Playing Games to Make a Living

I fulfilled my play-to-earn button-pushing fantasies and learned this type of game isn’t my cup of tea. I have poked around in many other blockchain games, and almost always, the gameplay is the same flow.

The Bot Guy
The Bot Guy
September 7, 2022

Recently, I heard there’s a job sitting on your couch and tasting candy for a candy factory. It’s perfect until you realize you must be brave enough to put some weird substances in your mouth. Have you seen Booger and Earwax flavored slime? No thanks!

Sure, there are people out there who make a living playing video games, but I suspect there are far more people who cannot dedicate themselves to that life 24/7/365. The fact is, there are very few people out there able to make a decent living playing video games, though they spend their lives doing what they enjoy, and I’m happy for them.

I’ll Give It a Try

I guess there are worse things than being immersed in a fantasy world. I decided to give it a try. So, I set forward on a journey of the button. First, I wanted to figure out if these NFT games actually existed. And, if they did, I also needed more information to understand why

I have Clams and Jewels on three different games, plus diamonds in another place. Procuring these items helped provide a fragmented experience but failed to paint a complete picture.  Nevertheless, they helped me form an understanding of the technology and process. Moreso, they coerced me to take a journey into an immersive experience. Why not? And not knowing what to expect, I would just have to go with the flow.

I couldn’t put a massive amount of research into this endeavor, and I really like just pushing buttons until something breaks. I usually learn the most by watching systems fail anyway. In this sense, failure is necessary to find the limits of the game. In other words, failure is the desired outcome when discovering how a game performs as optimally as possible without failing. I try to push the game to its limits and advance as quickly as possible so I don’t waste more time than I have to. 

Blockchain Technology: The New Kid on the Block

Previously, I wrote about my journey of staking. Thinking back, I remembered I staked my WAXP a while ago. I set off, hoping I would retrieve my initial WAXP and eventually gain more. Since this particular venture is kind of a waiting game, in the meantime, I felt compelled to understand how a particular farming game and a larger series of NFT-based games work.

It may seem weird, but Blockchain interactions are very much in their infancy, and the technology offers far more expandability than was initially conceivable at the start of development.  You could say Blockchain technology is the new kid on the block. For example, if I were to measure Blockchain using the human lifespan in comparison, Blockchain Technology would still be in its infant stage, barely a few weeks old.

Human infancy is a time of dependency and development, and growth. Imagine interacting with an infant. There are really only a few things an infant can do independently. In the case of my game’s infancy, I think of the following actions: put, receive, store, and update. As with human infants, with limited interaction, there are very few things you can do until the game develops. 

Therefore, in the beginning, from a technical standpoint, blockchain games often look the same as all the others. Over time, the technology matures and grows up around blockchains that create more meaningful and productive interactions. In truth, we don’t yet know where this gaming journey will take us because no Blockchain “baby” has ever survived this long.

Proof of Concept

My experiment was to establish a player relationship with a gaming experience based in the NFT community. I needed something super inexpensive that I could pick up quickly. I wanted to prove I could know nothing before going in, experience a game from within, and leave the remnants of the game in limbo for a while. After the proper waiting period, I hoped to go back in and make a gain— somehow.

First up, I wanted to prove that it was difficult to find an affordable game that would lead to the easy discovery of profitable money-making opportunities. I believed my main barriers to getting involved in this digital sweatshop would be the following: extreme gameplay, hidden secrets that take time to research, expensive buy-ins to play the game, and competitive players who have a vested interest in the game’s finances.

In my case, time isn’t a factor. I have a certain amount of WAXP now, and I want to keep that same amount for a later time. I moved that WAXP into NFTs and listed them for sale. Ultimately, the goal is to have the amount of WAXP meet or surpass my initial investment, depending on if I get lucky and re-sell some game items.

It’s clear this game was stopped mid-development cycle. Projects can become suspended in animation instantly if funding sources drown out. A lack of progress indicates this project was probably between development rounds when the funding was cut. In this case, I’m assuming the collapse happened when WAXP fell in its USDT value. 

