Edward Snowden Warns Against 'Unethical' NFT Game Monetisation - But Is It Unique To Crypto?

Image of Edward Snowden in front Axie Infinity characters falling from the sky.

Image of Edward Snowden in front Axie Infinity characters falling from the sky.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has hit out at the use of NFTs in video games for “injecting an artificial sense of scarcity” into digital worlds.

Snowden, who recently criticised Shiba Inu, was speaking to Polkadot founder Gavin Wood as part of the BlockDown DeData conference when he raised concerns about the “NFT-ishness of the space”.

However, just how different is it from modern gaming?

Edward Snowden Criticises NFT Artificial Scarcity

Snowden, who said he has been playing games for a long time, criticised the practices used in NFT gaming. “The ultimate result of what they’re doing is they are injecting an artificial sense of scarcity into a post-scarcity domain,” he said. “I think that is actually an inherently anti-social urge.”

He added that people go to digital worlds to escape reality - which is slowly creeping into these spaces. “[Players] want to change the colour of the wall, and you've got to pay $19.99 for the wall, or for a token to let you roll for the potential to maybe recolour your wall. There is something horrible and heinous and tragic in that,” he said.

“The community should very much be trying to bend the arc of development away from injecting artificial unnecessary scarcity entirely for the benefit of some investor class,” he continued. “One of the privileges of technology is that it frees us of the material limits that only exist in a material space.

“To try and reimpose material in an immaterial space, I think is a little bit unethical.”

When asked how this compares to NFTs and music, he said: “Did someone craft something in a game that took them 30 hours? That is a very different thing. That’s tokenizing their effort, it’s tokenizing human life, human expression in a certain way, and guarding and protecting that and allowing them to trade that.

"On the other hand, is it a random number generator that’s just spitting out seed values?”

Snowden did, however, begin by praising NFTs. “I’m not against NFTs, I think they can be great,” he said. “I’ve seen them used successfully, I’ve used them for fundraising for the Freedom of Press Foundation, and the generosity of the community is astounding.”

Is NFT Scarcity New To Gaming?

Of course, this issue isn’t limited to the play-to-earn NFT games. Many of the most popular games today - whether that’s FIFA, Call of Duty, Overwatch or Rocket League - have all included instances of creating this artificial scarcity through the likes of loot boxes.

Indeed, Snowden touched on the existence of this in mobile games. “We see this in traditional mobile games, and there’s a Japanese Gatcha model,” he said. ”Where you’re not paying for a guaranteed product...you’re paying for the chance, the potential.

“That distance is where a lot of exploitation in these spaces happen because humans are inherently bad at internalising statistical chance.”

Read More: SHIB Partners With Former Activision Developer To Create NFT Game

[Image: Sky Mavis/Laura Poitras/Praxis Films]

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