🎙 BoredElonMusk Talks Crypto Gaming and Growing a Twitter Following to the Millions
BoredElonMusk is one of the most prominent Twitter personalities in the crypto space with over 1.7M followers at the time of recording. With decades of online gaming experience, he is now taking his skills offline with his new venture, Bored Box, a curatio...
BoredElonMusk is one of the most prominent Twitter personalities in the crypto space with over 1.7M followers at the time of recording. With decades of online gaming experience, he is now taking his skills offline with his new venture, Bored Box, a curation platform for blockchain games.
BoredElon grew his Twitter profile by consistently tweeting wacky but relatable inventions. We talk about how he built out his brand on Twitter, at what point he was able to leverage and monetize his audience, and also his take on the OG Elon’s move to try to buy the social media platform. We also get into how he was able to transition to crypto, first through NFT artist collabs, next by investing in startups and now building his own project.
The traditional gaming community is a place that BoredElon identifies with. However, we’ve seen a systemic negative reaction from that community when it comes to NFT’s and blockchain-based gaming initiatives. We discuss where that negative outlook from the gaming community stems from, and how BoredElon reconciles these 2 opposing views.
Podcast audio and video was edited by Daniel Flynn and Gary Leuci. Transcript was edited by Samuel Haig.
🎙Listen to the interview in this week’s podcast episode here:
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👀 Only paid subscribers have access to the full interview transcript below.
Camila Russo:I'm so excited to have Bored, A/K/A Bored Elon Musk, here on The Defiant podcast. Welcome, it's great to have you here.
Bored: Thank you so much, Camila, appreciate the opportunity to chat with you today.
CR:Awesome! So a bit of an introduction, Bored Elon Musk is a very famous Twitter personality and he's been with this handle for 8 years already building this pseudonymous identity. In that time, he has amassed 1.7 million followers, and Bored has a decade-plus of experience in the gaming industry. While it seems like he spent all his time online, apparently he is also building an offline company, so we'll talk about that, Bored Box.
So excited to get into all of this, but to start, this happens to be a very newsy day, and earlier today we found that Elon Musk, the non-bored Elon Musk, was successful in his bid to buy Twitter. I know you've been very vocal in your opinions about this so would love your take.
Real Elon Buying Twitter
Bored: Yeah, very timely piece of news for sure as we are chatting today. And it's funny, you mentioned me having time to build a business and [also] spend all this time online. It seems like real Elon also has an incredible amount of free time to spend on Twitter and other places even though he's building a rocket/automotive firm. I
I definitely have been a long-time user of Twitter and I'm very bullish on the acquisition by him. I think, ultimately, Twitter is going to be the intergalactic messaging platform of our future. If you imagine people sending messages from Mars to satellites back to Earth and then to our brains through Neuralink and all sorts of technologies, you want a social platform that is low-data and high-frequency, And Twitter is exactly that, so I feel like… instead of building a brand new social messaging platform which would be very difficult to do, this was a very good move for Elon and for me personally. I've witnessed over time that the algorithm for Twitter has changed quite a bit, and it's hard as a user [and] as a super-user to know how to operate within the frequently changing rules of Twitter, so Elon's promise of democratizing the algorithm [and] maintaining neutrality on Twitter is very exciting, and there certainly could be downsides. But I think, at this point in Twitter's existence, this is going to be a positive move for everyone.
CR: I tend to agree with you, but just staying on the Twitter topic for a little bit, I want to bring up just all the criticisms that people have with Elon buying Twitter. There's this other side that thinks there should be more policing of content, that a platform that has so much power should be moderating misinformation — for example, stopping hate speech. So while on crypto-Twitter, it's very frequent that the predominant argument that we see is ‘no, we need more free speech on Twitter’, there's another side on Twitter that says ‘actually, no, we want more moderation’. What do you think about that argument?
Bored: I think that it's hard to remove bias and subjectivity from human beings. It's built into how our brains are wired because it's pattern recognition. As much as I understand the criticism of wanting to filter really nasty, illegal, horrible things from the internet, I would rather that the solution to that problem come from technology and algorithms, versus it being done manually through scripts and programs that were written by people because, ultimately, there is a small contingency of employees at Twitter who have that power to do that.
