Cryptogames Have Forgotten How to be Fun

A Guest Post from Kai Turner (@kaigani)

There was a time before game developers primarily thought about in-app purchases and monetization, when the starting concept for a game was to figure out how to make something fun. Developers used to think about a player’s motivation, sense of progression, achievement and accomplishment, as well as overall narrative design, and how the game should have a beginning, middle and an end.

Then Apple came along and convinced everyone that games were worth 99¢ or nothing at all (free-to-play) and developers had to figure out how to make money. This brought into existence a whole host of dark patterns, which are essentially not a fun part of playing the game, but exist to encourage people to pay for the game incrementally or after they are otherwise ‘hooked’. These dark patterns are so prevalent now, that most gamers probably take them for granted. Games are easy to play at the start, and then increasingly run out of ‘gas’ until you wait, or pay for more of whatever unlocks the game progression. Timers and countdowns keep you from progressing through the game too quickly; crafting requirements increase exponentially with each level.

These dark patterns not only aren’t fun, they are designed to make games run endlessly – to keep you on a treadmill where hopefully you’ll make small in-app purchases to keep going. The endgame is likely that you’ll just get bored and stop playing.

Sadly, this model of game design has become a natural fit for developers thinking of making cryptogames: simply replace in-app purchases with the purchase of a tokenized item, or character, or ‘gas’ that lets you make items in the game. The success of these games is measured by the volume of trade in the online marketplace.

So these are less about being games and more about being cryptocurrency derivatives.

I would like to suggest a different model – that people make games that are fun to play, where the tokenized asset is a customizable keepsake that comes from having finished the game. In other words, the game generates collectibles – and people would hesitate to sell them (and thereby attribute their value) because they are the reward for a much loved game.

One console game that comes to mind as an example of this is ‘Dark Souls.’ Known for its unforgiving gameplay, and equally the rewarding sense of accomplishment for having advanced through the game – you end up with a distinctly customized character, shaped by how you chose to equip yourself throughout the game. Winners of the game can add their avatar to the Hall of Fame, and you can see a gallery of all the leading players. That Hall of Fame could be tokenized– those characters would be your NFTs in the cryptogaming space, not the equipment and currency that got them there.

My advice for anyone approaching developing a new cryptogame would be to first make a fun, unique and compelling game (there is a rich indie gamedev community flourishing outside of the crypto world for lots of inspiration) – and once you have a game, figure out how to make elements of it collectible as tokens.


Kai is an Innovation leader and Product Designer; he’s generally interested in the physical-to-digital space and is working on a side-project to that end. He has a few patents pending in the crypto space, and previously helped crack the CryptoKitties DNA code. 🐱