Artist Interview: Sarah Meyohas

Predating the launch of Ethereum by five months, in February 2015 conceptual artist Sarah Meyohas released the first tokenization of art on the blockchain: Bitchcoin. Six years later, the artist has migrated Bitchcoin from its native chain to Ethereum, releasing reserved Bitchcoins backed by art from her seminal Cloud of Petals exhibition at Red Bull Arts New YorkFor this release, Sarah chose to back each Bitchcoin with a unique pressed rose petal, with a supply of 3291. 

480 tokens recently sold at auction in a dedicated Phillips sale, and from Friday 18th June, 200 will be made available on OpenSea at the price of 0.8 ETH (~$2000) each.



“Long before Beeple’s digital collage fetched tens of millions of dollars at auction, Ms. Meyohas was experimenting with using the blockchain technology behind bitcoin to make art.”

Bourree Lam, Wall Street Journal



Tell us about Bitchcoin. How do the physical petals from your previous work come into play?

Since its creation, Bitchcoin has always been fully asset-backed, much like the former U.S. gold standard which once linked paper money to gold reserves in Fort Knox. So for this release, I decided to use the most “gold-like” asset I had, which turned out to be a set of delicate pressed rose petals. They represent the most important project I ever worked on. 

For Cloud of Petals, I had 16 workers meticulously plucking and photographing 100,000 rose petals in the former Bell Labs. The massive dataset they harvested was then used to generate new ai petals. I asked the men to pick one petal per rose that they considered most beautiful, and the petals were then pressed and preserved. From this modern-day happening, many artworks were created: a 30 minute 16mm experimental film, sculptures, and virtual reality scenes of particle systems of petals swarming around you with a custom scent. But it was the 3,291 chosen petals that were the centerpiece of the 2017 exhibition Cloud of Petals at Red Bull Arts New York.

The petals are the documentation of the performance; materially limited and unique, they are the proof-of-work of Cloud of Petals. If one chooses to redeem their Bitchcoin for a physical relic, their coin will be destroyed, or “burned,” establishing the symbiotic value of token and backing. Each Bitchcoin token has a number on the back — the number of the worker, and the number of the petal selected. This number links each token to its unique petal. As each Bitchcoin is backed by a relic from this project, the value of the cryptocurrency is tied to the inarticulable value of art, continuing the symbiotic call and response that established Bitchcoin as one of the world’s earliest NFTs.



The Cloud of Petals trailer


You launched the project in 2015, shortly before the Ethereum blockchain was born. Did you see the potential for NFTs as soon as you learned about the network? 

Yes, and I thought about doing a bigger project, but was not sophisticated enough at the time and got spooked by the first DAO debacle. 

People have always talked about turning art into a security. People have tried unsuccessfully (art funds) and people are still trying (peddling infographics about art being an asset-class uncorrelated to the S&P is really reductive to say the least…). But art doesn’t produce income. It can’t spit out dividends. It’s not a company.

But, art certainly shares similarities with gold. I had always been very interested in the way gold is universally a feedback loop between value in a cultural/religious sense and value in an economic sense. And what also shares similarities with gold? Bitcoin.

Art has some aspects of currency — they are representations that circulate. I really think it makes sense that if you can link art, or any sort of cultural value, to back a token that can circulate easily, then you can unlock a lot of value.


What do you make of recent developments in the space? Are you surprised to see auction houses like Phillips auctioning NFTs?

I am not surprised. First, the auction houses have gone into more of the “collectibles” market generally (they sell Hermes handbags, for example). “Collectibles” have a more direct relationship to their price than an artwork, since collectibles are more comparable. With collectibles, the price is part of the game, part of the hierarchy. With art, the price is obviously there, but it is more obscured, and for good reason.

So it makes sense that an auction house, which has a much bigger purview on what types of goods they can offer, would enter the market. But make no mistake, galleries will show up too, as will every distributor in a “cultural” field.



Sarah Meyohas chats to Mike Novograts


How do you describe the project to traditional collectors? What’s the reception been like?

Traditional collectors understand Cloud of Petals and its engagement with the philosophical questions it raises. They also understand Bitchcoin as an artwork, which can be slotted into a history of artists engaging with value in performance art (like Yves Klein). But putting the two together has some thrown for a loop. They understand that there is something physical, that thousands of hours of labor went into the project, etc. But I start to lose them with the idea of “backing” — of separating the stewardship of the artwork from its existence as a token. 

But the crypto-community is more receptive to understanding that concept, and I really appreciate that. I’ve been honored to have gotten support from Ei Ventures, Shima Capital, Tarun Chitra, Ryan Zurrer, Jehan Chu, etc that really believe in the project.

The crypto community appreciates what I’m proposing — which is that the stewardship of an artwork can be separated from its financial exchange. For so long, painting has been the medium of choice because it is unique, archival, holds the imprint of the artist’s hand, easy to ship, easily comparable, and can be placed in a long history. These are metrics that make it easy for a market to develop. Art that is not a painting has always been more difficult to absorb into the market. How something is exchanged affects what gets valued. 

If NFT’s so far have been used to enable financial value to be attached to digital art, which is otherwise just freely available information….then I have proposal: let’s take it a step further. Use NFTs to assign financial value to artwork that is not easy to collect. Artwork that pushes human understanding, that touches you emotionally, intellectually, and visually may not always come in the form of a JPEG or a generative video, but might take even stranger forms. That is my hope for NFTs.


As something of an art-tech pioneer, are there any new technologies you’re currently excited about?

I’m excited about diffraction gratings, which is the technology used to make Hololens (augmented reality headset). The glass itself is to me, a physical incarnation of the digital. I’m working on making pieces with them. 

Whether it’s Bitchcoin, Cloud of Petals, diffraction gratings, or the rest of it, I have this commitment to the physical that is maybe humanist and sentimental. I embrace the digital world, for creating new realities, unthinkable images, etc. But I never want that to be completely untethered from physical reality. I want the digital to be able to return the real to us in a new, better way. I want Bitchcoins to trade digitally, but always be connected to the physical world, to bodies in the form of rose petals. 



Click here to view the collection, and follow Sarah Meyohas on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Artist Interview: Pascal Boyart

Pascal Boyart, aka PBoy, is a Paris-based artist who has long been active in the NFT world. Passionate about drawing since his youth, Pascal was the first mural painter to create street art NFTs from his frescoes in 2019.

His latest project, The Underground Sistine Chapel, is a modern version of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, painted over five months during the 2020 lockdowns. The mural stands in a former gold foundry close to Paris, and he’s now brought the work to the digital realm with a collection of 400 NFTs. Each 1/1 NFT represents one of the 400 characters in the Last Judgment fresco, the painting’s central scene.

What’s your process for creating such a large physical piece?

I started by reading some books about the Sistine Chapel, as well as Michelangelo’s biography. I didn’t want the mural to be a pastiche of the work. I wanted to add my touch and modernize it without distorting the original with the easy jokes we see everywhere else. I then worked on the sketches, changing every character’s anatomy. I started painting in the summer of 2020, and it took five months to finish on my own. The fresco covers 100m2 and contains more than 400 figures. I used acrylic paint and paintbrushes with some ink highlights.

You tweeted that creating the NFTs required the same amount of work as painting the chapel itself. How did you digitize the mural?

