Shaban is “The Godfather” of rare digital art.
Flying in from Switzerland with his team from EverdreamSoft for The Rare Digital Art Festival, Shaame has been in the digital collectibles space since 2008, when he launched his first game, Moonga. As a collectible card game, Shaame saw that players were trading assets with each other via PayPal, which eventually grew into bad actors trying to swindle others into paying for cards they weren’t getting, committing fraud. Envisioning how these players’ assets could be protected, Shaame and his team released Spells of Genesis, one of the first blockchain-based video games.
The genius behind Spells of Genesis is that it’s one of the first use cases of how people can start using blockchain technology without understanding it. In fact, you can just hop on and play (seriously, go do it, it’s a lot of fun), worrying about the collectible and wallet aspects later on. This is a huge breakthrough, as it takes an application people are familiar with and immediately gets them on board.
We sat down with Shaban to discuss how the whole concept of a blockchain trading card game came to be, as well as why he believes gamers will become the earlier adopters of blockchain. With virtual assets in the gaming world (think: Counter-Strike Go skins) becoming more and more popular, the marriage between the blockchain and gaming will only grow further. And for Shaban and EverdreamSoft, they predict that this relationship is just in its infancy.
Talk to me a little bit the origins of Spells of Genesis. Why was it important to put these trading card assets on the blockchain?
It was 2008, our first game was called Moonga, it was a trading card game, and in the game, there was a possibility for players to trade cards with an in-game currency. People were using Paypal and money under the table to exchange cards, and then they’d contact support and say “hey, someone hacked me” or “please reverse the trade” and things like that.
So, for our second game, Spells of Genesis, we thought that we could use blockchain. In order for people to be able to trade the card, their asset, in a decentralized way without the need of us being in the middle. Without them trying to cheat the system, because using Paypal, you can reverse and do all kinds of stuff. And having an exchange market where you can trade cards was a perfect solution.
To you, it was basically more of a security.
It is, it is a security, but it’s also a spirit and vision of true ownership. If you look at physical card games, when you purchase something, it’s yours. You hold it. You’re free to do whatever you want with it. In the digital world, if you look at iTunes for example, when you purchase a song, you don’t own it. So, you are not free to trade or lend to a friend. We wanted to bring that element in the game for the players, making those cards more valuable, because they have scarcity. They’re tradable.
One thing that’s interesting about Spells of Genesis is that it’s very accessible. People can play it without having to learn about the blockchain or crypto. How have you all been able to accomplish this?
Yeah, one difficult aspect of gamers is that they don’t know much today about the blockchain. But, our bet was that in five years, everyone will want to have ownership of their asset. No one will pay for an asset where they don’t have ownership. During this period, people are not necessarily familiar. So, we wanted to have a mix.
We have on-chain cards and off-chain cards mixed with the former systems, people can play and get some free cards. Then at a certain point, they can tokenize it and receive a blockchain copy. So, they can still play the way they know and stuff, but slowly they can understand that, “If I blockchain-ize this asset, it becomes very valuable. I can trade it. I can sell it.” Then we’ll “onboard” players into using blockchain and wallet. But of course, it’s a break for a new user if you tell them to create a wallet to play.
And with your model, do you think other people will start adapting to it and sell more?
Yes, we already saw a player that didn’t know anything about blockchain trying to get their wallet. It’s not easy. They have a lot of questions, and there is a lot of education to do. But once they understand the true value, then they really get into it. However, making that step is hard. We’re working toward making it…making it as easy as possible for the players.
In terms of digital collectibles, where do you sort of see rare digital art playing a role in gaming over the next couple of years?
So, the new model that’s emerging is user-generated content. A good example is Counter Strike Go, where people create skins, and those skins are traded. They have value, but they’re not on a chain, they’re on a server. So, Steam, at any point, can disable everything.
Even still, people are trading and producing skins. They’re valuable. However, what will empower users is if you put your art on blockchain, your skin, or whatever, it will be there no matter whatever happens. No one so far has shut down a blockchain, so the asset itself is more resilient, it’s more powerful when it’s on a blockchain. And people will start understanding that slowly.
Awesome. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Last year was a crazy year. There were a lot of interesting projects that bring validation. People want to own their assets, and it’s just the beginning. My bet is there will be more and more people producing content. For example, Rare Pepe.
There are people who create stuff and other people who can use it. This will really open a world where people can craft and create things to sell online and really have a market. And with this market, other people will be able to enhance and do something bigger.
One final question: How do you see this affecting the mainstream? Do you think gamers are going to be the first early adopters?
Yes, probably. Because gamers are usually really early into the technologies. I see it like the adoption of the internet. When I started out it was like creating a game on the internet in 1995, it was something complicated, it was expensive. But, there were a few games, and now almost all games are using internet in one way or another. The adoption of the internet came. And, there are not only games, but gamers that are really a factor in it. So, I see the blockchain a bit the same, an adoption of gamers with blockchain that will create leverage.