Depending on the timing, the WAXP depreciation could have cost WAX developers at least half of their holdings’ USDT value. Therefore, everyone who was in WAX needed to rethink their position. Both new and old WAX users are vying for the same rewards. To each user type, WAXP was worth a different USDT value based on when they bought in. Good luck figuring out how to make the economics work when two tiers of users are involved— one is paying $1500 just to join and another paying less than a dollar to play the entire game.

And Now… Day Two…

On day two, I pledged allegiance to this game, religiously restaking NFTs and spending in-game currencies to fulfill endless milestones. Yes, I am hooked, even though I’m getting rewarded large quantities of nothing and realizing the ambiguous graphics have the power to change the game drastically. 

At times these games seem robotic and incredibly jarring with in-game “pop-ups,” wanting the player to sign the corresponding blockchain transaction.  Eventually, I could figure out how to avoid this interruption, but there was still a noticeable delay, and the interface didn’t refresh as quickly as a non-blockchain game would.  

In the game, I got to the point where I was pushing buttons with an informal routine every hour or so. The timing allowed me to do other things during this test run, but I made sure I pushed the maximum buttons and then waited until the next hour when I could push more.

The concept is to buy (or earn) NFTs and stake them. Ultimately, this whole game and the few other games I have played are the same. These are basically card games based on NFT “cards” with printed gaming actions and action buttons layered in over them.

At this point, I feel as if I’ve climbed into the carcass of a blockchain game where time is frozen—  almost as if there was a moment when everyone stopped all at once. I can’t tell if this is the case, but there are a lot of indicators that point in this direction.

Apple Interference

I was able to get this game to run on the Brave Browser app on my iPad, which seems odd because Apple has been rumored to snub some crypto technologies. On the iPad, “pop-ups” were unavoidable, but I could click anywhere and be able to play the game, limping along.  At least I wasn’t tethered to my computer. Perhaps this was why WAX chose an email authentication mechanism for their Wallets because, without this, there would have been no way this app would run on an iOS device.

As for Apple, I suspect they will most likely ban the Brave Browser once they figure out that Web 3 interactions are happening in Brave. Apple only allows apps in their app store that they can take a large portion of all fees. Crypto transactions are direct wallet-to-wallet transactions without a middle mediator. There’s no way for Apple to take a piece, so their solution is to ban the app/game/technology. 

Apple will have a tough uphill climb to justify a ban of Brave as there is a lot of overlap between Crypto and Apple fans. Apple would hate to lose more market share, I’m sure. So let’s hope Brave remains relevant, as that may lead to our only chance of getting true Web 3 apps onto iOS.

The WAXP Peak

It’s clear that the crypto world changes minute to minute, and one aspect of this web of commerce affects another unrelated part in a totally different place. It’s like quantum entanglement. The change in one market variable sets off a chain reaction of cause and effect throughout the crypto space, perhaps even damning entire ecosystems on a whim.

In December 2021, the price of WAXP spiked sharply and fell quickly. This sell-off was most likely the final straw. Take a look at how quickly the game developer’s stash of WAXP devalued relative to USDT if, in fact, they were operating from December 2021 on.


This graph shows a WAXP high of .88 USDT in December 2021 and a drop to today’s price of around .11 USDT. That’s a lot of USDT value loss if you are a company developing a game that needs to pay recurring bills in stable currencies. Profits looked large for anyone on WAX in December, but once January 2022 rolled around, they started losing value fast. 

In my past life, I have been inside many software systems trying to transform data and figure out how to get information out in an organized way. At this point in my life, my goals are different, but it’s no less eerie logging into a system that seems like time has forgotten it. It’s a fair assumption that my usability critiques are moot at this point. I know nothing about the history of this game, and I’m not promoting it since I believe it’s a dead end for anyone looking for financial gain.

The Economics of the Game

Without giving away what the actual game is, I want to let you in on the economic structure because everything revolves around the currency WAXP and the three earned in-game crypto trading assets in the “play to earn” portion of the game.

