Game Ownership is on the Verge of an Identity Shift

Gaming in the last couple of decades has boomed into a huge industry that has created massive pipelines of technological development. From hardware to software, the gaming industry has evolved so quickly that one could devote an entire lifetime traversing through all the different facets and it still would not be enough. However, the one area that gaming is yet to see a big explosion in, is ownership and processes related to ownership.

At Revelar, we believe that the mainstream adoption and on-boarding of blockchain technology into the gaming industry will usher in the next way of gaming, one that is owned by the player.

Ownership is a very nuanced topic and certainly, one can dive into it very deeply, however, the topic of this article is identity, and how it can be incorporated into gaming.

Ownership in Gaming (Briefly)

Ownership in the digital world is naught save for the ability to verify it. This verification usually constitutes two phases:

  1. Proof-of-Life (Proof-of-Identity) — Although not explicitly stated, proof of life/identity is the first step in the verification of ownership. We first verify that the person is who they say they are and this is traditionally done with accounts/logins/KYC
  2. Proof-of-Ownership — Only after proof-of-life do we begin with a proof of ownership, whereby the person, who has proved themselves to be true, then proves that they have ownership of something, or ownership is assigned to the abstraction of their identity created in phase 1

In the digital world, both of these phases are particularly difficult. Phase 1 doesn’t have a one-stop solution and usually involves the transfer of confidential KYC information. Phase 2 is even harder because ownership in the virtual world is particularly nuanced and the “what” part of the ownership question is difficult. Also, the burden of proof in the traditional sense usually falls onto the individual.

With the advent of blockchain technology, we can abstract individuals in the real world into digital entities denoted by public keys or by wallets, and using cryptography can perform almost all of the verification. I don’t need to validate a person, merely their wallet or their authority over a wallet. Additionally, with NFTs, we can validate ownership more easily and we can give people ownership over a distinct digital asset. Instead of saying “Hey use your game account with us and we’ll allow your account to access some in-game items”, the game studio can now say “Here are the NFTs, you own and control them and we only need to validate your ownership to give you the same in-game functionality”. The latter of these is something we are very passionate about at Revelar.

Back to the 2-phases, this 2-phase approach for ownership verification seems entirely logical however there has to be a better way given all the benefits of blockchain. I think that a better way is through decentralized identity (DID).

So What is DID?

Recently the Revelar team attended Consensus 2022 in Austin, Texas. It was an incredible experience, and we had many amazing conversations with many different people. One thing we did notice, was that depending on who you spoke to, decentralized identity was either defined as an Orwellian masquerade technology intended to take over all of humanity, or it was the one-stop solution for all of the world’s problems.

Naturally, Revelar does not share either of these opinions, however, we have seen the potential for disruption that decentralized identity could have. The definitions and theoretical frameworks for decentralized identity have been around for a while in a formal format, however, we are only just starting to see how these formal definitions can be translated into actual use-cases. It is for this reason that we think there is a massive potential for disruption, however how that will play out, we cannot make a claim yet.

Well, let’s start answering the “what” question of DID. Decentralized identity is part of the self-sovereign identity school of thought. Put simply, Individuals own their digital personal information and identities and are entirely in control of how that information is shared or used. One of the best analogies to explain this we have heard is the following:

Imagine all your personal information is stored inside a locked file room that belongs to you. In the traditional verification paradigms we are all familiar with, every time you transfer KYC information, you go into that room, make a copy of all the requested information, and then hand that over to a black box. What this black box does, and how it does it, you have no idea or control over. With DID, the person that wants to verify identity is given a temporary look inside a specific file inside your file room. All the while you stand watch and can observe their actions regarding your information. When they are done, they leave the file with the information behind, however, they have all the necessary confirmation they need.

Let’s get a little more technical. DID consists of four major components:

  1. Credential — This can be any kind of credential abstraction or information unit
  2. Issuer — This is the entity that issues a credential
  3. Holder — This is the entity that holds a credential
  4. Verifier — This is an entity that can be used to verify aspects of the credential

The high-level flow of these four components is that the issuer will create a credential and issue it to a holder. This credential can be anything from a real-world certification, to some arbitrary data. Once issued, the holder can then interact with a verifier, who can use cryptography to verify the credential, and that the holder is the holder. Notice how our previous 2-phase approach has become a single phase, clever right?

What are the applications to gaming?

Let’s tackle this question at the hand of a very common scenario, the purchasing of a game.

Suppose we want to purchase a game using some online marketplace. In this example, we are assuming that we want to purchase access to the game, and that is what we will own. Let’s redefine our four major DID components in light of this:

  1. Credential—An ownership certificate for access to the game. Whoever holds this credential, can access the game with this credential’s identifier serving as the identity.
  2. Issuer — The gaming studio the credential is to be purchased from
  3. Holder — The person wanting to purchase the access key, i.e. us
  4. Verifier — Whichever party needs to validate our credentials.

As a prospective holder, I will then purchase an ownership/access credential from a gaming studio for their game. In this transaction, the gaming studio need never know who I am, they only need to know that I can pay for the pass (which using smart contracts is very easy to do). The transaction is successful and the credential is issued from the gaming studio into my wallet. I know own that credential entirely.

Now I want to go and download the game’s files so I can play my game. So off I go to the online marketplace. Traditionally, this process would entail creating an account, blindly agreeing to some unreadable legal privacy policy, email verification, maybe even KYC information and credit cards, and only then can I go to a library and download.

However, I am now the proud holder of a DID credential validating my ownership, so instead of all of this, I click on a “Verify Credential” button. My wallet connector gives me a popup telling me that a credential validator wants to look inside my DID wallet for the credential. In the background of the website, this credential verifier looks at my credential and uses some cryptographic magic to validate the credential and because it accesses it through the wallet connector that I authorized, also knows that I am the holder. Once completed, it returns a validated answer, the marketplace then gives me the download popup.

In this example, no information was exchanged between me and the game studio or the marketplace. Even if they did choose to log all of the information, the most that they would be able to log is that I am the holder of the credential and the credential particulars. They could choose to keep a record of the wallets, but this information is in any event contained publicly on-chain.

Granted this is an overly simplified example but I’m sure you can see the potential.

So what comes next…

For the sake of brevity, I will stick to one example in this article however it should be quite clear that there is a myriad of other use cases. Gamer tags based on decentralized identity with asset transfer, DID-to-DID micro-transactions within a game, resale of DID artifacts et cetera. Zero-knowledge-proofs and partial information disclosure are also promising developments of this technology.

The entire blockchain space is still very new, and even though some of the technology has been with us for a while, we are still discovering new usages and applications for it. Decentralized identity that is blockchain-driven is one such discovery and it is something that we at Revelar are very excited about!

Benjamin Beer | Revelar & Duo

P.S. Keep an eye out for my follow-up article where I will get quite a bit more technical about a possible developer flow. Also, if you are interested in decentralized identity, have a look at Atala Prism. They have a pioneers program that will take you from zero to hero using Kotlin.

About the Author

Benjamin is by qualification a Computer & Electronic engineer. He has a passion for engineering, video games, and blockchain technology.

Benjamin is still actively involved in research in Industrial Engineering with his key focus areas being blockchain technology, trust & integrity management, and supply chain engineering. His prior expertise is in the creation of near real-time decision support systems, having worked with a racing team to design and create a race strategy optimization system. He is currently working on research in industrial blockchain.

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