Yes, it took five months to paint the chapel and five more to make the NFTs. The trickiest part was taking pictures of the 400 individual characters. I had to return to the scaffold, again and again, to get the shots in the correct daylight, as most of the images came out blurry or with reflections because I used glossy paint.

You’ve been active in the NFT space for a while. What are your thoughts on the recent surge of interest?

It’s great! I never thought it would happen so fast… I’m seeing so many amazing artists being fairly rewarded for their work, which to me represents a true evolution for art. We’re living through a digital renaissance, and we’re only just getting started.

What’s your advice to artists entering the space?

Do what you love and share it with the world as best you can. Think long-term instead of focusing on the quickest route to financial gain, as the trees that stand in the storms are the ones with the sturdiest roots. It will all pay off if you’re in it for the love of art.

What’s next for you?

A load more crazy paintings and NFTs, and a big surprise around the chapel is coming real soon. Keep track of me on Twitter for news!


Interview: Phil from CryptoGameTalk, Part Three

I joined Phil from the CryptoGameTalk Discord server in late 2018 for a talk about crypto gaming, community building, and NFTs. In this part, we talk about safe practices and the lessons that developers can take from examples of both success and failure.

Phil’s humble demeanor is more consistent with his roots (Pennsylvania) than with his demographic (late 20s) or the scale of his earnings as a gamer (substantial). He was one of the earliest adopters in crypto gaming and he continues to be one of the most dedicated explorers of the space.

CryptoGameTalk is a server that hosts an ongoing, in-depth discussion of dapps. Its focus, as the name suggests, is crypto games, but the conversation reaches related topics including on chain gambling, dapp development, and the Ethereum toolchain. Since its inception in early January 2018, the server has grown to 6273 users.

You can follow our conversation across this three part series.

Continued from Part Two

Dan: What lessons can developers take away from the big successes and failures? We said good dapp developers should want to be open, want to be honest, want to communicate well, want to lift others up.

What are some lessons that new dapp developers can take away from the failures of CryptoCelebrities and what are some of the lessons that developers can take away from the successes of CryptoKitties?

Phil: I think it’s really important not to embody that shill-hype mentality. Whenever somebody comes to the server saying, “This is the next big thing, just you wait and see. This is gonna moon,” it’s a serious red flag.

Dan: So what does responsible promotion look like, then?

Phil: Responsible promotion would be more honest. Share honest details of the platform and what the team has been working on and what is in the future. I think it is fair, if it’s a product being built on something else, to say, “Alright, we believe that by doing things this way, we’re solving a problem in this other preexisting dapp and we believe that our product is better.” I think that’s fair and responsible promotion.

There’s a lot of referral programs out there. That’s fair game; people can refer users to get a free token. I think that should be the logic. If anyone is going to play the role of Mr. Hype Man, it shouldn’t be someone from the main team or one of the developers. Devs should be getting their users excited without forcing it down users’ throats.

Dan: I like that. 1) Know your roots. 2) Legitimate features will speak for themselves. 3) Share an honest road map and 4) get users excited enough to advocate on behalf of your dapp.

Phil: And be prepared for failure. Acknowledge the possibility. Overconfidence is not a good image. Everyone knows how badly these dapps can flop. And I think it’s important to able to talk with the community about the worst case scenario. You know, “What if this doesn’t work out?” What will the developer do to try and continue? Is that their intention? Obviously, if somebody is just in it for the short term gain they probably won’t admit it. But from my experience, the ones to worry about are the ones that won’t even face the possibility, that are heavily trying to say, “Yeah, this is long term, you know we’re going to be here.”

It really ends up being based on intuition. I see, all the time, people falsely convincing themselves that a given dapp is definitely destined for success. You can tell they don’t really believe it deep down, but they feel they just have to embody that spirit because they don’t want to admit there is a possibility of failure. I think it’s more admirable when a developer shows their more human side, instead of just pushing this moon-Lambo mission.

And if you do have a roadmap, show what it is. Show how you’re meeting it. Publicly compare it to your actual performance. If you’re behind schedule — and everyone is always behind schedule — admit it. It’s a tricky thing, even having a schedule in the first place.

I think people should have roadmaps but they shouldn’t be too eager to bind themselves to specific dates. That usually sets people up for a mess, because usually there are complicated things that come into play. Then people say, “Well, they’re not meeting deadlines.” And that can negatively impact an otherwise healthy project.

Dan: Yeah. I forget the name of the rule. But there’s this rule that states, however long you estimate something to take, it will always take twice as long, even accounting for this rule. It’s nearly impossible to give an accurate estimate for something as fresh and complex as building a dapp. A flexible roadmap, I think, is a totally healthy thing.

You said for users, it’s a substantially intuitive thing to assess the legitimacy and trajectory of a Dapp. So I guess it makes sense to find a mentor who’s got more experience than you, which probably means going to a place like CryptoGameTalk. As a user, what else can I do to protect myself from potentially bad dapps?

You mentioned earlier that the hype man is a red flag — when the dev shows up and he says, “This is a moon mission, guaranteed money maker,” that’s a red flag. Anonymity is a red flag. What other red flags should users be on the lookout for?

Phil: Well, the easiest way to avoid the bad stuff is to just become part of the community. Get to know the people who have been involved with the space and have seen everything before. CryptoGameTalk is good for that. And I have a list of safe practices for avoiding the common scams. Having mentors — people who have been in it — helps.

Just watching how things usually play out, moving slow, and observing a few cycles before you dive in, those are all good ideas.

It’s very seldom a good idea to buy into something or send someone your Ether just because you feel like it’s a time sensitive thing. Be patient. It’s better to let an opportunity go by than to wipe out your capital acting impulsively on a dapp that turns out to be a scam. Oftentimes the reason that somebody is creating that sense of urgency is that they can benefit from your impulsivity. So you have to be on the lookout for that.

Users who are more familiar with the blockchain should invest time in researching the team, researching their claims. I’m in almost a hundred game servers. If I see something pop out of nowhere, or if I come across a new developer promoting new work, I’ll spend time searching through their posts to get a sense of who they are. I want to figure out if they’re acting under an alias. I search their post history, through the chats, and sleuth, basically. I’m really good at sleuthing. A lot of people in CryptoGameTalk are. I think the scam incidence has decreased a lot. Users have become more aware of the warning signs.

Unverified contracts are a big thing to us. Unless you’re completely convinced that the developers are legit, like a game studio, then you’ll want to see verified code. Look at them and see that they have an extensive history. In some of those situations, where a big name is involved, I think it’s OK to leave a contact unverified. But, in most situations, and especially for the gambling the type of games, it’s almost never acceptable to leave a contract unverified.

Right now, that’s where the majority of the scams are. Why would somebody try to hide their code in that situation? Why won’t they show it? It’s one thing for a big studio to guard proprietary code. That’s their prerogative, part of their moat. It’s part of what allows them to make a low risk entry into the space. But if it’s just someone completely out of nowhere or a completely new game, unverified code is definitely a red flag.

But even verified code can have subtle little tricks and exploits. Some malicious devs upload honeypot contracts to Etherscan and verify them. They look like legitimate games and someone thinks, “Hey, I can win this,” and the contracts end up with some Ether in them. But then, because of some nuance of the EVM, the developers can just pull the plug and abscond with the funds.

