Discover more from Nami
In this week’s Nexus, we discuss the evolution of collectible games and potential applications for web3 gaming
When considering the types of games that are most suitable for web3, there is one specific element of gaming that consistently emerges as a significant catalyst for the adoption of NFTs: collectibles. Collectibles have been an integral part of games, both in physical and digital formats, and their extensive history can provide valuable insights into the potential applications of NFTs and meta-games in web3 gaming.
Although there may be older forms of physical collectible gaming, one of the earliest experiences we had was through schoolyard competition in the form of marbles. In a game of marbles, players engage in a competition where the objective is to knock each other's marbles out of a designated circular area and claim them as their own. This aspect of collectible gaming, which involves winning another player's collectibles, is not commonly explored in web3 gaming and applied to NFTs.
Marbles, as collectibles, didn't typically possess a wide range of attributes for collecting purposes. However, they could have visually appealing styles on the inside, such as the classic "cat's eye" design. Additionally, marbles generally came in two sizes: the smaller normal ones and the much larger boulder-like ones. The game itself was simple and portable, combining elements of skill and randomness derived from physics and the texture of the ground.
The next collectible game to gain popularity in elementary and middle schools was based on a short-lived 90s trend known as POGs. These small cardboard discs originally derived from milk caps in Hawaii, and the name "POGs" originated from a juice blend combining Passionfruit, Orange, and Guava. POGs represented a significant advancement in terms of collectability compared to marbles. While marbles had a relatively limited number of variations, cardboard discs with printed images offered limitless possibilities. Similar to trading cards, POGs often had collectible sets produced by different manufacturers. Some POGs were distributed as promotional items, serving as advertising for various products like fireworks, and were commonly included in cereal boxes due to their low production cost and ease of distribution.
The game itself involved stacking the discs in a column and forcefully striking them with a thicker metal or plastic disc known as a “slammer”. The player would win the POGs that flipped upside down as a result of the impact. POGs predated Trading Card Games but served as a clear transition from physics-driven games to collectible-focused games utilizing images and text.
An interesting attempt to translate the concept of POGs into web3 gaming was made by KOGs, which introduced interesting concepts related to set collection, drawing inspiration from the physical tubes that POGs were typically stored in.
Following the era of POGs, Magic: The Gathering emerged and introduced the world of trading card games as we know it today. Unlike previous collectible games, Magic: The Gathering did not rely on physics or any form of physical skill. Instead, it introduced a combination of deck building and shuffling mechanics. By removing most of the physical elements and shifting the focus solely to the printed information on the cards, the game suddenly gained depth and introduced a wide variety of card values and collections.
In contrast to marbles or POGs, where the differences between individual items were primarily based on aesthetic value, occasionally including slight variations in weight or material that might slightly impact gameplay, trading card games needed to establish numerous rules to ensure balance. The Pokemon Trading Card Game (TCG) maintained a closer resemblance to the collection-oriented style of POGs, as children primarily focused on collecting the cards themselves and didn't place as much emphasis on their gameplay value.
The impact of differing cards on gameplay introduced the potential for rarity to play a role in the game beyond mere collector or aesthetic appeal. This development, however, has given rise to its own set of challenges, but it is important to consider when assessing the utility of attributes on collectibles. Baseball cards, for example, possessed the potential for this by featuring a variety of statistics and other information, although they were primarily used for informational purposes rather than in gameplay, except in simulations like Strat-o-Matic.
Throughout the years, there has been a fascinating array of collectible-based games, primarily targeted at younger children, that exist along a spectrum ranging from physical-focused to information-based experiences. Examples include Beyblade, which is predominantly physical in nature, and Bakugan, which represents a hybrid of physical and informational elements. These games can still be found in toy aisles, showcasing the enduring appeal of collectible gaming.
There is also the enduring world of miniatures wargaming, such as Warhammer 40K, which places a strong emphasis on the physical aspect of collecting. Players engage in customization by painting the figures and constructing unique battlefields, while the gameplay revolves around the informational aspects of the different units. Miniature gaming has experienced significant growth within the realm of board gaming, as it allows players to fully appreciate the collecting aspect alongside the creative customization involved in painting the miniatures.
Dice have also been integrated in various ways as collectibles themselves, alongside the informational aspects found on cards, in games like Dice Masters and Star Wars Destiny. These combinations provide diverse avenues for physical interaction and strategic planning within a collection, facilitating the possibility of expanding content and ongoing collecting opportunities.
All of this comes from a desire to do more with collectibles than merely collect them. There is a rich history of collectible gaming that can serve as a valuable source of knowledge for web3 in order to expand the utility of NFTs beyond profile pictures (PFPs). Furthermore, the toys-to-life collectible genre, notably pioneered by Skylanders, presents valuable insights into the concept of interoperability that can be applied and learned from.
One of the exciting aspects that NFTs bring to the collectible gaming space is the ability to incorporate provably unique procedurally generated elements. This is a feature that, aside from games like Keyforge, is generally absent in traditional collectible gaming. By combining this capability with other attributes such as aesthetics, rarity, set collection, interrelationships between sets, counter-play, game balance, meta shifts, collector customization, and numerous other elements that have been explored in collectible gaming over the decades, NFT collectible gaming holds the potential to establish itself as a significant global phenomenon.
It is time to move beyond the phase of solely focusing on FOMO art flipping and imitating trading card games (TCGs), and instead leverage the blockchain as our futuristic equivalent of how physics and information have influenced design in the past.
Thank you for reading this piece of our weekly series “Nami’s Nexus”, where we look to decode web3 gaming and dive into the intricacies of the industry and beyond. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter to receive more web3 gaming content!