious" commercial or financial applications, often allowing for faster iteration loops. So while the untrained eye might dismiss a platform with "just" a bunch of games as frivolous, the discerning will recognize that this state is a valuable testing grounds. How many mobile interaction patterns and habits have their roots in early mobile games like Doodle Jump, Cut the Rope, and Angry Birds?
If we accept that games are a leading indicator of new technologies, and that the most interesting applications of new technologies will lean into truly new affordances rather than incremental improvements, then it follows that the bleeding edge of crypto application design in the next few years will be found in crypto-native games.
A crypto-native game is a game that maximally embraces the architectural patterns and ethos of blockchain application development:
Notably, we do not consider the following "crypto-native games":
This is not to say that only crypto-native games can be successful (commercially or artistically), while games that use blockchain in weaker ways cannot. However, crypto-native games are the most important games to look at if we want to understand the long-term implications of blockchain tech.
These games seek to unlock mechanics that are fundamentally new, rather than just making incremental improvements on existing games. They provide us with sandboxes—microcosms of the integrated digital worlds of the future—to see how these mechanics play out. And finally, they are probably most well-positioned in the long term to leverage the unique new incentive mechanisms and ownership models unlocked by blockchains.
In future posts, we'll discuss a few of these new affordances that we think will be especially important, and the ways that we're using ZK Games like Dark Forest to prove these out conceptually.