I wouldn’t consider myself that talented of an auditor. I can kind of read this stuff a little bit, but I usually rely on my community’s developers. There are so many people who are willing to at least take a quick look through a new contract and give us an idea of what red flags they see.

High developer fees are a strong warning signal. If a developer takes a huge cut on the action, at the very least, that shows they’re self serving. It could also mean that they’re in it for the short term gains, and they won’t stick around for long.

Another good strategy, if you’re interacting with contracts that are clones of known and reliable contracts, is to bring up the difference checker and see exactly what was changed. If it’s just certain variables, like percentages or whatnot, usually it’s fine. But if you see other major changes, that’s a place to investigate deeper.

If you see a change like that, ask the developer a question about why they made the change. If they’re not willing to answer it honestly and publicly, think twice. A lot of times the shady developers will ban people from their servers for asking questions like,”Why didn’t you verify the code?” and, “What’s this functionality here in the code?” If the team has a militant presence, usually that’s that’s a bad sign. That’s not acceptable.

Dan: That’s such an eternal lesson. It’s so true of governments, too, you know? If they’re suppressing free speech, you have reason to be concerned. It’s funny how that principle holds up even at the scale of indie developers building a community around a dapp.

What tools are going to make this space better? What sort of things is your community calling out for right now?

Phil: Well, I think MetaMask can have a lot of improvements. I hear that from people who use it a lot. I think that being able to accurately track your performance on smart contracts is key.

Dan: Have you seen RollDiceClub?

Phil: I don’t think so.

Dan: It’s a site that shows the top earners and biggest losers on CryptoKitties. We also built a similar feature as part of Crypto Baseball Explorer.

Phil: That stuff is good. The sort of statistics you guys offered on KittyExplorer, that stuff is tremendously helpful.

Dan: Should offering those statistics be on the dapp developer? Who should be building that functionality? Is that the responsibility the interested community or should that come baked into the game?

Phil: Ideally, if the devs are capable of including in the game, it comes from the core team. It would definitely set them apart. But I noticed, a lot of times, it’s usually just community efforts.

Dan: OK, that’s another lesson for devs, then. A dapp can set itself apart from its peers by including that feature. It’s a way to make a better UI/UX. Anything else?

Phil: A lot of these UIs, I think, are very underwhelming. [laughs] CryptoKitties is good. OpenSea is good. A lot of the established dapps have improved a lot. A lot of the newer ones are pretty weak.

I understand it’s not an easy thing. And it can be expensive, if you’re paying someone, to get a good UI. But it’s a worthy investment, at the end the day, to make your dapp’s UI clean and nice looking. Good UI really sets a game apart. It sets a good tone for everything else that follows. If everything is clean and simple, users are more comfortable and the game is stickier. Good UI is undervalued by devs, who tend to get most excited about novel mechanics. Maybe it’s just that they don’t have the skills or that they don’t bother, they don’t think it’s worth it. I would hope to see better, smoother interfaces in the future.

Dan: Yeah I agree. I think it’s imperative. It’s got to happen, or else the crypto gaming space is going to remain fringey.

Alex said an interesting thing to me about 6 weeks ago, and it’s made me feel a little more comfortable. He said that it takes years to build a really good video game, so we shouldn’t expect triple A quality dapps right away. For example, my wife ordered me the new Red Dead Redemption for Christmas two years ago and I think I might finally get it for Christmas this year. But we just haven’t been developing dapps that long. This is still a really fresh space.

I think it’s incredible that CryptoKitties hit on such a good UI right out of the gate. That’s part of what made them so impressive. So while I think it’s fair to expect more, I feel more comfortable being patient while waiting for the really good UI to arrive and I trust that there are people building interesting dapps with excellent user experiences and UIs. But we’re just gonna have to wait a little bit longer for them. I’m excited to see what the next year holds for dapps, especially in terms of UI and UX improvements.

Phil: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it feels like a lot has happened, but it’s been less than a year since CryptoKitties launched. I think that there’s definitely a lot in store and as time goes by it will only get more interesting.

Dan: Absolutely. The fundamental thesis has not changed. The bear market has hurt NFTs and games less than the rest of the cryptocurrency space and I think it’s only going to get better from here. I’m glad to hear that you’re equally optimistic.

Phil: Yeah, I was pretty surprised about all the activity in dapps in the past year. There were such slow moments, but I was expecting it to be much slower. I didn’t expect all this stuff to be happening.

The worldwide nature of the space kind of acts as a hedge against collapse, I think. Fomo3D got really big in China. And the “daily return” contracts brought in a lot of Russian users. I feel like those are those are kind of dumb models, even though they did introduce some new users to the space. I just don’t like the odds those games offer. 333 ETH, for example. It’s unsustainable.

How do you feel about MetaMask putting phishing warnings on sites like 333 ETH? I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it was a big Russian dapp where you know you get 3 percent per day as long as the contract still has Ether in it, but MetaMask flagged it as potentially risky and blocked access to it. How do you feel about their decision? Does that set a bad precedent? Or is it good for them to protect people from code that people can lose a lot on?

Dan: It feels so weird to be on the opposite side of this! MetaMask is a utility. They should not be in the business of picking winners, declaring losers, or convicting criminals.

I guess it’s in their interest to protect the space and to protect people from blatantly abusive content. But that’s extremely troubling to me. More information is the solution, not gatekeeping. If it’s dangerous, tell us what it is. But to block access, that’s fucked up.

Phil: I think I’m on the same side of the spectrum as you are. I think Dapp Radar does a good job with it. Not necessarily to say what is what. I think that it’s a good way of handling potentially objectionable dapps. It has a ‘high risk’ category. That’s a good approach. They’re acknowledging that there’s risk involved, but at the same time, he’s not blocking it completely, as MetaMask did. I think that was definitely a questionable act by MetaMask. It set a weird precedent.

People started trying to submit their competitors to MetaMask as objectionable, asking MetaMask to blacklist them. It got a little weird for a bit. I agree with you that MetaMask should just be left as a tool. That’s all it is.

Dan: I like Etherscan’s approach, too. They assign a smiley face, a neutral face, or a frowny face, depending upon the reputation. That’s reasonable. That provides added information. That’s useful. I’m not sure how it’s calculated, but I like their approach. Concerning MetaMask’s behavior: whether it’s right or wrong, whether it’s good or bad, it’s certainly not consistent with the spirit of the space.

Phil: Did you notice that Etherscan has labels now, too? They have some labels for contracts like ‘gambling’, they have a ‘Ponzi’ label for those ‘percent a day’ contracts. They’re not using it on many contracts. It’s only on the bigger contracts. Obviously, they can’t look through every little thing.

In my experience, since day one, it’s been hard to effectively categorize things in the crypto gaming world. There’s often a lot of different systems at play. It’s hard to say you know what is what.

Dan: Everything’s a mongrel, a hybrid, or something novel. It’s a fool’s errand to try to put legacy labels on all of this new tech.

Alright, we’re out of time. Excellent talk. Thank you for your time. Thank you for leading your community and providing the services that you do. And shout out to your volunteer auditors. I look forward to speaking with you again.

Interview: Phil from CryptoGameTalk, Part Two

I joined Phil from the CryptoGameTalk Discord server for a talk about crypto gaming, community building, and NFTs. In this part, we talk about scams, gambling, and competing against bots. But stayed tuned for Part Three, where we get into the controversial stuff.

