Episode 21 – What are crypto avatars?

Watch 14 min

“We all know what an AVATAR is, right? No, not a box-office bending blockbuster that somehow no-one wanted to see ever again, but those blue guys in the film. THEY were avatars. Weird, alien creatures with human brains.

Not the best example. But you know what an avatar is.

Your twitter profile picture . Or your skin in Fortnite.

But what about the NFT that you might buy for THOUSANDS of dollars? How does that work as an avatar? Why would you want or need one? And how on earth could they change the very face of digital endeavour and reward?

Well, I’m the right man to ask – because I’ve got A HUNDRED AND TWENTY FOUR of them.

Welcome to School of Block. And, for once just before I run the title sequence – youtube tells me half of our audience aren’t subscribers, yet… So whilst we push the boat out with ever more sensational content – how about joining the half who are? And hit the bell whilst you’re at it. You won’t regret it.

It’s probably fair to say that the world of the crypto avatars started with the PUNKS. We introduced them in Episode 11 – Why the NFT Hype. Ten thousand individually distinct 24 x 24 pixel faces, built out of a combination of different elements.

Cryptopunks success to date is due in no small part to their retro-cool. But their usefulness originally only extended, to well, an avatar. Yes, they’re NFTs, and as such individually unique, but the world of crypto avatars has come a long way since.

And that’s because of the AWESOME POWER and POTENTIAL of the NON FUNGIBLE TOKEN.

Here’s the KEY POINT: where the potential of the NFT intersects with the concept of DIGITAL IDENTITY, we have the rapidly evolving and extremely exciting space of the CRYPTO AVATAR.

It’s not about having a new profile pic on Crypto Twitter, although by all means – update yours after an expensive visit to OPENSEA…

It’s about SOCIAL CURRENCY, TRIBALISM, COLLECTIBLES, INTELLECTUAL & COMMERCIAL PROPERTY and REAL WORLD BENEFITS.

If the noughties and teenties were about web 2.0 enabling user generated content and social media – driven in no small part due to the SOCIAL CURRENCY of selfies, face-tune, celeb photo bombs and generally making your physical self look great…

One of the emergent trends of web 3.0 is the EVOLUTION of our DIGITAL SELVES. It is now possible to validate our digital identity through a different currency. A lot to get your head round, but stay with me.

As the twenties roll on, we’re going to see a move away from the… dare I say it… played out space of Instagram and the like… and into the wild, wacky, mind-melting world of the METAVERSE.

But hold it right there you say. What exactly IS this metaverse? Well, right now, the term covers the sum of all VIRTUAL WORLDS, AUGMENTED REALITY, and the INTERNET. Basically, alternate digital realities where people work, play and socialise.

Back in the day you might have heard of SECOND LIFE, before it’s unfortunate demise. And there’s now really exciting next generation worlds – built on, yes… BLOCKCHAIN.

Let me take you inside one of them. This is SOMNIUM.

As you can see, I’m represented inside SOMNIUM by my AVATAR. But what if I didn’t want to look like this? What if I wanted to look like my CRYPTOPUNK…? Well, actually, you got me there. I can’t do that… yet.

BUT, Larva Labs, the creators of cryptopunks more recently released a NEW series of collectible NFT characters, designed specifically to help people take their avatars into the metaverse.

These guys… are MEEBITS. There’s twenty thousand of them, each unique 3D voxel characters created by a custom generative algorithm and then registered on the Ethereum Blockchain. Within 8 hours of their release Larva Labs had sold 9,000 of them for approximately 75 MILLION DOLLARS.

Part of the reason for that mighty haul was the starting price to get into Meebit ownership – 2.5 ETH. Yep, the price of a pretty decent used car.

And in reaction to this ‘ELITISM’ of crypto avatar creation, one particular NFT community has seen spectacular success.

The BORED APE YACHT CLUB. In April this year 10,000 unique APES were launched, with a price of just 0.08 ETH, to relatively little fanfare. But soon, people came in their droves. Attracted by the artwork, the personality, the backstory – and the benefits.

Because when you buy your ape, you become part of an EXCLUSIVE CLUB. You get access to a Discord group, of course – but with this COMMUNITY also comes the idea of a LIFESTYLE, and A NARRATIVE, which you can be part of. As an ape owner, you become one of their tribe. And there are even tribes inside tribes.

Big names have joined, from NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball to crypto legend PRANKSY, who promptly bought up 10% of the entire supply upon launch.

As an ape owner you have the rights to exploit the commercial potential for your particular ape. So you could put him in a TV advert, a music video or on a billboard. You could even create a real life artwork based on it and sell it.

And in a challenge to the design advantage of Meebits, the technology is coming to adapt these apes into 3D avatars you can take into your metaverse of choice.

One more thing, believe it or not – you’re also about to get your own DOG – which in itself is an NFT and thus membership to the BORED APE KENNEL CLUB.

These benefits aren’t unique to the BAYC. If you own a Cryptopunk, you can also get a unique set of NFT sneakers, made by the crypto fashion brand RTFKT. And these sneakers aren’t just digital – you’ll get a real pair sent to you, wherever you are in the world.

Meebits, Punks and Apes… well it won’t surprise you to know these collections aren’t the only ones out there.

How about the…

Cool Cats

Top Dog Beach Club

Slacker Duck Pond

Bulls on the Block

and the Gutter Cat Gang

COMMUNITY & IP

What do these names all have in common? Apart from sounding like the worst 90s boybands you never heard of…

Well, the sense of JOINING A CLUB. Being part of a COMMUNITY. Yes, they’re all trying to APE the success of the apes, but there’s a reason why.

As humans we naturally form ourselves into TRIBES. So the successful avatars will be those that identify us as those tribes we want to be part of. And when being part of those tribes can improve your life, whether digitally or IRL, then they can become very powerful.

The IP that is granted to you as the owner of an APE, for example, could become incredibly valuable. The ability to exploit that, to launch a credit card or a wallet on the platform, to start your own business using the ape in the logo – ALIGNS THE INCENTIVES for both the group and the individual.

And in the process that EMPOWERS these communities and creates an organisation that functions HORIZONTALLY rather than VERTICALLY.

So that top down model of authority and control that we see all around us in the real world need not exist out there in the cryptosphere and the metaverse. And indeed we can bring those DECENTRALISED, HORIZONTAL structures back from the cryptosphere and INTO THE REAL WORLD with the way we exploit our digital ownership.

As the owner of a crypto avatar, we are the FRANCHISE HOLDER for the brand. Just as if you owned a McDonalds restaurant, you can – plus or minus – exploit the hell out of it. Well the same is true here.

Right now we’re at the very bleeding edge. But it’s coming.

If you’re anything near as old as me you might remember the faces we pulled when SMS text messages were introduced in the 1990s. Why wouldn’t you just call someone? It’ll never take off.

Well, I give you Crypto Avatars. So much more than just a jpeg, that when you look back in, oh… some number of years, you’ll wonder how you ever thought it might have been.

And that’s why I’ve got one hundred and twenty four of them.

You’ve been watching School of Block, presented by Ledger and the Defiant, demystifying decentralisation, one block at a time. Don’t forget to subscribe, drop us a like if that’s what you’re into, and as always – here’s to your financial freedom.”


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