First off, I am not a blockchain data guy. I don’t have crazy tools or mad research to back this up, but it seems once WAXP started falling, there was a mass exodus from the WAX ecosystem relative to this game. Judging by the auto-sales of hundreds of NFTs, it seems many folks handed their game wins to auto-liquidation systems trained to price and sell NFTs automatically.

No matter what I did, how long I spent, or even how many times I clicked these buttons, I couldn’t generate a single penny of income. Think about it— I spent at least two days of my life pushing buttons for 10 minutes of every waking hour, and I couldn’t generate even one penny of usable cash. Sure, I had 6k of this token and 4k of that token, but their individual value was so low, and their selling market’s platform so obscure that there was no work imaginable to earn a total amount worth selling. Unless, of course, I make it fully automated. This might be a great idea; however, if there’s no demand for this game, no one will go to the strange market to buy the tokens, no matter how good I generate them.

Since all the NFT or crypto-related assets were denoted in WAXP and not USDT, folks probably gained and lost USDT buying power as the bottom fell out.  I see remnants of gameplay as there are hundreds of NFTs for sale at minimal amounts. This is how I got into the game for barely any spend. By spending less than a dollar on only a few WAXP, I reached the highest level by buying all the different types of staked NFT cards.

My guess is that folks who were ready for such a WAXP price peak sold at the top and reaped large rewards while most other folks (like me) just watched as their once worthwhile WAXP shrunk into USDT dust.

It’s one thing for me to throw $100 or so into a coin and watch it depreciate to $10 or $20, but I read that folks were paying upwards of $1,500 just for the initial NFTs to play this game on the first level. And this price does not include their expenses once they got into the game. So, I guess you could say this game was a success for someone at some point because there are records of in-game generated NFTs selling for thousands of dollars; however, newer versions of those same NFTs sell for far less.

I believe that the profitable times just didn’t last long enough to complete the developer’s vision. Or maybe the developers cashed out already and have abandoned it; who knows for sure. The developer’s site is registered to a foreign address that I’ll never go to, so I know nothing about the details other than what I see and read on trusted news sources.

Here are my observations:

In-game NFT creation

The best way to explain this game is by thinking of an elaborate solitaire-type card game whereby each card is an NFT. The purpose of this game is to lay down cards and interact with each by paying a bit of this and a bit of that and receiving a lot of something else. Let’s work with examples.

Let’s say I stake a “boat” NFT. There is literally a picture of a fishing boat drawn on something that looks like a card backdrop. I click on the water, select the “boat,” and click “stake.” There’s no fee for this, but it takes a bit of my WAX CPU away to process the contract and a little of my WAX RAM to store that NFT in staked form.  During this time, I can’t sell or lend that NFT but can do anything to other NFTs that aren’t staked.

Every hour or so, I click on the boat NFT (card) and click “mine.” After doing so, I’ll receive a bit of in-game currency called food, which doesn’t cost a fee. I can eat the food by burning the food tokens and turning them into energy, another in-game currency. Then I can spend the energy on mining for gold and wood or feeding cows that produce milk, a valuable commodity. You can also use energy on many other things to advance in the game. You also have to use a lot of energy to build the ability to tend to these farming tasks and repair the tools over time. It’s all about taking the baby steps necessary to produce and harvest a crop.

Once that first person got to the end of that first cycle and was able to produce corn, I imagine they were happy and excited, and I’m sure the first thing they did was post that NFT to the market for sale. You see, the result of all this button pushing is a generation of three assets that are tradable coins AND being able to MINT and possibly sell new NFTs. 

Naturally, there was a race to earn the first NFTs created. Those would have sold right away at a large gain because once you have the card staked, you don’t need to pay any more WAXP to get the card to produce another NFT. The in-game currencies have a rotary effect, and they give the player an unlimited trajectory of fee-free clicking and staking, and the currencies keep cycling upwards. As long as you have staked the correct amount of WAXP on system resources, the game player seems to really have no bounds.

