HONG KONG, CHINA – FEBRUARY 15: Pedestrians walk past a digital screen displaying the prices of cryptocurrencies Bitcoin on February 15, 2022 in Hong Kong, China. Cryptocurrencies are gaining popularity worldwide as investors seek to diversify into the new asset class despite wild swings in the valuations of assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum in the first weeks of the year. Buying and selling crypto is becoming common in many places, like Hong Kong, where regulators have so far avoided using a heavy hand to manage crypto platforms. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
I love scams. I genuinely do. My mental wealth of the history of scams is disturbing and I feel like if there was a trivia night somewhere and the only category was “scams,” I’d rob people of money like I was Madison Cawthorn posting about going “to the moon”.
Snake oil salesmen used to roll into a town for a few hours and sell things mostly with the concept that you only have a short time to make up your mind because once the salesman was gone, you missed out.
People to this day are scammed out of life savings by the classic Nigerian Prince scam. You know, a prince in trouble decided to email someone at random letting them know he needed to hide his money in someone else’s bank account and if you let him have access to your account he’ll share his wealth with you as thanks.
I remember, in my youth, my stepmother’s friends hosting things like Tupperware and Mary Kay parties. Hosted by women I’ve known my entire life, suddenly talking different, shaking and frantic, as they tried desperately to convince the few people they knew that they needed to not only buy the stuff they brought but about how amazing it would be if they too started selling. Practically screaming “please save me” without uttering those three words.
And while scams like these have been around all the way back to Hegestratos and Zenosthemis, we fall for them all the time. Hell, we still have laws passed to this day based solely on the fact that about three thousand years ago, four guys realized they could make people listen to them by creating a story in which if they did things they didn’t like, a cloud man would condemn to an eternity of fire, brimstone, and reruns of Homeboys from Outer Space. A show I promise existed.
But rarely have scams actually entered the realm of entertainment. Sure, there’s always been advertisements. Whether it was Lucille Ball or Johnny Carson walking off set for a moment to convince you to buy a cleaning product, or shows in the ’80s specifically designed to get your child invested in buying a toy line. The entire Cabbage Patch Kids show was to tell you that every Cabbage Patch Kid not “adopted” by you and left on the shelves had to work in a coal mine and Pound Puppies literally stayed in a pound until you bought them. But they weren’t actively incorporated.
Crypto is starting to change that. There have already been many games over the last five years that were designed specifically for the sake of promising people will earn money as they play. These usually looked like special sections of Roblox and we were often promoted by influencers that excitedly talked about how great the opportunity was, smiling while hosting alarming eye bags and a nervous twitch that makes you think someone behind the camera has a gun.
Now major game studios are suddenly throwing their hat into the toilet. This is really interesting too because, currently, crypto’s worth has dropped so low it’s the first currency in the world to visit the Earth’s core. But they’re getting into it.
Square Enix has recently sold off both its Tomb Raider and Deus Ex franchises to use the money and time to invest in NFT scams in their upcoming titles. I’m startled with the Tomb Raider one because those games were excellent. But not so much surprised with Deus Ex as cryptocurrency is the kind of techno-trash the games warn about.
EA embarrassed the hell out of themselves earlier this year when they announced NFTs as the “future” and then faced massive backlash. They ultimately backed out hard enough that they refuse to talk about it like it was a bad ex.
Even Nintendo, who is normally a million miles away from the scammy bits of the internet, or, even the internet itself, has shown interest. Their financial analyst recently answered a question that is perfectly worded as if it came from the minds of the first people to think this was a good idea. “How think about the metaverse and NFT?
One sign of the end, which for some reason no one seems to recognize as such, is GameStop announcing they’re getting into crypto. People will endlessly mock the video game retailer for their trade-in prices (despite having absolutely no idea how and why the prices are like that) but they’ll suddenly trust this company with their new baby currency idea.
As of right now, GameStop’s NFT website has alarmingly zero info other than a wacky form you can fill out in which they ask you to send them a copy of an NFT you’ve worked on and how they can contact you.
And as of this week, the new Ni no Kuni game, Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds, horrified long-time Studio Ghibli fans by introducing that you’ll be “earning” cryptocurrency and NFTs by playing the game. As my wife pointed out, “Studio Ghibli stories always have to have a villain, I guess.” The website offers precious little information while still managing to go against pretty much everything Studio Ghibli has ever stood for.
Not that Studio Ghibli has ever portrayed a negative expression of the kind of disgusting creature someone obsessed with material gain, power and influence can become.
So what’s happening? I think this might be some end-game stuff where people need to take a stand. Since the concept of horse armor, game companies have been trying to find a way to effortlessly get people to funnel more money into a game they already have. Microtransactions were a reasonable start as they did occasionally add some excellent content to games. Fallout 4 was a perfect example of how good that could get.
From there things got bad. We got blind loot boxes. People got to pay money for a chance at possibly getting the thing that they actually wanted and if they didn’t they were welcome to buy more chances. This has started to die out a bit as this practice got so bad that countries passed legislation banning it.
But now we’ve got crypto. A chaotic wild west of a financial system that prides itself on the fact that it’s out of legal control, while, at the same time, constantly suffers for it. Just ask Seth Green, who recently spent a ton on an “Ugly Monkey” NFT, turned it into the star of an animated series, and then had the NFT effortlessly stolen from him. It potentially turned the series into a cancellation as he no longer has the legal right to use it because someone else has it.
We have a situation in which we can give companies money for LITERALLY NOTHING. They don’t have to create new content, new experiences, or even cosmetic items. All they have to do is ask you for money that you might get back if things go really well in ways you damn well know they won’t. And like a Lex Luthor scheme, it’s so ridiculously evil on a legal level that it classifies as brilliant.
Is there an end in site? Absolutely. Hell, if you actually looked at the worth of this stuff, it’s Tinker Bell. Something that seemingly only holds value based on how many children clap their hands and say, “I believe.” It just seems unfortunate that the thing that will pull us out of this NFT hellscape will probably be the next big scam.
In the meantime, if anyone needs me to argue this, come find me at the next Fyre Festival with Anna Sorokin selling homemade baby formula and going to the moon.
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