In a recent interview with the Rest of World, Mikhai Kossar, a member of the Wolves DAO, opined that people from poorer regions of the world could be used as NPCs (Non-Player Characters) in wealthier player’s games.
Kossar also expressed his belief that some players are likely to go wherever they will be able to earn more money. “They will play Pac-Man if they can earn more,” says Kossar. He advocates for renting practices to be more widely available, because they make costlier games more accessible to less well-off players.
“You have people that have money, but don’t have the time to play the game, and on the other hand, you have people that don’t have money but have time,” Kossar explained.
Aside from Kossar, “Big Chief”, a big player from Critterz talked about his guild, and the lucrative opportunity ir provides for Filipino and LATAM kids.
Kossar Presents a Rather Dystopian Vision for NPCs
Mikhai Kossar further added that, in future, developing countries could buy guild ownership from Western countries, to allow them to manage it themselves.
“Filipinos could band together to buy some assets and then rent them out to themselves and make money that way,” Kossar tried to explain.
Spinning the scenario in terms of the wealth gap between players, he even elaborates on how this could create a new form of gaming environment.
“With the cheap labor of a developing country, you could use people in the Philippines as NPCs, real-life NPCs in your game. They could “just populate the world, maybe do a random job or just walk back and forth, fishing, telling stories, a shopkeeper, anything is really possible,” Kossar claimed.
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘exploitation’ as “a situation in which someone treats someone else in an unfair way, especially in order to make money from their work,” something that resembles what Kossar is trying to convey.
Kossar’s comments are clearly reflective of the exploitative tendencies of the westerners who look to obtain cheap labour from developing countries and then profit off from it.
Ironically, one of the core values of the Wolves DAO is “kaizen”—a Japanese term that means “change for the better.”
To get better insight into the fall of Critterz, a popular P2E game in the Philippines, post Minecraft’s NFT ban, you can check out Neiren Gray Desai’s piece on Rest of World.
Critterz High Roller Explains How Filipino Kids Played for Him
While selling maxed out profiles and in-game currency is not new, in the context of NFT games, it takes the traditional “illicit” market of gold farming to a whole new level.
This is best illustrated by the example of Critterz, an NFT game based on Minecraft. The game enjoyed substantial success before Minecraft negated NFT integration.
Big Chief, a “high roller” in Critterz, got a few kids from the Philippines to gather in-game resources for him. He then paid professional Minecraft builders $10,000 to build an in-game casino.
“I have a lot of kids that play for me, and they play because they want to make extra money in a country that’s really just locking them down,” Big Chief commented.
Big Chief’s team were told to put in eight hours of work, so it would be lucrative for the scholars, as well as the investors. While Big Chief did not disclose the hourly rate of his “employees,” he claimed that his scholars were earning as much as a Certified Public Accountant would in the Philippines.
Big Chief was annoyed when some called his guild out for exploitation. “That’s why it’s really annoying when people talk about exploitation. I couldn’t tell you what the hourly rate comes to, but I could tell you that people make very little money and the cost of living is very low in the Philippines.”
That’s not the end of the story however, as he further remarked that, unlike Filipino players, LATAM players were harder to recruit:“I think in the Philippines they were able to earn just enough where it was worth their while. In Latin America, it was harder to recruit because they weren’t willing to put in the work.”
He seemed dejected that he couldn’t help those kids anymore, saying: “Before, I was really helping a lot of these kids, giving them an opportunity to make some extra cash for their families and it just kind of sucks that I can’t really do that right now“.
Critterz Co-Founder Says Guilds Were Spontaneous
Interestingly, while creating Critterz, Co-Founder Emerson Hsieh wanted to give players ownership over the things they create. In a way, that means Big Chief’s “team” defeats the whole purpose behind Critterz.
“The guild systems emerged spontaneously. It is currently free of regulation, I think we can only wait to see what everything would be like with time,” Hsieh said.
However, Hsieh admitted that many scholars were from developing countries, but reaffirmed Critterz’ popularity in the U.S. “There were also players from specifically American blue-collar families who, during the pandemic, relied on these ecosystems as a source of income,” he said.
On the Flipside
- Developed countries of the west have always looked for new ways of milking the labor of developing countries. “It’s dystopian, but also foundational: As long as real money is involved, there will always be people willing to pursue it, and there will always be others eager to take advantage of them,” writes Andy Chalk, a popular journalist at PC Gamer.
- The transition from traditional video games to P2E blockchains is hard. Further, skepticism, combined with exploitative tendencies, will likely serve to drive away potential players. As such, traditional gamers typically don’t perceive any use for NFTs, and the whole “cheap labor and player NPCs” concept only serves to strengthen the crypto skeptic’s argument.
Why You Should Care
Popularized by Axie Infinity, renting systems and scholarships indeed encourage players to enter and experience P2E games at a lower cost. Many gamers that have been around the block will argue that renting in such games is somewhat similar to gold farming in MMORPGs back in the day.
Guild systems and scholarships are currently unregulated, as Hsieh pointed out. Every project has their own rules about it, so naturally there are some who will try to take advantage of the situation. Nonetheless, upcoming P2E projects are committed to delivering a fun gaming experience with accessibility, which may eventually address the exploitation issues.
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