It may not have cost much to create that NFT, but any new player joining the game could skip up levels by buying your finished assets, catching up with you by paying real money, and not investing in real-time.

All in-game currencies actually trade outside the game, and there is an easy way to push the currencies to and from your WAX wallet. I have built 5k balances of each and haven’t yet reached a penny of anything in my wallet. So it’s clear that whatever these were worth is no longer the case.

Therefore, it’s logical to suggest that perhaps anyone who played this game a while ago and saved a ton of these coins has made a little money, but perhaps not what they wished for. This probably means there are lots of other folks in my same position with large quantities of nothing.

This situation leads to a dead market where no one wants to buy anything inside because there is no hope it will ever be worth anything outside. This is how games die but remain in full tact for people like me to mosey in and poke around.  Quite often, if games start on the blockchain, they can continue in perpetuity so long as they continue to fund themselves properly.

Because I know how this happens, I sought an inexpensive game. I figured I would give it two or three days to see if it could generate the amount of money I put in. In this case, I hope my invested WAXP returns to my wallet over time from potential NFT sales. But most likely, this won’t happen, and I knew that going in.

The auto-selling NFT wars

The game’s goal is to generate new NFTs, to mint them— basically to birth new calves, grow them into cows, milk them, and sell the milk, just like on a farm. With each action, like harvesting a crop, hatching an egg, or milking a cow, you create and own new NFTs. So, I was generating new NFTs for FREE! All I’d need to do is spend my energy (in-game currency) to perform these actions, and I’d get the NFTs deposited into my WAX wallet.

I explored the options to sell these NFTs, and it looked like there were markets. In fact, many seem to have sold for a lot of WAXP, and currently, more are for sale for a lot of WAXP. Sorting by lowest first, it’s easy to see that some of the NFTs exist in abundance, yet cannot retain value outside the game.

These NFTs are easy to generate from the game, and there is less in-game currency to spend and fewer in-line actions to make before the NFTs are spit back. So, watering a crop six times in a row within an allotted time frame needs lots of concentration and focus. Who would do that for an NFT worth only 0.009 WAXP, which is less than a fraction of a cent?

On the contrary, I found out the NFTs created with more difficulty became worth more. Therefore, people in the game back at that time probably built a base of these NFTs and sold them— hopefully recouping their investment. I bought a few of these assets and have already listed them for sale. If someone buys them, I’ll be whole on this experiment and perhaps even make a few WAXP, which is, ironically, nothing worth writing about.

Ultimate Predictive Down-turn

I fulfilled my play-to-earn button-pushing fantasies and learned this type of game isn’t my cup of tea. I have poked around in many other blockchain games, and almost always, the gameplay is the same flow. You stake NFTs, merge them to create a new super NFT, and pay for actions taken on the staked NFTs that produce newer NFTs or more of an in-game currency.  No matter the backdrop, story, or graphics, the gameplay is the same.

Each interface of a game that works this way is uniquely decorated, and there is much reading available to understand the currencies and NFT card requirements for the desired outcome. 

Similarly, every ecosystem has its own rules for staking NFTs. WAX makes you stake for resources and some charge a gas fee (like ETH) for all these steps. These networks have been around the longest, so their staying power seems greater.

I never got into Dungeons and Dragons—one of the oldest games— so no matter if I was staking flurbies to use in a breeding program on planet frodrate or some other made-up gibberish, it’s all the same and certainly not for me.

The flow, actions, and milestones are a non-unique aspect of early-on blockchain NFT staking games. The lack of a unique structure does not seem to be the cause of this game’s failure. In this case, I believe the meltdown happened because the development company actually stopped developing.

No matter what happened, it’s clear today that this game lay abandoned, perpetually running as a relic in the blockchain stack. I believe, but I have no proof that it has no kill switch, so I guess, technically, it’s like Schrödinger’s game, frozen in time. More specifically, it is frozen in the chasm between being relevant and being a disaster.  But how could this happen?