One of the things that Elon said was he wanted to open source-the algorithm so that anybody could basically build their own filtering mechanism, and I think ultimately that's the solution. If you as a consumer are able to filter out the things that you don't want to see, I would rather have that power than let somebody else decide for me what is right and what is wrong. Ultimately, we've been running this experiment now for several years where Twitter has tried to censor undesirable content, and it's hard to say that any of it has worked — bots are rampant, polarization on the internet is very high, there are still really bad people who are able to use the platform, so more of the same maybe isn't the right solution. Maybe it's just giving the users more power to control their experience that might be best. And I'm not saying it's going to work, but I'm willing to roll the dice and say that that's going to be a better option.
CR: Yeah, I agree. There's another argument which is [that] there's this billionaire that now owns… I don't even know how many companies Elon Musk owns at this point, and wouldn't it be ideal or should we be advocating for a place where Twitter, or social media, or these massive platforms of communications are owned by communities, and are kind of a protocol-owned by maybe tokenholders, rather than like a single entity?
Bored: Yeah I think so, and I think that ultimately that is what is going to happen, even though some people won't believe it if somebody spends $44ish billion dollars to acquire a company. Thinking through the future of them, basically decentralizing that platform and giving more power to the users doesn't really add up, but I genuinely believe it is going to get to that point in a decade or less.
If you look at what happened with Tesla, that company did, in a way, open-source all the patents for building electric cars. So essentially they made this very unique vehicle, very efficient electric vehicle, and then they basically said ‘hey, here's the plans, here's how you can do it yourself if you want to’. So imagine that sort of approach applied to Twitter, if they did give the power for users or other people to build on top of Twitter, to decentralize it in their own way — I think that that is closer to empowering the user base than what we have today, which is very much like a centralized social network that is controlled by a very small group of people.
Now, you can certainly argue that a billionaire has a lot of incentive to use a platform like Twitter for their own advantage, to pump up their own businesses, to sway things politically — and that could happen. But that's already happening, people already use their following to do these things, and I think that because of the visibility of this purchase, Elon and everyone around him is actually gonna be under a lot more scrutiny than Twitter was before for how things operate. So I think he will be held accountable and I think that, again, this is probably a better alternative than to what we have today — which is Twitter being owned by hedge funds, by sovereign countries that maybe we don't necessarily want to have control over it, by people with financial incentives in mind only and not the social implications being considered. So you could argue that another billionaire owning Twitter is not in an ideal state, but I think it would be hard to say that it is a lesser state than what we have today.
CR: Yeah, I guess we'll give Elon the benefit of the doubt. I think just judging from how he's managed his companies so far and what he says he wants to do, you're right that it does seem promising, but I'm withholding judgment until I actually see it.
The inspiration for BoredElon Musk
Okay, so going back to your story, I'd love to hear more about how Bored Elon Musk came to be? How did you start building this personality so many years ago? What sparked this idea in the first place?
Bored: I've thought about the Bored Elon Musk character as like a fork of Elon. So in 2013 in August, he released this idea called the Hyperloop, and he wrote a long white paper basically outlining this high-speed train, how you could build it. The idea was that he didn't have time to do this, he kind of put out this idea for someone else to build — basically he open-sourced yet another idea. So he did this in his spare time while building Tesla, while building SpaceX, and everything else that he's working on. So what that triggered in my mind was that while this guy is bored he's still coming up with these wacky, world-changing ideas, and on my end, I've always been someone who is like a creative writer [and] I like comedy. I saw that as a really interesting constraint and a creative exercise which is ‘okay, if this bored version of Elon could come up with this idea for a high-speed train and just kind of crank that out in a week and put it out there, what else does he think about when he's in the shower, or in the restroom, or taking a walk — and that was basically it.
Then for several years, it was basically just being really consistent and putting out ideas that kind of riffed off of the types of things that he would invent, like if there were sort of a modern-day version of a Nikola Tesla, or Thomas Edison,… Leonardo Da Vinci,… or any other inventive person — what would they think of? So that was this character, and they got the attention of a lot of people in Silicon Valley, and started to grow and grow. Over the eight years, it became what it is today, and I think people just appreciated that I was consistent [and] I maintained a certain voice, but I'm not going to deny the fact that the real Elon Musk and his growing visibility certainly led to my own growth as well. If I had done ‘Bored Whatever’ — some other celebrity who no longer is popular, it probably wouldn't be what it is today. So I'm appreciative of the fact that I lucked out in picking a real person to parody that also maintains his spotlight in the news very frequently.
CR: Interesting! I'm going to read some of the inventions you came up with. A tracking blog platform that does not allow comments to be posted until the entire article is read — it was a great one. An app that immediately runs Google Search on a phone number calling you that isn't in your contacts — I think there are some apps already doing that.
