Are play-to-earn games fun?

There’s been much hype surrounding play-to-earn gaming and NFT-powered games this year. So much so that people are banking on this to be the future of gaming. But are these games truly fun and enjoyable?

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“There’s been much hype surrounding play-to-earn gaming and NFT-powered games this year. So much so that people are banking on this to be the future of gaming. But are these games truly fun and enjoyable?”

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From when I could last remember, games have always been part of my life. From playing the original crash bandicoot on Playstation 1 to now primarily playing stunning looking immersive games on PC, games provided fun, entertainment and a way to escape reality at times.

We have seen a massive surge in gaming, mostly due to the pandemic. More people are adopting games and playing them as a way to connect and socialise with friends from a distance. We have also seen a massive surge in cryptocurrency, blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). A huge application of NFTs is found within gaming through the play-to-earn model, where players earn real-life rewards for their participation or time spent in a game. One of the most well-known examples of this is in the game, Axie Infinity, where you play little, cute creatures, battle them against each other and reap rewards (in the form of NFTs) for doing so.

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Image from the game: Axie Infinity

Axie Infinity reported over $500 million in revenue for this year - an astounding figure for a relatively unknown (not anymore) gaming studio based in Vietnam, where my family was originally from too. Axie really proved the model that anyone could earn real-world money to just play a game. This model spawned significant hype and adoption of this game and several other blockchain games, where people could potentially make a living now from just playing games and selling NFTs.

I love the fact that people can now earn money from playing games. It allows anyone with a wifi connection to now earn money, wherever they are in the world (such as the slums of Vietnam). I also love the fact that in theory, once you finish playing a game for good (because it is boring or you have moved on to another game), you are able to sell your in-game items for real-world money. What I am more concerned about is when a game stops being a game - when people play for the sole purpose of earning money, rather than a game’s purpose, which is entertainment, challenge and fun.

Personally, I am more of an immersive type of gamer, where some of my favourite games so far have been story-rich, gameplay-driven games such as The Witcher 3, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and most recently - Horizon Zero Dawn. There are also several multiplayer games that I loved to play such as Valorant, Call of Duty & Minecraft at some point in my life. What all these had in common was that they were enjoyed for the simple fact of entertainment, immersion, fun and to socialise with other people/gamers.

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Image from the game, Horizon: Zero Dawn

While the current NFT gaming landscape is mostly all play-to-earn, I wonder if we are moving to a gaming future where it is less about having fun, and more about making money. We see videos and articles everywhere touting the significant gains and/or income people can generate from playing these games, but let’s take away the NFT portion for a second and really think - “will this game still be fun and enjoyable without the NFT portion, or is the only reason I am playing this is to earn money?” For me, I do think there is a current disparity between income and entertainment when it comes to traditional games and NFT gaming. We are still in the adolescent stages of adoption with NFTs & gaming and as we move forward, I am excited to see new projects introduced that will challenge, and even shatter this disparity.

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