Phil’s humble demeanor is more consistent with his roots (Pennsylvania) than with his demographic (late 20s) or the scale of his earnings as a gamer (substantial). He was one of the earliest adopters in crypto gaming and he continues to be one of the most dedicated explorers of the space.

CryptoGameTalk is a server that hosts an ongoing, in-depth discussion of dapps. Its focus, as the name suggests, is crypto games, but the conversation reaches related topics including on chain gambling, dapp development, and the Ethereum toolchain. Since its inception in early January 2018, the server has grown to 6273 users.

You can follow our conversation across this three part series.

Continued from Part One

Dan: Did you play Fomo3D at all?

Phil: I didn’t. I didn’t get in the first round, anyways. I was kind of hesitant. I regret that now. I got in on some of the subsequent rounds, the short versions, once I understood the mechanics a bit more. I feel that legitimate Ethereum developers play applications like that off as a cancer on the ecosystem. They say, “this isn’t a good application, it’s just a Ponzi or a pyramid.”

There are people who believe that category ends up hurting the space as a whole, but I’m not sure that I’m one of them. It’s interesting how there’s a community of people who find enjoyment in those types of things. Adoption of those applications is driven by the same impulse that makes people gamble. Fomo3D is just a contract, in code, with a given set of rules. I think that there is a place for that type of stuff. But at the same time, users need to be more informed of the risks of the legitimate offerings and aware of the scams.

In the scene, the word “scam” gets thrown around a lot. It’s gotten to the point where it’s lost connection to what the word actually means. To me, a scam is not just a low value application. A scam is a dishonest offering dressed as a legitimate offering, maybe an unverified contract that allows the dev to withdraw all the Ether and run. It doesn’t provide anything. It’s deceptive in some way. Whereas, with some of these gambling type of contracts, it’s more complicated. Users are aware that they could lose their Ether. But they think that it’s a good bet and they try their luck.

It’s weird how some people are really standoffish about this stuff. We might see a surge of people being more assertive about protecting these games, saying, “It’s not just a developer scamming users. People are willingly engaging and they are finding some sense of enjoyment from participating.”

I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, you know? Predatory, opportunistic developers and blatant scams are bad, of course. But, look at what happens in the real world, this is nothing new. People want to gamble their money. These games just provide a new layer. It’s just a new element in an existing framework. But it can be really confusing to some people.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about it, but I think there’s a place for it. The global Ethereum community should make an effort to acknowledge that this is a part of the ecosystem now, instead of just trying to push it away, saying, “This doesn’t belong. We don’t want this here.” Because it’s always going to be there, just by the nature of the technology. There’s always going to be communities of people who want to participate in those types of things. We need to work on building a healthier relationship with the gambling facet of our ecosystem. Spreading knowledge will help a that. Just being more informed about the risks involved goes a long way. It’s really complicated.

Dan: Yeah, it is. And I think you’re right about the assertion that information is the antidote to those evils, to the extent that they are evils. The crypto space lends itself to voluntaryism, right? It attracts people who want to live in a world where people aren’t protected from themselves. I’m Libertarian enough to be comfortable with adults deciding to gamble.

There are definitely some political issues that touch our world. Did the politics of cryptocurrency draw you in at all?

Phil: I mean, yeah in a sense. I’m definitely more leftist or libertarian. I’m kind of a hippie type, honestly. But there are some seriously troubling uncertainties. What happens if Proof of Weak Hands ends up getting ridiculously massive, out of control? How would the government intervene? It’s a complicated thing to not have an emergency brake on it. Developers need more legal advice. They need to understand the ramifications for themselves and for their users. Obviously, it won’t be a “one glove fits all” scenario. It’s an international community, after all.

But right now, governments just don’t care about this small dapp culture. I can’t see it being a priority in its current form. We just don’t register on their radar, and we’ve got cover from the ICO world and the large scale crypto scams. But I think that as time goes by, we’ll see situations where the law does step in. As more precedent is set, we’ll have more certainty about the contours of what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Dan: I’m not convinced that the government is going to be able to catch up. The technology is advancing so rapidly and adoption is still so fast, while it’s not what it was during the crazy bull run, that the chances of the legislature catching up with this movement in time to meaningfully regulate it are slim. It’ll require some new legislative paradigm, or else we really are going to have a financial system, a global settlement layer, that exists more or less outside the control of national governments. It’s complicated well beyond what you and I are qualified to give definitive judgments on, but it is one of the things that’s exciting about the space to me.

Phil: Definitely. There’s a lot of unexplored territory around here. You never know exactly how things are going to play out and crypto moves at super speed. It’s crazy to see all these things happening so fast.

Dan: All right, we’ve reached a pretty high level of generality and I’m starting to feel way out of my depth. Let’s get down into the nitty-gritty of a game. What have you played today?

Phil: I think I may have withdrawn from this Ethergarden game. It was kind of a dumb idea to get into it.

Dan: What’s Ethergarden?

Phil: It’s one of those shrimp-like games. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them. Ether Shrimps came out a while back and then there were a bunch of clones of it. It had a good UI, this Ethergarden thing. I think you have to keep like converting pumpkins to renew your harvest or something in order to keep up with your own investments. I wasn’t totally following it. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone gets into something like that.

Dan: I’m not familiar with the shrimp games. I don’t know that format. Is it a passive thing, kind of like Goo?

Phil: Sort of. It was kind of an idle game. You’d buy eggs, and then over time, you get shrimp. And then you can breed them and convert them to eggs. It ended up really heavily botted. Somebody scripting this stuff would have a big advantage over somebody manually playing. And I think that’s why it didn’t catch on that much after the bots took over.

Dan: Any game with real money at stake that can be botted is eventually going to be less fun for humans to play manually. I’ve got two questions here. A) is the meta-game of writing bots a meaningful game, in the traditional sense? And B) have bots been a healthy or unhealthy thing for the space?

Phil: Well, to answer A): yes. Definitely. B) Overall, it’s healthy. It’s just a feature of games on the blockchain. And you can’t really prevent it, anyways.

An interesting thing that FairDapp has done is release a public, open source bot for people who want to use it in the game. They knew the game would be botted and figured that botting would benefit their ecosystem. I think that’s an interesting concept of its own: building games with the knowledge that they can be botted and giving users access to the useful bots. That’s a really new and innovative, next-level type of thing.

Dan: Including a bot in the shrinkwrap as part of the game: that’s definitely new and radical. Would you go into FairDapp a little bit deeper?

Phil: There’s a P3D style exchange, which is fed certain amounts from the other games. He started with other games, it wasn’t P3D at all. It was kind of it was kind of a hot potato concept, a hot potato / Fomo hybrid where there’s these stages and these quotas to be filled. A certain amount that players put into each stage goes to a jackpot and a certain amount is given to players in the previous stages. If the quota fills before this timer goes down, then the game goes into its next stage, with a higher target. But if it doesn’t, the people who had put their Ether in at that final stage share the jackpot when the timer runs out.

It got pretty interesting, honestly. People continually played it. It’s hard to build a game that keeps players interested. People loved chasing that jackpot. But then at the end, they would be sniped by a lot of people, and that rush would push the game over into the next round.

He launched something else, which is kind of like a bank simulator, which was a little more complicated. It had some limitations, but he’s always pushing boundaries. He’s making games that draw on the gambling dapp concepts that have succeeded in the past, but always with these novel twists on them. He made an exchange type of thing for his future games to feed into.