Bored: Yes, I think those apps were built after I tweeted that though.
CR: Amazing! The ability to up-vote and down-vote other drivers on the road — maybe Tesla will enable this. And then a Shazam for plants [where you] take a picture and it provides instructions on how to stop killing it — I think I could definitely use that one. How many of these do you think you've come up with over time?
Bored: It's definitely thousands. A lot of them, as you can tell, are just real-life problems that are very relatable, and sometimes they're very complicated solutions for no reason just because it's on-brand for a wacky inventor to come up with a really complicated solution to a problem that's common. But I think ultimately it was just being very observant and just paying attention to the daily things in life that were either annoying, or funny, or unusual that others could resonate with, and then spinning that into an invention in a particular kind of voice — and it worked really well.
I'd say I've probably put out thousands and thousands. People have come to me and said ‘oh you should make a coffee table book or something else out of it’, [but] I've always felt like the format of Twitter works really well for this kind of humor — it wouldn't necessarily work in other formats. I delete probably 25% to 50% of the things I put out there. For me, it's really important that if somebody discovers the account for the first time that they see kind of the best of the best content. So if something doesn't necessarily get a lot of engagement or I feel like it doesn't necessarily hit in a way that I would like, I delete it. I prune the account like a little bonsai tree and make sure that all my stuff that shows up is best.
CR: That's interesting. That's a fair argument for deleting tweets, and it's good to be upfront about it. [Did] you have a method for it? I guess your account is not focusing on these inventions anymore, right? But when it used to… you did have a full-time job, so were you like doing these like when you got home? Or they did [the ideas] just come up and you were writing them down during your day? How did it work?
Bored: Yeah, for the first five to six years it was definitely very much on the fly. I [would make] an observation in real life, and then I would just tweet it. I might be riding the bus to work, I might be taking a walk — whatever it might be. I didn't have this sort of diligent writing practice of sitting down and cranking out lots of tweets for the future, it was all very much on the fly and I think that for me, at least in the way my brain works, that was the best approach to creating humorous content.
To your point, lately, I would say the last year and a half or so I've definitely shifted away from the type of inventive tweets that got me a lot of notoriety. To be honest, it's hard, after eight years it's just hard to keep coming up with stuff, While part of me thought… ‘should I hire people to write funny tweets for me’, I just didn't really want to go that route, so it's basically still all me.
And yeah, it's shifted. It's shifted because I have shifted as I think the pseudonymous identity [has]. The beginning of Bored Elon was a very one-way identity — I didn't respond to people, didn't talk on Twitter spaces or do podcasts like this, nobody knew the voice and how it sounded. As I developed into a well-rounded character with Bored Elon, I shifted away from sort of the one-dimensional tweets. I will occasionally do them — I know that some people miss them so I try to mix it up and I try to keep coming up with them, but they are unfortunately less frequent than probably I'd like.
New dimensions to BoredElon
CR:So as your account grew, did you start leveraging your follower base? Was it always kind of a part-time hustle? Or did it really start to become a business with like a million-plus followers?
Bored: Yeah, I mean the first seven or so years it really was just a hobby. It was a creative exercise, it was a performance art. 2021 was when I really decided to turn what was like this mini media empire into something that was more substantial, and that turned into investing in startups, it turned into NFT sales, and eventually turned into building my own business. I think that it's really important, especially as a pseudonymous identity, to build a reputation and trust.
A lot of teams these days, they will spin up an account and after six months they'll start a new project or start a company, and try to raise a lot of money either through sales, or crowdfunding, or even raising money from investors — and I think that's not really the best approach. There's a lot of negativity and criticism of anonymous or pseudonymous accounts because there have been plenty of examples of people running off with a considerable amount of money.
So for me, at least, I didn't really want to try to monetize Bored Elon in any way for quite a while. So seven years after I started it, I’d built up a really solid following, I created lots of good reputable connections, and I felt like at that point it made sense to start ‘quote unquote’ cashing in a little bit. And still, that wasn't just simply [a] you pay me a certain amount of money and I'll tweet about your product type of exchange — I don't do that.
For me, it was very much doing substantial partnerships, investing, building, [and] creating. I think part of the issue in the past was that as somebody who wanted to keep the identity a mystery mostly just for the fun of it, I didn't necessarily have a lot of opportunities to sell a service and then monetize in a way that wouldn't dox myself. Because the traditional model of web 2.0 e-commerce was very much reliant on things like Stripe, Paypal, and Venmo, and sending people stuff in the mail — and all of that is raising the risk of me revealing who Bored Elon is.
