A future already past?

The promises and pitfalls of cryptogames, blockchain, and speculative play





cryptogames, play-to-earn, Huizinga, Caillois, gambling, speculation


The article argues that blockchain-based games should be conceptualized as an emerging social practice that attracts financial speculators under the guise of online games. The article first outlines the blockchain-gaming discourse, which promises ownership and benefits to players, while it encourages financiers and publishers to exploit players. The article presents the performative discourse of blockchain advocates as well as the counterarguments presented by journalist, players, and developers, in order to demonstrate that arguments against cryptogaming are not anticapitalist and politicized, but mostly based on common sense. Then, the article investigates game studies concepts for their capacity to further explicate cryptogames, and finds that neither gamification nor playbor are completely fitting. Instead, the article turns to the game research fundamentals of Huizinga and Caillois to cast blockchain gaming in a new light. From this perspective, games like CryptoKitties and Axie Infinity emerge as nested activities that can be approached as play of financial speculation, with the latter approach being significantly privileged in existing games.


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How to Cite

Backe, H.-J. (2023) “A future already past? The promises and pitfalls of cryptogames, blockchain, and speculative play”, Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture, 14(1), pp. 81–98. doi: 10.7557/23.7131.