Saturday, June 25, 2022

Riot insists a Valorant character dislikes NFTs

Since NFTs are unpopular in games with almost everyone who doesn’t intend to get rich by shelling other players, even the appearance of supporting them is debatable. This is a situation Riot Games found themselves in after a lighthearted tweet about one of the Valorant wizards visiting an art exhibition on a day trip. It turns out that the image Killjoy saw is an NFT. Cue Riot struggles to make it clear it was unintentional, literally saying “Whoopsie!”

Valorant’s regional German-language Twitter account posted silly tweets this week featuring the game’s cheerful German wizard touring their hometown of Berlin. She had a kebab:

She rode the subway:

And she briefly admired a computer-generated artwork by Australian artist Martin Houra, who sells his work as cryptocurrency NFTs. With NFTs being as controversial and unpopular as they should be, Riot was quick to delete this. Not until the Wayback Machine archive it.

Brave wizard Killjoy looks at Martin Houra's NFT art in a promotional image posted to TWitter.
Looks to me like it’s probably a frame from one of Houras Solar videos.

“Oops!” said the German account in a bilingual statement posted later. It explains that the team was just having fun and jokes, they thought people might enjoy sightseeing with Killjoy, and they thought “since Killjoy loves programming” it would be nice to include computer generated art. Oops.

“However, we were not aware that those selected were working as NFTs,” they emphasized. “We had no intention of including NFTs as part of Killjoy’s work and hobbies.”

NFTs so toxic that one company is rushing to insist a popular fictional character doesn’t like them.

If you are lucky enough to have avoided NFTs, allow me to explain briefly. In the world of digital art, NFTs are basically digital receipts stating that you’ve purchased an artwork, only you’re not buying the artwork or owning it in any way, and everyone else can still see the art, and only other people who buy these stupid receipts will be impressed by your stupid receipt. For example, Konami sold NFTs of Castlevania images and videos for £119,000.

In video games, this can be more insidious. The most harmless version is basically what Valve has been doing with Dota and CS:GO for years, with virtual items that players can sell to each other – but are tracked “on the blockchain” because shareholders are impressed with the latest buzzword. At a grosser level, the games are built around NFTs for items that actually affect how you play. Peter Molyneux’s next game sold £40m in virtual land NFTs, allowing players to make money as landlords by renting out plots of land for other players to build factories on, which is only the worst. Then there are the many purported NFT metaverse MMOs that will likely never be made or played if they are made, but could make money by selling their own dumb cryptocurrency to speculators.

The discussion about NFTs in games seems either overblown or awful. Most major companies have yet to step in and talk about interest in NFTs, but don’t do anything publicly. Except for Ubisoft, who tried NFT hats and promptly got yelled at by everyone. Ubisoft has since said ‘nope, you’re stupid‘. lol.

I was pleased when Yanis Varoufakis, ex-Valve economist and former Greek finance minister, recently said that the culmination of the supposedly utopian “play-to-earn” model would be “the apotheosis of misanthropy.”

Riot might be interested, mind you. Brazilian side livecoins reported last year that Riot had filed a trademark for Wild Rift, the mobile version of League, which would also cover NFTs and blockchain jazz. That might just be caution, and I suppose I don’t blame the companies for considering the idea. But I blame them if they pull through.

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