Now, with 2021 and the rise of a lot of people jumping into crypto, and things like NFTs creating a new demand for digital asset, that provided me with a really interesting opportunity to leverage what I had built in terms of a following with Bored Elon, and turn it into something significant where it afforded me to not just leave my full-time job, but it actually became expensive for me to stay at my job because I was making more as Bored Elon than I was in my former life.
CR: That's so interesting. Can you talk more about how exactly you were able to use an NFT to start monetizing this media company that you grew on Twitter?
Bored: First, I would say [I am] half creator, half gallerist. So if you look at the traditional model of artists and galleries, an artist creates something really wonderful and then they go to a gallery, and the gallery usually will sell it, display it, and generate interest, and the gallery takes 50% of the sales and the artist gets 50% as well. So I had built this really big platform on Twitter, so as emerging artists and creators who I really enjoyed were building up their own following and their own collections of NFTs, I would work with them and collaborate with them to create collections, and basically come in as a collab.
So somebody who is a visual artist, or a musician, or a videographer would work with me to basically create something fresh, like a new type of NFT that we thought would be really interesting, and put that out together and split the proceeds. That was really what jump-started my media business, if you will. And that was kind of the first six months of 2021, and what that did was lead me down the road back towards my professional background, which was video gaming. As soon as I started to understand how digital assets could be used in the art world, I immediately shifted to ‘okay, this is going to make a ton of sense in gaming, and there's a massive population of people who enjoy playing video games’. So because that was a space that I knew very well, that's where I really shifted more of my attention, and it went from creating NFTs to investing in startups, and now to building my own business. So that's kind of the trajectory that I took in the course of twelve months, and it was an insane and life-changing twelve months.
CR: That's so cool. What are some examples of collaborations you did with artists?
Bored: As one example, there's a great artist who I love, he goes by Ether Brian, and he creates very timely pieces of art that are sort of moments in pop culture. One that kind of comes to mind and is actually the inspiration for this floating avatar you see, when Elon Musk was on Saturday Night Live a few a few months back. In 2021, he created this really amazing sort of animated loop showing Elon on SNL, and so we created that together and we put it out as an NFT, and it was a one-of-one, and it did really well. So that's just a really small example.
One of the other larger endeavors that I felt kind of helped me grow my business and also expand into gaming was a project called MetaMars. MetaMars is basically a martian-themed set of arcade games. The idea behind MetaMars is it is a no-loss arcade system, so you play games [and] if you're a top score, you win prizes. It's very much like a simplified version of the play-to-earn mechanics, but very much focused on rewarding people who are the best at a particular game. For me, that opportunity was a moment to sell something called MARS COIN. So MARS COIN [was] this community-focused token that I created for myself. So a lot of this was just experimentation, trying to see what resonates with my following — some worked, some didn't, but it all led me to where I'm at today, which is launching BoredBox, and we can talk about that later.
But yeah, there were a lot of moments in 2021 where I think my curiosity around blockchain intertwined with my background. [It] really ended up being fun for my following, and also a great opportunity for me.
CR: It's interesting how you had said before [that] you had hesitated in monetizing your Twitter character because of the risk of doxing yourself with things like Stripe and so on. It's interesting to see how crypto provides this opportunity of remaining pseudonymous online.
Bored: I'm trying really hard to set a good example. I've been publishing articles about starting up a company as a pseudonymous founder and really just sharing information in spaces like this to help people understand the upsides and the methods for doing it in an ethical and transparent way. I'm happy to say that if for some reason, somebody needed to do a background check on the identity of Bored Elon, I can pull a thousand people who would vouch for me and say that I'm a good actor [and] that people can trust me with their time and their money, and I'm proud of that.
We continue to see each week and each month, yet another project where people start a company anonymously and then run off with money. That is a really sexy news story and that gets covered by a lot of media, but I want to be that ever-present example of ‘hey, here's a guy who is operating in a way that you don't necessarily know his government ID, but he is doing it in a way that is trustworthy and ethical. So I hope I can continue to do that and inspire other people to follow in my footsteps.
CR: So what do you think are the ethical arguments for being pseudonymous? Why not just use a real identity?