That’s getting big: devs create a P3D style center, and then users can hold on to it and benefit from profits or commissions from the other games. It’s really interesting to see. At first, when Proof of Weak Hands was released, it just stood on its own. But now people are integrating other concepts and creating a broader ecosystem. That’s pretty cool. So I’m excited to see what’s next for FairDapp.

Dan: It’s a form of interoperability that’s unique to this space. Devin asserts that interoperability is the real feature of the space, above and beyond everything else. What other games do a good job of interacting with another dapp? What’s the most interesting relationship between dapps right now?

Phil: Surprisingly, there isn’t much. Everyone talks about interoperability, but at end of the day, devs believe there’s more money in sticking to their own platform, instead of building off someone else’s. CryptoKitties has the KittyVerse community, which is kind of cool. I saw Kitty Fights or something was coming soon. I remember looking into that. That was pretty cool.

But I think there is room to explore interoperability on a larger scale and benefit from being exposed to various different communities. I have actually had an idea of something of that sort that I’m still on the fence with. But I don’t want anyone to steal it from me.

Dan: Oh, what a cruel tease! How brutal. All right. Fair enough. No pressure. Did you play Magic: The Gathering? What was your gaming background like?

Phil: I did play Magic: The Gathering. I played a lot of Yu-gi-oh! when I was younger, and Pokemon. I kind of wished that I kept my good cards. I think I sold my Charizard for around 20 dollars at a yard sale. Now, I look at the prices and they’re worth so much more.

Dan: I feel that way about the early, low ID, cryptocollectibles like low ID CryptoKitties. I think we’ll look back through our transactions someday and we’ll see transactions that make us groan.

Phil: That’s what I’m hoping for. Back in the day, I made an R script to more easily visualize the cats of ID less than 10,000. I would buy them out a certain threshold and then I would list them. A lot of them sold for a decent profit. I would snap up anything for less than 0.01ETH and then list them. I called them “collectors cat” and I’d list them for 0.1ETH if they were just completely random. Some of the Gen 0s, I’d list for much more.

There just aren’t many cheap cats below 10,000 anymore. They’ve mostly been snatched up or maybe users just forgot about them. Some of the early players just aren’t active anymore. I do believe that the prices for low ID cats will increase.

That’s that’s the reason why I bought a founder cat last week or so. I saw one that was 29 Ether and I decided that it would be cool to have one of those. I saw that the floor seemed to be rising on founders and I pulled the trigger. I don’t know if I’ll try and flip it for a profit or just hold on to it for a long time. CryptoKitties will always be that first big name dapp. That really can’t be changed now. They’ve solidified themselves in history. I think that alone will ensure that there is some persistent value for those cats.

Dan: Absolutely. There can only be one authentic original, and CryptoKitties is it. Other than the founder cat, what long term plays have you made? It sounds like you do well on week-to-week plays, but what are you hoarding? What are you keeping for the long term?

Phil: Well, for a lot of the stuff I’m keeping long term, it’s mostly just because there is no market for them anymore. Now my celebrities — my Trump card, that’s stuck there. I mean it is cool. I can look back on it and you know it’s a story. But I think I spent — this was when Ether was like a thousand each — I bought it at a discount for like 85 Ether and ended up getting stuck with it. So, now I’m just stuck. I’m just holding that now. Maybe someday it’ll be something, but I don’t know, maybe not.

I usually just grab things and sometimes I forget about them. Then once I hear about the game again, it’s like, “Oh yeah, I remember, I had some of those.” I don’t have any Etheremon. I think I sold them. I probably should have kept some. But their market opened up and I was able to sell them for a decent price.

Sometimes I go on OpenSea and just get things that look interesting. There’s this HiPrecious collection and I saw the zero token, a Suma Tiger. I decided to just grab that because it looked cheap and interesting and it was the zero token. I don’t know if it has any future or anything, but it seemed cool at the time.

Dan: My impulse purchases on OpenSea are usually art. If I can find a Known Origin piece that’s relatively cheap and looks interesting, I’ll get one. Are you interested in crypto art at all?

Phil: At the end of the day I think the art is just the frontend manifestation. It’s good that it’s all stored by marketplaces like OpenSea, so that visual representation can live on beyond the original developer support. But for me, it’s hit or miss. I usually want to get some other type of value from it, beyond just art.

Dan: Does it matter to you whether the visual asset that corresponds to a token is stored on IPFS or just on some third party servers? Is it enough that OpenSea also hosts those images, or do you want to see some sort of more robust, on chain support for the visual assets? Or is it just purely about the token for you?

Phil: It would be cool if there were some way to own the art associated with each token. I know people have talked about that regarding CryptoKitties, how technically the art is owned by CryptoKitties.

I think that in the future, people will be able to pull that off a little better. It definitely helps to have OpenSea backing up the images. That way, I can at least look at and admire my CryptoCelebrities.

Continued in Part Three

Interview: Phil from CryptoGameTalk, Part One

Last week, I joined Phil from the CryptoGameTalk Discord server for a talk about crypto gaming, community building, and NFTs. We covered those topics, not to mention private key management, paying taxes on CryptoKitties earnings, and even talked a bit about how to make the world’s best smoked brisket macaroni and cheese.

Phil’s humble demeanor is more consistent with his roots (Pennsylvania) than with his demographic (late 20s) or the scale of his earnings as a gamer (substantial). He was one of the earliest adopters in crypto gaming and he continues to be one of the most dedicated explorers of the space.

CryptoGameTalk is a server that hosts an ongoing, in-depth discussion of dapps. Its focus, as the name suggests, is crypto games, but the conversation reaches related topics including on chain gambling, dapp development, and the Ethereum toolchain. Since its inception in early January 2018, the server has grown to 6273 users.

You can follow our conversation across this three-part series.

Part One

Dan: Do you have an elevator pitch for your server?

Phil: Since the beginning, I saw an opportunity to build a community of people interested in this stuff, because it didn’t seem like there really was any place for it yet. And since CryptoKitties used Discord and a lot of other games started using Discord, I decided to go with Discord. Since then, it’s grown a bit and I think most people in the sphere have some general recognition of it. I think its value lies in the community and creating access to a bunch of people who are experienced with this stuff, people who have interacted with dapps.

Our developer community is great in terms of auditing contracts and fixing bugs in other developers’ code. Sometimes a new developer will show up asking for a review and, right away, the people in my community will immediately point out things that they could have done better to optimize for gas efficiency, or to avoid bugs. I think that’s really the valuable thing.

Also, we keep an eye out on each other to try to stay safe. Obviously, there’s a lot of bad actors and scams. So, part of our value prop is watching out for each other and helping one another avoid these bad things.

Dan: I’m curious about the screening process for when a new dev shows up and says, “Hey, I’ve got an idea.” How does that flow usually work?

Phil: Well, usually a new developer would come from one of two perspectives. Either they are some entity, some game studio or whatever, and they’ve decided to enter into crypto games. Usually, that starts them off on good ground. We don’t have as much concern if they decide to keep some of their code unverified.

Or on the other end of the spectrum, there are these complete random devs. You don’t know who they are; they’re completely anonymous. They could be just somebody fooling around with Ethereum. They say, “I’m going to make a game, a smart contract, or something.” And that’s usually where things are a little different. Whenever somebody pops up like that, especially if nobody knows who they are, there’s immediately a strong push by our community to learn about them and to understand who they are, what their goals are, and why they’ve come to our server. Usually, if they are anonymous, our community will demand that they show their code.

