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World-centric Blockchain Games as Playgrounds for Radical Markets

[The following post is taken from this repository which tracks on-going development of the ideas presented here. This essay was also posted on the RadicalxChange blog.]

Blockchain World-Centric Games

We propose a new perspective for building blockchain games based on world-centric game design. World-centric design emphasizes game mechanics that create a dynamic and interesting world rather than game mechanics that serve the player experience. For example, the table below illustrates world-centric versions of common place game mechanics:

player-centric mechanics world-centric mechanics
replenishing resources finite resources
revival permanent death
fast travel cartesian topology (no fast travel)
NPC marketplaces player run marketplaces

Blockchain is an ideal environment for building world-centric games. Decentralization, self-sovreignty and code-as-law are foundational principles of the platform. Thus, the blockchain game experience is ultimately driven by the emergent reality of its code rather than the intentions of its developers.

Furthermore, real-world incentives drive player decision making. Primary and secondary markets will fairly and entirely determine the value of any in-game asset. Thus, world-centric blockchain games are also dynamic virtual economies. These economies are exchangeable for and measurable in real world fiat.

From a traditional game design point of view, transactions in blockchain games are understood as in-game actions. For the player, this interface is unfamiliar, expensive, and generally speaking a bad experience. Instead, we suggest understanding in-game actions as economic transactions of a rational player controlled agent. This interpretation seems promising if we consider the fact that blockchain games have yet to gain major traction whereas cryptocurrency exchanges process millions of transactions each day.

Finally, along with fiat-measurable assets, world-centric virtual worlds also safely generate valuable data as models for new markets with mechanism design limited only by the developer’s imagination. In this regard, real world value flows into the game while innovative market driven narratives flow out. At worst, these are exciting stories for players to share; at best, these experiences might inform our real world economic policies.

This is best summarized in the following diagram:

At the start, external capital collateralizes the player’s attention (perhaps through game sales, an ICO, airdrop, or plain marketing) and bootstraps the virtual world’s economy.

With its initial state set, players compete and collaborate in the virtual world ultimately growing its economy and generating stories of value.

These virtual worlds can serve as playgrounds for new forms social organization. The stories can provide valuable data on new economic mechanisms that might serve us in practice.

We summarize the goals of world-centric blockchain game design as follows:

  1. To create self-sustaining economies where players compete and collaborate to grow an economically driven world narrative.
  2. That these virtual worlds are dynamic, interesting and fun for players to explore.
  3. That these virtual worlds can safely model radical markets and provide valuable data.

Applications

Here we highlight just some mechanisms that we think are well-suited to be deployed in a world-centric game.

The design documents in this repository incorporate variations of the Harberger tax, quadratic voting, and environmental markets in their mechanics.

Existing Work

Whereas the explicit viewpoint of blockchain as a playground for world-centric game design to generate data on new economic mechanism is new, the practice of such is in fact not. Interleaving each new chain and ICO is a complex, dynamic and emergent web of new relations that play out like a game. Each chain or exchange is a portal into its world. Each whitepaper is like a character sheet outlining what role the organization aspires to play. Each enthusiast, developer, trader or investor is an independent agent trying to collaborate, and compete in the space.

This is why we feel confident that the world-centric perspective is presently the best angle for games to grow constructively into the space of blockchain. If blockchain is indeed the paradigm shifting technology it purports to be, its applications themselves must be incommensurable with existing understanding.

Example

The PotatoCraft design document outlines a detailed example of a world-centric blockchain game. It incorporates variations of the Harberger tax, quadratic voting, and environmental markets in its mechanics. Readers are encouraged to expand upon these or come up with their own world-centric game designs.

I’ll conclude with a high level overview of PotatoCraft which illustrates the depth and potential of what is possible.