The ethics of pseudonymity
Bored: I think that a right to privacy is really important, and the way I think about it is that it's less important for me as the individual and more important for the people around me. If you are a prominent individual whether it's rich or famous, that's going to impact potentially your family [and] your friends — the people who are around you who didn't really opt in to having the scrutiny that you now have. So that's one piece.
But also I think that people need to be able to avoid prejudgment, like if you were somebody who has a certain job in the past, or graduated from a certain school, or were born in a certain country, or look a certain way, you should not necessarily have any of that stop you from becoming what is what it is you want to become as long as you have the skill set to do so. And so I think it's an important right for people to be able to partition their identity and bring forth only the aspects that are important and relevant to a particular vertical or interest that they want to. So yeah, I think there is kind of a moral argument for why it's important to allow people to protect their identity.
I understand the counter-argument of holding people accountable, but I think that the only aspect of that that holds true is the legal system, like people want to know your name so that if something happens they can sue you or you could go to jail because you broke the law, and so I get that... But stripping that away, if you were a real person with a real name and you do something that is illegal, your name being out there in the public would not necessarily have stopped you from committing the crime. When you look at things like WeWork, or Theranos, we were well aware of who those individuals were — we knew their face, we knew their name — it did not stop people from getting defrauded. So I take issue with the idea that you should be able to put yourself out there and not worry about it and that's the right thing to do, because, ultimately, we all see bad actors who are very visible [and] who continue to do what they're doing despite the consequences.
CR: Right, of course having your identity out there… doesn't stop bad actors. I think maybe what's scarier or risky from the side of pseudonymous actors is [that] you can build this reputation and maybe that can be a deterrent for doing something that's bad… I think that provides some sort of security. But at the same time, that person can scam people and then leave, and not face accountability, and then do it again. I think that’s the risk there because you can kind of disappear and then adopt some other character. And sure, you'll have to build that reputation up again, but it's not the same thing as knowing that this person is a scammer — you won't have that background, you'll just have a blank slate. I think that's the big difference.
Bored: Yeah, and honestly, if it were me and I were considering investing in a project… I don't think that I would do it with a pseudonymous identity that wasn't around for a year or more. I think somebody has to put in the work to build up their reputation. And it goes back to why I waited so long.
I see a lot of people who, again, just spin up these accounts and then want to go and raise millions of dollars — I personally don't recommend that, I think somebody needs to basically earn trust first. Um. But ultimately, when it comes to the individual who is maybe investing in what becomes a rug-pull or a scam, if the person goes to jail, it doesn't help you — you still lost your money. So I would look at it from the other end of the spectrum, which is invest your time and money into people who have earned your trust, don't blindly follow something because other people care about it as well.
CR: Yeah, I think that's part of the learning process that we're seeing now in crypto. I don't think people have had enough experience in dealing with pseudonymous founders, and because of the kind of cycle that we've been on, it maybe hasn't really mattered so much because everything was just going up. But I think now it'll matter more and more that these projects are actually solid, and a solid team will help determine that I think.
Bored: Yeah, absolutely… I have a reputation to lose and I'm banking my reputation on the things that I support, and it would cost me a lot right to defraud people or to do something that is nefarious. Obviously everyone can make mistakes and I think if you're transparent about it, that's fine, but if I've spent eight years building up what I have today, it is in my interest to be a good actor.
CR: Yeah, so about Bored Box, you said you had this transition where you started collaborating with an NFT artist, then you started investing in NFT and gaming related startups, and [now] you're working on your own company? I'd love to hear more about it.
Bored: Yeah, so [with] Bored Box, the nugget was really started in October of 2021. So a couple of things to note. Especially coming from the traditional video game industry, I see where the trends are going.
So 10 to 15 years ago, this idea of free-to-play was emerging. Basically you see in games like Fortnite, you can play that game for free and the way they make money is through buying digital assets and skins that make you look cool. They're just aesthetics, they just are a flex in the digital world the way you would wear a nice watch in the real world. So that was kind of step one.
Fast forward to today, where people are buying things like NFTs to represent digital assets that are indisputably theirs that they can trade, buy, and sell, it made so much sense that this is exactly what is going to be the next wave of video games. And so what I noticed as a consumer, as somebody who was really interested in crypto but also really interested in playing video games, is that it was very difficult to find projects in the blockchain gaming space that had a reputable team, that were building a real game that would go to market. And also navigating the waters of actually getting access to games a lot of times with crypto-native projects, you're joining Discords, you're like getting on allow lists, and you're doing all these things to try to get into these games — and personally, I’m somebody who would rather just be spending my time playing video games, not grinding away doing all these things in social media and trying to get access.