You know, even well-intentioned people can make critical mistakes that can really mess things up. Without public source code, you never know what’s going to happen. You never know if they put in some type of scammy functionality. Some people do that. They show up randomly, they’re just an anonymous nobody with an intention to scam people. And that’s unfortunate.

Dan: Yeah. By the way, my friend runs a bitcoin gambling site and he’s looking to pick a winner and he wants to split the winnings with you, are you interested?

Phil: [Laughs] Exactly. That’s a stupid one that keeps going around and around. Hopefully, everybody knows what it is by now. It’s just a scam.

Usually, the good games are the ones that leave you a little uncertain. There may be potential, but you’re not fully sure. Those games usually turn out to be more promising than the games you first discover by way of an unapologetic shill. If someone shows up trying to tell you it’s a definite thing and promises that you’ll definitely profit off it this year, that’s trouble. They might say, “This is definitely going to moon, China is going to wake up.” It’s nonsense shilling behavior. When people are overly confident and say, “Oh, you should do this because you’ll make money,” usually that’s a red flag. It’s not that easy, you know?

Dan: Yeah. Never is. Couldn’t possibly be. So, the people who show up with the promise of profit raise the alarm. It’s definitely a bad sign. Their game is likely to be either a scam or low quality.

Is it fair to say that the people who come from game studios, the well-known people who have something to lose, are producing better games? Or is it equally likely that somebody who comes from crypto towards gaming, as opposed to coming from gaming towards crypto, could produce an equally good game? And could you cite an example on either side?

Phil: I’m on the fence about this. I would say it’s possible for the scrappy crypto devs to produce better games. I mean, for the people coming from game studios, they’re coming from an entirely different mindset and trying to fit traditional gaming into the blockchain.

Whereas, there’s this crop of random experiments, with devs fooling around, creating games based on other popular dapp concepts. We often find their work really interesting because they’re just iterating on tried and tested concepts, already proved by people interacting with them on the blockchain. The freelance crypto devs tend to build off those proven ideas.

It can go either way. I haven’t really seen any blatant scams coming from anyone with that traditional gaming background. So, I think the game dev background provides users a little more confidence, but at the same time, sometimes we see these game studios trying to put these ridiculously complicated concepts on the blockchain. The games get really awkward and bulky, which is a major turn off for users. The studios’ efforts sometimes turn out to be less user-friendly than some of the simpler concepts that come from experimentation and iteration on what people are already playing on the blockchain.

Dan: What do you mean you say, “ridiculously complicated concepts on the blockchain [that] get really awkward and bulky?” What are you referencing?

Phil: It’s just a general principle. I’m not pointing fingers or naming names.

But the thing about some of these games that you mentioned, like Gods Unchained: they can’t be fully on chain. That would be impossible. Owning the cards, sure, that works on chain. But, imagine if you tried to accomplish all that game functionality on chain. I don’t think that would work, with every single card played in every single move handled on chain. Without some scaling solution, making that work would be a very difficult task. I think MLB Crypto Baseball will take the same approach, too, putting some core game functionality off chain or on side chains, even.

The limiting factor is usually gas costs. ETH TOWN had some interesting and more complex games like their Moon Factory, but the thing about that was their gas costs. Given the current level of throughput, that can really eat at the users. It’s not conducive to a good user experience.

Dan: Yeah, that’s a tricky balance, right? If you don’t put enough on chain, it’s not meaningful to involve blockchain in your game at all. But, if you’re too much on chain, the experience becomes intolerable. So, there’s an optimal balance and I think we’re still, as a community, finding it. What’s the sweet spot look like for you? Is asset ownership on chain enough to make a game interesting? Or do you want to see some core mechanics on chain, too?

Phil: I think we’re starting to see this more nuanced combination of on chain and off chain functionality. In my opinion, ownership on chain is very good. It ensures that all those assets are yours in a real and undeniable sense. But then, you can use them off chain in a more centralized and convenient way.

A good example of one of the games that I think is too bulky on chain is Etheremon. It’s a great concept, basically Pokemon-ish things on the blockchain, but they’re doing a lot of things on chain, like the battles and whatnot. I remember it being very expensive in gas fees. It can feel very cumbersome.

So, I think we’re starting to see a shift away from the idea of pure decentralization. You used to hear, “Oh, we want everything completely decentralized.” I think people are starting to realize that isn’t necessarily ideal when it comes to crypto gaming. Assuming you’re dealing with a team that’s operating in good faith, taking some of those operations off chain or putting them on a side chain produces a result that’s more optimal. In the right situations, trusting somebody else can have a lot of benefits.

Dan: What improvements to the onboarding experience are you most excited about?

Phil: I think that as time goes by, we’ll see ways better ways to interact with and explain the blockchain. MetaMask is the primary way of interacting with these decentralized applications right now. And it’s a great tool, for now. You know, it works really well. But it’s still pretty raw.

I remember my first time using it for CryptoKitties. A lot of it, I didn’t fully understand. And I remember getting all these stuck transactions because I didn’t use enough gas and replacing transactions and whatnot. I feel like there could be a much smoother way of showing and depicting all this stuff. You know, really dumbing it down. I would hope that the intermediaries that we use interact with the blockchain will improve substantially in the next year.

Even Etherscan… it can be intimidating to people. But, imagine if somebody made an Etherscan-Lite that provided a more verbal experience. Something that specifically explained to you exactly what was happening in these transactions in easier terms. I think that would be a step in the right direction — something to iron out the creases and make the edges a little less rough on the user experience.

All this stuff will improve as the years go by. If you were to go on the internet 20 years ago, it would be kind of confusing. You might not understand the whole stack and it could be intimidating. But nowadays, when you get a new Mac or PC, it’s this very user-friendly experience to go from zero to browsing. Setting it up is easy. Anyone can do it. You just follow instructions. Then, after you get that simple understanding, it’s easier to dive into the technical side of it.

Dan: Would you take me through the experience of buying your first cryptocurrency, buying your first CryptoKitty, and selling your first CryptoKitty? What was that experience like for you?

Phil: At the point CryptoKitties launched, I had some Ether, just because I picked some up during that ridiculous bull run.

Dan: How did you acquire it?

Phil: Through Coinbase. And I actually bought some bitcoins back when they were $10, but didn’t manage to hang onto them. It wasn’t until late 2017 when I decided to give it another try.

And then I heard about CryptoKitties and I thought, “This is cool. How do I do it?” And I saw, “Go Install MetaMask”. I’m looking back at my initial transactions now. I remember not understanding why any of my transactions weren’t going through and wondering how my new transactions could get stuck behind earlier transactions with lower gas.

I feel like that’s there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement on the MetaMask paradigm. It should be easy to replace a transaction if it’s slow. I remember, back then, people were just on Discord telling each other, “You have to go to MyEtherWallet, get set up, put in the transaction, and then you can either cancel or replace it.” I didn’t really understand exactly what it was doing for a while. I kind of just did it on faith.

It’s not impossible for someone who is experienced with technology to pick up on the existing workflow pretty quickly, but for there to be more adoption, developers would have to start framing UX from the perspective that a lot of users don’t have deep technical chops. You know, kind of provide a much more toned down approach.

