The world of creative works has always been one of predation and cut-throat sales. There are countless choosy beggars who do not love art and decide the best thing to do to artists is to abuse them and ask for free things.
Nothing is free. The artist’s time, electricity and food isn’t free. Yet, they ask all the same. Art has always been that of either “high class” or of “worthless lows.” There are some beautiful pieces of art that are only worth a couple hundred dollars yet a couple streaks upon a bland canvas gets countless zeros upon their evaluation.
It sickens me. Yet, no such scenario could possibly be as appropriate as the current scene of art and gaming NFTs.
In case no one knows what an NFT is, here is a brief idea. NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens are lines of code that are verified against the block-chain to be the exclusive one-and-only version of that form of media. In short, unique things are verified to be unique by code. “Thing” is about as accurate as someone can be for what the NFT verifies. People have done it for videos, music, sounds, pictures, products and many more. However, they are most known for the explosion of NFT art.
The Bored Ape NFT art collection is one of the most prolific and most valued NFT art that exists on the block-chain. They are often considered the dream end-product of most NFT art collections. Each of these “bored apes” consists of a portrait-type illustration of the eponymous apes. Public opinion regarding the quality of the drawings have been questioned MANY times over practically the entirety of the Bored Apes project. They are often described as crude, lazy and even AI driven.
But what isn’t to mock is the price. Their prices have been the target of mass ridicule and mass interest. They have gone for hundreds of thousands of dollars to even break seven figures. Some people who have bought in early have even become multi-millionaires– with an “M”– by only selling a couple in their NFT collections. They became not only art, but a potentially lucrative investment.
There is a saying that goes “the successful is rarely unique and the unique is rarely successful. However, when something is both unique AND successful, you can be sure it won’t remain unique for long.” Like clockwork, NFT projects exploded across the internet. Everybody wanted to become the next massive NFT collection. They were willing to go to extreme lengths to prove that not only are NFTs worth it, but they were in particular. Groups began to form around NFTs. Cults of personality who had won big through NFTs were now encouraging others to buy in too. Cryptopunks, Azuki, Meebits, Cool Cats. Are those the names of groups of people who should seriously consider their lifechoices? Yes, but also, it is the name of some of the most traded and successful NFT collections in the market.
And where there is money, there is often controversy.
The conversation about intellectual property came up when a number of copyright protected works began to spread across the block-chain as new NFTs not made by the rights holders. People who make art by commission and don’t make NFT art began to see their work on the blockchain without permission as well. Extreme cases of Youtubers’ entire videos being put on the block-chain without permission.
That’s got to be the end of it…right?
Jan. 4, 2022.
A twitter post is made announcing the creation of an NFT collection based on the deceased youtuber Etika with neither the permission from Etika’s loved ones or the fans that still mourn him. It received notable negative coverage and was denounced immediately by Etika’s family who, only two years ago, had lost him. Its creator stated that they had made the collection because of gambling debts and would use the funds to rebuild their life. According to the account, all of the NFTs were bought by a single individual and they were closing the link to the collection from the public. They later stated that all the money was used for gambling. The account remains active with the last post on March 1 discussing the Russian invasion on Ukraine.
Despite this, NFT creators and those that have them have been telling the public that NFTs serve a real good. They allow artists to sell unique versions of their art so that they can make a much more stable living. Every time a transaction is made involving that artist’s art, they make a small amount of money themselves. However, it is uncommon if not impossible to find an artist using NFTs in this fashion. If anything, from how it has been used, it could be assumed that it is nothing but harmful for art. But not only art, but games as well.
Ubisoft has made it their mission to alienate their entire fanbase by stating they are planning on releasing lines of NFTs for many of their games. Immediately, the public despised this decision leading to the top-brass at Ubisoft to even say the public doesn’t know what good the NFTs could bring. Team 17, best known for publishing Overcooked one and two as well as the owners of the Worms series, stated that they planned on making NFTs for the Worms games with their vehement defense of the decision going so far to anger some of the developers.
Yet there are some NFT games that have done well. “Well” being their predatory model of being almost an outlet of good rather than simply a game. Axie Infinity is a Pokemon-style game that involves the trading and selling of Axies which act as the Pokemon that you use to fight. As you can guess, the Axies are the NFTs. In short, you can make money from playing this game by collecting the resources and selling them. It’s profitable enough that entire businesses in lower income nations have sprouted around people desperately trying to grind for items for the people who actually own the NFTs in a subordinate to manager position leading to abuse among other things. How the news had originally framed the game was negligent to report the potential workplace abuse but did report that people have scraped their way out of poverty by just playing this game.
There is no shortage of stories involving the abuse of NFTs in both games and art. However, that may be changing.
Edward Park is a fourth-year Secondary Education (English) major. EP909756@wcupa.edu