So what I set out to create was a white-glove service. Essentially, that would make me take the role of the curator, and basically say to people ‘hey, I understand video games, I understand blockchain, I see which projects are going to be strong in the next 12 to 24 months, let me find those awesome games for you package them up, and basically let you trade money for time so that instead of spending three or four hours a day looking for the next great game to play, I'll find them for you and then you can go and play those games’. So that's the quintessential problem that's being solved with Bored Box. The box itself is a really simple idea that's been done by many people before, it's the idea of just packaging up cool items from different places into one to give you a sampling of different games.
You might like the second part of it, that’s probably more interesting and valuable to game companies, is that we're going to do big reveal events. So people are going to buy the boxes not knowing what's inside, and instead of someone having an individual unboxing experience where they see which games are packaged inside, we're going to actually pull everybody together in a live virtual event, and then reveal which games are inside together. So it's a big moment to rally the blockchain gaming community, talk about the game developers and what they're creating, and very much focus on gameplay. We don't want to talk about tokenomics and floor prices — a lot of people have gotten trapped into this idea of treating blockchain games as an investment vehicle. We just want to talk about why blockchain games are fun.
I'll do a little overview [of the] history of video games, and that'll bring us to where we are today. It all centers around this idea of ownership of your gaming experience and the digital assets that you have created in a game or purchased in a game.
So 20 or 30 years ago, the traditional video game experience was you go to the store, you buy a cartridge or a CD, and you play that game. And then when you're done with it, you could sell that game to your friend or to a store, and go on to the next thing — so this is a very simple analogy in the real world for you owning a game. Fast forward to the future, instead of buying physical games, you would just download them directly from different platforms like Steam or the Playstation Network, and then after that, you were able to buy stuff in games like different skins, vehicles. and weapons, and all these things. But when we got to that point you never were really owning those items, you were basically given the right to use them in the games by the game publisher — you couldn't sell your skins, you couldn't sell your games to somebody else. They were yours to use forever as long as you had an account, but they weren't yours they weren't your property.
So what dawned on me is that the future of video games very much will be you owning your digital property the way that you own actual property in the real world, whether it be land or physical objects. People are spending lots of time putting their effort, their creativity and their money into games, but they're not really getting a lot of the value that is now going to publishers, to middlemen, and all these other people. So at a very high level, it's important to understand this concept of owning assets in games.
What Bored Box is doing is taking my experience in the video game industry — understanding how games are built, understanding what kind of teams are needed to bring games to market, and curating what our team believes will be the best blockchain games that will offer a really fun experience [and] will deliver on their promises. It's not about finding the best investments — a lot of people look at blockchain games as a way to make money, we don't want to focus on that. We very much are focused on what makes a game fun and why is it going to be important for you to be able to own assets in that fun game. So the simple part of Bored Box is our team curating different blockchain gaming assets from different games to basically give you exposure to different games you might not have discovered yourself, or just to give you more time to play games instead of going and looking for them, which can be really time-consuming. So that's kind of part one.
The second part of Board Box is really to act as a media empire. If you look at a lot of the media coverage right now of blockchain games, it’s either highly critical, lacking full context, and really focused on the financial elements of blockchain gaming, and not on the lore and the story and the characters and all those things that people are used to hearing about when they learn about video games. When we sell Bored Boxes, we're not going to have people open them on their own and have this individual experience. We're actually going to have a big collaborative online event where we reveal what's inside each box together, and that will shine a spotlight on the game developers, and just bring everybody together to celebrate blockchain games. And that is a gap in the market that I feel is missing, and something that I want to bring to the table that combines that experience of gaming that I have with my passion and interest in blockchain.
CR: Very cool. So when you're buying a Bored Box, what are you buying? What exactly do you get?
Bored: Yeah, so at its core, a Bored Box is an NFT. They are going to sell for 1 Ether each, and they are going to come with five specific game items. So we are working closely with game developers to either source really interesting, unique video game assets that will be fun to have in a game that exists today or will be launching in the near future, or we're actually working together with game companies to co-produce these assets that are custom to Bored Box. So the person who is buying the Bored Box NFT will buy the NFT, they'll attend our reveal day, find out which games are inside, and then they can go and claim those assets.