Dan: Yeah, I think there will always be a contingent of crypto diehards who like the hard way that gives them more flexibility. To extend your PC and Mac analogy from earlier, there will always be Linux users. There will always be people who want to compile it themselves.

But at this point, developers believe that all users are really protective of each Wei. They say to themselves, “We can’t be doing anything automatically that spends money on a user’s behalf.” But some users want that sort of functionality.

What do you do for key management? What lessons can I learn from your security practices?

Phil: Obviously, you always have to write down your keys. Whenever you create a new wallet, that’s very essential. Even if you don’t think you’re going to use it for much. I’ve seen a lot of people who thought they wouldn’t forget it, but then their browser crashed, or it locked them out. And then they lost that wallet forever. So, yeah, definitely write it down.

One thing you can even do, if you’re worried about people finding your key or seed phrase, is use an internal code in your own mind. You write down your phrase, but you use your favorite encryption method as you do it. For me, it provides another layer of protection. Even if somebody found my key, they wouldn’t know what was going on in my mind when I wrote it down.

Dan: Badass! That’s awesome. That is that is deep protection.

If you’re investing that kind of mental energy, it seems like a safe inference that you’ve got something to protect. Also, it just so happens that internally at OpenSea you’re called “Phil the Whale.” So, in general terms or at whatever level of specificity you’re comfortable with, would you share what you started with and where are you now?

Phil: I started with a thousand dollars. And… I… I mean, I don’t want to get into too much detail. People that know my addresses can see some of the amounts that I transact in. I wouldn’t say that I’m set for life. But, you know, I’ve been able to accumulate enough ETH through playing these dapps that I feel comfortable now and I believe I would be for the foreseeable future.

Dan: What was your best dapp? What’s your biggest earner?

Phil: It’s tough to say because it’s hard to remember the details. I know CryptoCelebrities would have been a big earner for me, but then I eventually bought some more celebrities on OpenSea, hoping that they would eventually sell. So, there’s a discrepancy between my actual earnings and what’s on the contract, on the books.

That actually brings me to a point that I think would be very useful for people. I recently coded a little script in R to show a net profit and loss from each wallet-contract interaction. It’s really crude, but tax season coming up and I think that it’s in each user’s best interest to play by the rules and report anything profit that they’ve taken out.

But the thing is, that can be really difficult, with a sea of all these transactions. So I foresee an area of growth, that hasn’t really been explored yet, of basically creating analysis websites where you can easily see your ins and outs on each application. If dapps were to continue growing to a large scale, that stuff would be essential. It’d be useful if anyone ever needed to provide the proof of how they were able to accumulate, or even to show their losses if they wanted to write off a loss. It’s all on the blockchain, but it’s kind of murky and muddy. That would be a really cool thing for someone to build.

I thought of trying to build a product like that, but I’m not sure if I really would want to. I feel like that could be something up your alley. I know you’re pretty good with statistics and whatnot. Kind of like a dapp portfolio. Imagine if that were on OpenSea, for example, and you could get a list of transactions for someone’s wallet and their net profit.

Dapp Volume sort of does it, but they’re wrong with a lot of their statistics. I don’t know why. I just think they’re overestimating volume. I’m not sure exactly how they’re doing it, but I think that’s a type of product we’ll start seeing popping up soon.

Dan: What’s the two-year plan look like for you? Do you have any ambition to find a technical co-founder and set off building that? Create a proof of concept and raise a round? Is that something that interests you? Do you want to go in the entrepreneurial direction? The financial direction? Games? What’s your two-year plan? Your five-year plan?

Phil: For me, my problem is that I always have a lot of ideas, a lot of things that I see potential in, but it’s hard for me to commit myself to one. I’m simultaneously managing my community, keeping my connections live, talking to people, and using dapps. That, usually, takes the bulk of my time.

And I enjoy it, you know? I kind of enjoy just being a floater. I’m not sure if I would really enjoy feeling bound to something. I kind of like having the ability to float around. I’m very happy to supply people with my ideas and advice, to suggest things.

There have been situations where I advocate for products to be built and then eventually somebody makes it. I think it works out for me, for all of us in the long term. But yeah, it’s something that I consider. I think I’d be in a good position. It would really have to be something that speaks to me and resonates with me for me to commit myself to it.

Dan: It’s funny that you say that you like to be a floater. Your server CryptoGameTalk is sort of an institution in a dynamic scene. So, it’s ironic that you say that you like to float around while you’re managing one of the most stable places in the space.

Phil: I think for a while I’ve been saying that I’m going to make a website and stuff and try and build off of the existing product. It’s still something on my “possibly-to-do” list. But, I don’t know. I don’t feel any need to rush. I feel it’s pretty valuable just staying where I am and doing what I’m doing: trying to be an honest person, trying to help support this scene.

It’s not like there’s too much competition right now. It’s more about trying to get people in from the outside. For adoption to hit escape velocity, we’ll need people from the outside who have never played dapps. I would estimate that about half of all dapp users are exposed to more than one dapp.

Sometimes you get these exceptions where a community forms of people who stick with just one dapp. Maybe they like CryptoKitties and they just want to stick with that. There are some people who only play Gods Unchained and they just want to stick with that. But I think that a significant portion of people is made up of repeat players. They are interested in dapps as a whole and kind of keep an eye on the scene. You know, obviously, a lot of people in my server are of that mindset.

Dan: In a sense, you’re better positioned than anybody to provide insights on that debate, but in another sense, you’re probably biased towards thinking that it’s all repeat players because the repeat players are drawn towards your server. What games have brought in new users?

Phil: I think each new large scale dapp does bring in some new people. I would say that a decent number of the new people discover that crypto gaming is not their thing and they don’t end up sticking around. But I think, little by little, more people are becoming aware of the dapp ecosystem as a whole. There’s value in having a diversity of dapps out there, so that more people can be onboarded and exposed to this stuff and see how interesting it can be.

Dan: I agree that offering a diversity of daps is important, to cater to different needs of different users. But I’m also bullish on the network effects that a diverse set of dapps can generate.

Can you talk a little bit about the superstars in your community?

Phil: The regulars seem to have changed a lot as time goes by. A lot of the people with higher roles in my server aren’t necessarily as active as they used to be. The structure was designed almost a year ago — six months to a year ago. From time to time I’ll try and change things up and make everything more balanced.

It’s hard to name specific people because almost everybody has some sort of role. I can look at the list of online people right now. There’s me. There’s Karupin. Karupin is a great guy. He’s one of the most honest and kind people that I’ve met. I haven’t actually met him in person yet but, I’m sure I will someday. He’s a great guy.

I see Carlini there. He’s a CryptoKitties OG. He’s not around my server as much but I know he’s still grinding CryptoKitties and he’s definitely good guy. Enderhero. Ferocious. Slush. All good people. Pranked: really into CryptoKitties.

There’s klob and EtherGuy, the guys from Zethr, who I had a chance to hang out with. I got to spend some time with them in North Carolina earlier this summer and I was watching them code and everything for a while. They are really, really, talented people. They’re self made through this community.

8 Bit Trip is a ridiculously talented auditor. He is always one of the first people to catch a bug. He’s a solidity genius in my mind. And triceratops. He’s a known figure in this space. He plays a lot of dapps just as much as I do. There’s A1337 | Eth Town. Good guy. Alex | OpenSea, obviously you know him.

