The introduction of NFTs and cryptocurrency to the esports world inspires a grim vision of the future – The Daily Free Press

The renowned esports organization Team Liquid announced on Nov. 10 a four-year partnership with Coinbase, one of the largest platforms for selling and trading cryptocurrency. While this was the most recent high-profile cryptocurrency collaboration with an esports company, it was not the first and will in all likelihood not be the last.

Another major esports team, Evil Geniuses, also partnered with Coinbase in April. The organization Fnatic tendered a deal with a company called Crypto.com in September. Team SoloMid or TSM has even signed a deal with crypto exchange FTX, requiring among other things that the organization change its name to TSM FTX accordingly.

Yvonne Tang / DFP Staff

Non-fungible tokens and the blockchain are starting to integrate into video games themselves as well. NFTs are essentially virtual collectibles that cannot be easily interchanged. In early October, the aforementioned TSM FTX announced a promotion with a game called Aurory that seeks to encourage the global adoption of cryptocurrencies by introducing gamers to blockchain through incentivized gameplay. Four NFTs were released, all showing people wearing TSM jerseys, and all serving some ingame function.

The massive PC game retailer Steam, for its part, actually banned all games that use crypto or blockchain technology last month and thereby pulled several titles off of its service.

The heartening case of Steam serves as a reminder that cryptocurrency is still a heavily controversial topic, and for good reason. As a myriad of articles and activists have pointed out, the blockchain technology on which cryptocurrency and NFTs rely is usually shockingly bad for the environment. Without getting too technical, most cryptocurrencies, including the giant Ethereum, use a system called proof of work, in which computers keep transactions secure by forcing them to solve difficult puzzles.

As an article in The Verge explains, The process is incredibly energy inefficient on purpose. The idea is that using up inordinate amounts of electricity makes it less profitable for someone to muck up the ledger. According to The Verge article, Ethereum alone uses enough electricity as the entire country of Libya, and the carbon footprint of the average NFT is equal to more than a months worth of electricity for the average citizen of an EU member nation.

Steams ban is one of quite a few wins that those opposed to NFTs and blockchain technology can appreciate. One of the first major controversies in crypto art occurred earlier this year when the online marketplace ArtStation announced plans to integrate NFTs, noting that they would make up for the environmental impact by funding carbon offsets elsewhere. Critics, such as Twitter user @Bleeeach, compared this to setting a house on fire and then buying a potted plant after the fact within hours, overwhelming backlash forced ArtStation to back down.

Discord, the premier online messaging service for gamers, also halted its plans for crypto integration after a coordinated effort by users to cancel their subscriptions. But so much crypto and blockchain technology has taken hold despite the large opposition. All of the massive sponsorship deals I mentioned above will last for years and were made while this backlash took hold.

To me, it is a reminder of just how powerless ordinary people are. When a big company is motivated by the prospect of making money and getting in early on new technology, even an incredibly large body of people opposing them does not get much traction. Hearing about the proliferation of blockchain technology is sobering, but especially the video game world must remember that not all is lost.

While there are indeed games integrating NFTs and cryptocurrency, and there will probably be more, Steams ban on them is an incredible first step. Using our power as consumers and political activists, there is still hope that we can prevent our world and our media from being inundated further with planet-killing art and technology.