The unique thing about what we're doing with Bored Boxes, is once you claim those 5 game assets and they're sent to your wallet, you keep the Bored Box — it will show that it has been opened and that it has been claimed, and effectively it becomes a mint-pass at that point, and we're going to do lots of fun stuff with those opened board boxes in the future including surprise airdrops and also giving people access to buy future board boxes at a priority ahead of other people. So it is both a mint-pass, but also something where we're delivering goods immediately. When you buy your Bored Box, you get real game assets, and our goal is that at least one game in every Bored Box is going to be playable today because we don't want people sitting on these assets for a year waiting for something to happen, we want people to start playing games today.
CR: Will different Bored Boxes be published at different times and with different items each time? How is it structured?
Bored: Yeah, so we're going to do several drops throughout the year. So a typical NFT project will do 10,000 or 20,000 units at a time, and that's kind of like their one drop for the year. Bored Box is specifically going to do 1,000 units per drop. Part of that is because they're 1 Ether and it's a more premium price-point, but the goal is to do four or five Bored Box drops this year, and every single drop is going to have five different games because we want to provide exposure to different games every single time.
The idea is you could buy a new Bored Box every time we drop one and get exposure to all these games, or different people will buy different drops depending on how much time they have to play video games, and every single person who buys a box will essentially be getting the same level or rarity of item. We don't want Bored Box to become sort of a tool for flippers, or for people who are into gambling mechanics where one person might get ultra-rare items in a Bored Box and another person won't — everyone will get essentially the same give items from five different games because, again, we want to focus on introducing people to games and not turn this into a product for NFT flippers and people who want to basically just like convert it quickly for a profit.
CR: How do you secure or make sure that there is objectivity with you picking which games to include in boxes? I think there's this risk of bias, like if there's a company that is maybe paying you to add one of their items to your box. Is that allowed? Is that disclosed? What are your thoughts around that?
Bored: Yeah, it's a great question, and something that is scrutinized really heavily I think in our overall space, which I think is important. We definitely are not going to take payments for inclusion in Bored Box, our goal is to meet with about 100 game studios before we narrow down one box and pick the five. It's based on a variety of factors including the experience of the team, how soon their game is going live, the genre of the game, and also our subjective opinion of the quality of the game as well. So to some degree, if you're acting as a curator, there is a little bit of art and science there. Part of it is we want every box to have a variety of games. So there might be three games that are really great that we hold off on because we already had a first-person shooter, or a racing game, and we don't want to have repetitive games — so that's part one.
Our business model is very much focused on sharing profits with the assets being sold… Our employees are very careful about what we do if we are participating in trades. We try to be transparent about that. So it's something that is definitely going to evolve over time. But we don't want to be biased. We don't want to create this company that is basically going to be pumping our own bags, if you will. The goal is to provide the best games to people who want to play.
Gamers’ antagonism towards NFTs
CR: We did this video on why gamers hate NFTs… because you come from traditional gaming, it would be good to get your perspective on this. Whenever we tweet something about NFTs or make a video, we always get these comments from gamers that NFTs are here to kind of destroy their industry, and I kind of see where they're coming from. It's like the gamers have seen how big companies have come to monetize every aspect of gaming, and it just seems like NFTs are yet another way of turning fun games into just some financial, speculative space, and that's not what playing games is about for a lot of these gamers. When you see all these speculators flipping Jpegs, and a lot of these crypto and blockchain games that aren't really fun to play, [that] are just about just making money, it seems like crypto gaming has earned this bad reputation with traditional gamers. What are your thoughts on that?
Bored: Yeah, the canned response that I hear a lot is that well this is actually really good for gamers, and they just don't know it yet and they'll figure that out soon enough. But I'm not gonna give you that answer. That's just the one flippant response that a lot of people give. There is one criticism that I think is very valid, and I think that it places a lot of pressure on the game developers, but the criticism that I think is valid against NFTs in games is that once you allow people to monetize certain aspects of a game, players themselves who want to exploit that will ruin the game for everybody else.
So if you imagine a game like World of Warcraft or Fortnite, or anything else like that where doing a certain action basically allows one player to extract value and just annoy the heck out of everybody who's just there to have fun, that is bad game design. So it is on game developers if they want to integrate blockchain into their games that they're building, they need to make sure that they do so in a way that does not impact the fun, and does not impact the experience of those who are there playing it for free. I kind of jokingly refer to it almost as like Asimov's laws of robotics, like you cannot integrate blockchain gaming into a game if it will harm the game itself and the player experience of those who are not there for monetary aspects.