CryptoOpinions. Very talented guy, made a lot of great things. He was the one behind the original shrimp games and the original hot potato concept, which a lot of people enjoyed. There’s you. Dan. Good guy. [Laughter] Devin.

Louie | FairDapp. He’s started coming around here more recently, but he has a lot of good ideas. He’s building a platform type of thing for on chain gambling games. He’s really ambitious, doing some good stuff.

Mr. Blobby from Goo. Goo was a big deal at one time. He has World War Goo coming. I can say good things about so many people around here.

Dan: How about the opposite extreme? Who’s the most egregious scammer? Who’s the most obnoxious? Who are the bad actors we should be aware of?

Phil: Well the thing is about bad actors, they usually use aliases, you know? And they change their names. There was this group of scammers that were repeat offenders. That was hard. You’d have to sleuth into the blockchain to find the connections. These guys launched an unverified contract and then took everyone’s money. Me and some friends started looking at the connections and saw that they were related to some other scams. So, yeah, it’s unfortunate that some of those people are still active, preying on newcomers.

Another hot topic for us is the rise of the cloners. There are some people, as soon as a new concept comes out, they’re the first ones to copy paste it and try to create another wave of the original. I don’t want to name names or point fingers. But generally, people frown on that, when people are just relentlessly, opportunistically trying to clone others’ concepts for their personal gain.

Dan: The cloners are sort of a different breed, though, right? They’re certainly not as malicious. And while they’re not creating much value in the space, they’re not intentionally harming people directly. But I’m more interested in the difference between cloners and expanders.

Right after CryptoKitties, hundreds of clones emerged. Not a lot of them added value, but some did. So, would you mention a couple of games that expanded meaningfully on the CryptoKitties paradigm?

Phil: Well, I’ve been buying some more Gods Unchained cards. Just opening the packs is kind of addicting and being able to play them in the card game should be should be fun. I also bought into Nova tokens. Are you familiar with Nova Blitz?.

Dan: It rings a bell but I’m not really familiar. Would you tell me about it?

Phil: I think they had some advisors from Magic: The Gathering and a working game mechanic. They were going to do a platform of on chain ownership of the cards. It’s been kind of slow recently, but I did play that game a lot and I had a lot of fun. So, yeah, I’m hoping that Gods Unchained can provide a similar experience.

I’m the Community Manager for ETH TOWN and they’ve been working on a side chain strategy battle game. I’m hoping it turns out to be pretty good. They’re really good with their custom art. There have been some rough patches for the core game design, but they’re experienced mobile game developers and I think that if they keep putting in effort, they’ll eventually create something that has some decent value.

There’s a lot of gambling ecosystems coming out. Zethr was a big one that people in CryptoGameTalk have been talking about for the last couple of months. They offer users a token that receives some of the profit from the house cut on chain. I find those applications really interesting.

FairDapp is doing something like that. The developer of FairDapp has some fun concepts that build on what’s been successful in these games in the past. So, I’m excited to see what he comes up with.

I’m sure there are other things that aren’t on my mind right now. There’s just so much in the space that, sometimes, it’s hard to fully keep track of it all.

Dan: Yeah, absolutely. Really, since CryptoKitties, there hasn’t been any game that’s felt like the definitive thing at the moment. There has not been a natural leader since those days.

Phil: Yeah. I think there’s a polarity to the space, though. There were two major successes so far. I believe CryptoKitties is one, it’s kind of what I would call the yang of this sphere, you know? The right side of the yin-yang, the positive intention.

And then there’s Proof of Weak Hands. Do you know Team JUST? I think they were the second highest in overall volume and users, especially with their Fomo3D release. I kind of see that as the yin, the other side of the spectrum. It’s people trying to make money and conduct gambling experiments. In my mind, those are the two dominant forces so far. Obviously, then, there are thousands of clones and similar concepts all in between those two poles.

Dan: Excellent metaphor. Ethereum is just a technology. It’s not inherently good or bad, it’s all about how to use it.

Dan: Alright, let’s take a break from crypto for a minute and talk a little bit about your outside life. You worked in a kitchen, right? What was your role in food service like? What job did you have? I worked in a pizza shop for a year and it was amazing.

Phil: I worked in a few pizza shops. I also spent a lot of time in cafes. Barista work — coffee. I’m a big coffee connoisseur, I guess you could say. I was into home roasting for a bit, with hot air popper machines. That’s a very simple way to get into home roasting. But I think I’m going to try to expand to the actual machine that was built for roasting coffee.

I enjoyed working in random, low paying jobs. As much as some people hate it at times, I found it satisfying. I’ve learned to live a very modest and humble life. I’m content with not having much. I think it set a precedent for how I’ve entered the crypto scene.

I try to give assets to new players for random things or contests or whatnot. Because at the end of the day, it’s not all about trying to make money for me. I think the cool thing is the community and what’s developing here. You know, the whole storyline that we’re all building. That’s what gives me the most satisfaction in the day.

Dan: I saw a tweet recently that took roughly that same posture on wealth. I think it was Naval Ravikant, who said something to the effect of, “Being rich doesn’t mean having a lot of stuff. It doesn’t mean having a lot of money. It means that your burn rate is less than your income rate.”

If you can make more than you spend, passively or through whatever effort you find gratifying, that means that you’re a wealthy person in the modern sense. It sounds like you have found that balance and I commend you for it.

You said to me in the past that outside of crypto, your main hobby is cooking. I love cooking, too. I love everything about food. What do you make when you want to get a break from playing crypto games?

Phil: For the past couple of years, I’ve been into smoked meats. You know, pulled pork, brisket, ribs. Even cold smoking applications like cold smoked salmon. I’ve been playing around with my smoker a lot.

The other week I made a really nice brisket mac and cheese. I caramelized some shallots and I put some whiskey in there to kind of give it a nice sweet flavor. I used mostly white cheddar and some monterey jack, with some pepper. It turned out really good. Sometimes when I make things, I’m begging my friends to help me eat it and other times I make something and then I like it so much that I don’t want other people to eat it.

I read a lot about food on the internet. If I’m interested in making something, I’ll usually look up the more niche concepts. I go on smoked meat forums and try to learn the techniques. Then I look at various types of recipes and see what I find interesting. You learn a ton from examining the differences between recipes for the same dish and seeing how different people are making it. So I look at recipes and what other cooks are doing, then I try to synthesize that with my own knowledge to make something that I believe would be the best.

Dan: We should have a crypto gaming potluck sometime!

Phil: I’m always down for that.

Dan: What’s your daily routine like? Are you a night owl? How much time do you usually spend in your server?

Phil: I go to bed late. My girlfriend yells at me for doing so. [Laughs] I usually sleep in until around 11:00 or so. You know, it depends. Sometimes I end up staying later. Since the community is international, sometimes there are things happening all around the clock that I’ll want to attend to.

Honestly, I’ve probably been spending too much time on the internet, recently. But, I mean… It makes me happy. I get satisfaction. I have so many new friends as a result of this and I like that. So, I do think that, for the sake of my long term mental health, I should probably try and balance myself a little more, you know? Spend some time doing things outside of Discord and the internet. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel like it’s really hurting me as it is.

Dan: Yeah. I’m with you there. I feel exactly the same way.

Continued in Part Two.