Network Effects in Reverse

Network Effects are easy to understand with a large multi-coined ecosystem like Ethereum, for example.  Many tokens live and trade on the Ethereum chain, each with its own value.

When ETH gains in USDT value, that value is (in part) pushed around to the ERC-20 tokens, and they also gain a bit; it’s not only ETH going up— they all go up at once.  This is part of the “network effect,” though not the entire concept.  User adoption and new use cases offer similar push and pull on the network effect.

In WAX’s case, as the value of WAXH increased or decreased, the entire network of other coins became more or less valuable.  The more assets inside, the larger the growth or shrinkage can be.

Similarly, there are single asset blockchains that have no network effect because if they go up or down, it’s linearly related to their total value. The Market Cap is calculated in a few ways, most notably by multiplying all coins out there by the price of one coin.

Reversing the network effect as a bear market trajectory nearly clobbered the WAXP asset and the entire WAX ecosystem. Folks want to get their USDT value out of the ecosystem before they lose it, so they look to sell on-network assets back to the main token (WAXP) and sell that to USDT to retain as much of the USDT value as possible.  Perhaps this is in contrast to what they should have done, but markets move by momentum, not single actions. And the momentum of everyone selling simultaneously pushes the price down further. It’s called a “sell down.”

You can see where the “smart money” started selling on the chart above. The bottom started falling out at around .9 USDT when massive sell-offs caused the price to go back to about .5 USDT. My guess is that most folks who made money were out around 0.75, and then the panic selling began as regular folks saw the bump and dump and assumed WAXP would never recover. This game, however, was probably still going on, enticing folks to play without warning them that its network had already seen a pump and dump.

WAXP Turns Bear

WAXP continued to go down relative to USDT, BTC, and ETH. This downward momentum started the bear market for WAXP that continues today. If a network coin depreciates relative to USDT, it tends to suck value out as the internal folks try to retain their gains by porting out their coins. As WAXP came down off its highs, people who were directly interacting with the WAX games started getting paid less and less USDT if they were using USDT to settle on. 

When this happened, many things probably went haywire. Although I can’t verify, I will just use this information as an example. The main problem here is that the pricing mechanism that ties real-world goods and services to token values has been greatly and drastically depreciated. Assets that were selling for 100 WAX and fetching enough WAX to cash in 50 USDT one day could be selling for that same 100 WAX the next and only be worth 5 USDT. 

This contrast causes clogs in cash flow almost instantly and is a company-changing moment because anyone who plays the game instantly loses lots of USDT value for their wax NFT assets. No matter if they were purchased just fresh or many moons ago, they lost USDT value because of the WAX blockchain token depreciation. The in-game currencies probably became worthless as folks likely stopped playing the game and unstaked all their NFTs to sell and recoup as much as possible.

I see signs of all these conditions present in this project, but I don’t find clues that lead me down a discovery path, nor do I care to research. Just the fact that I discovered these elements gives me a great number of issues to talk about since this seemingly innocuous game has so many levels.  While I can’t tell you how to use this game to make a fortune, I can definitely dissect this game and fill you in on the dynamics at play in the play-to-earn world.

It’s a ‘No’ From Me

Judging from what I see now, I think I can “call it.” The time of death is pretty vague— probably between when WAXP started to decline and today. However, the reason for death was most certainly a lack of interest and failing in-game economics due to the devaluation of the core network currency, WAXP.

This game probably worked really well until the floor fell out from WAX, making it all moot.

Who knows, maybe WAX will come back. I hope so, and I believe it will. But until then, I’m leaving my WAX well enough alone. It’s time to move on to other projects! 

I have a few more digital land plots I can eventually update you on, but as for WAX, it’s time to leave it suspended in its primordial ooze of origin. I definitely want to see what happens when I return to this game in its barren state in a month or two or perhaps when WAXP gets more valuable. Maybe by then, my NFTs will be sold. Who knows? But I know I won’t have to click 45 times every hour to push my NFTs to the next stage in this silly-looking basic game.

Township is still far more fun, and that’s saying a lot.

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