That's a real criticism and I understand it and I think the best game developers understand that and they're going to produce games where [there] will be sort of different tracks — you can play for free in a way that involves no NFTs at all, you can play competitively, or you can play in sort of a paid format where money is at stake and people who want to participate in that sort of track can do so as well, and they don't have to interact with each other at all. But I think, ultimately, there are in our industry 10,000 plus new games released each week, it seems like a crazy number but it's true like on the Steam platform alone. There's 10,000 new games released each week and a lot of those games aren't very good. So when people criticize blockchain games for not being very good, the reality is most games just aren't good. It's very hard to make a game that's fun and people stick with, even the most storied franchises in history struggle to retain their player base because people keep shifting their attention to new games, so I will always kind of entertain the criticism. I want to be the patient educator who helps onboard people.
The other thing to remember is there's different kinds of gamers, like the core gamers who play on their PC, judge people who play casual games on their phone, and they judge people who play free-to-play games, and they judge people who play Nintendo games with their family — there's so many different kinds of gamers. So I never really want to entertain the idea of ‘gamers like this’ or ‘gamers don't like this’ because it's not this monolith, it's a lot of different people and I think that blockchain gaming will emerge as an additive cohort of gamers who maybe didn't exist before, and hopefully the 3 billion gamers on Earth turns into 4 billion because there's another billion who are participating in the space that I'm trying to build around.
CR: That's such an interesting answer and it reminded me of what you were saying before about Twitter. It's really about choice, you can have this Twitter experience where you choose what you want to see. If you want a heavily moderated and filtered experience, then you can opt to have that, Or if you want that totally free Twitter, then you can opt to have that. Same with games, maybe you can have a free version, you can have a crypto version, or you can have another type of version that fits you and your style.
Bored: It's kind of like sports. There are people who just watch their favorite sport on TV, and there are people who gamble on it and they participate in fantasy sports, and one does not impact the other in any way. Both can survive alongside each other, and I think that the same logic applies to gaming.
Can crypto enhance gaming?
CR: So how do you think web3 or crypto can improve games? What's the sweet spot in that intersection?
Bored: I think taking away the idea of making money in games through doing work inside of games. I think just ownership is the really simple answer to that question. I am somebody who has spent thousands of dollars on digital assets in games, and if I decide that I never want to play those games again and turn off my consoles, like, that's it. That's the end of that experience. I can't sell those assets that I've paid for [or] earned to somebody else, and that doesn't seem fair to me. So property rights and video games are a really simple solution or benefit for players.
But I think there's a lot of other really interesting methods for using blockchain in gaming. One example would be community. You could allow different communities to act as little mini governments inside of games, and as a DAO. Imagine a DAO for gaming that helps advise on new features of a game, new play modes, new characters being added a game developer does not necessarily want to give — a group of people free-reign to design their game, but they can give that group an ability to weigh in in a democratic way, that's really powerful.
There's a lot of creative options to be considered. I mean, one of the most unique that I haven't really seen and built out is Proof of Accomplishment. So a lot of people play one-player games, not multiplayer games but one-player games, and they post something interesting that they did in that game on Reddit or on social media because they just think it's cool and it's really interesting that they were able to accomplish that feat, like beating the boss. If you could sort of document that on-chain and prove that you were the one who did that thing, that would be valuable to you. It's not necessarily a way to make money, but it is sort of an on-chain historical document that shows that you were the one who did this awesome thing that you deserve social credit for. So I'm really excited to see what kind of creative solutions people use blockchain for in a way that enhances games, and doesn't just turn into sort of a monetary experiment where you're grinding away and doing work inside of games.
CR: Do you think that that model is sustainable? I mean, do you see a future where we'll just keep seeing different versions of this, of these games where people are just grinding to earn money, and others are kind of hiring them out, which is kind of the play-to-earn model that we saw evolve in the past few months. I mean, I don't think that's very sustainable in the long term. That's kind of from a gut feeling, what are your thoughts on that?
Bored: I think you can equate it to any kind of not necessary hobby. So think about car culture, how much money people spend on upgrading their vehicles on racing, on participating in competitive versions of it. Anything that garners attention can be monetized and can continue to create value. Watch culture, the same thing, right? Like Rolex sells watches, but think about all of the sub-industries that have emerged for people who are collectors of watches. So I think as long as video games can attract attention, there will be demand and money flowing into those games that translates into one person being willing to pay another person.
The other element to consider is, in the traditional video game space, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year to acquire users, to basically get people to play a particular video game. If that money is no longer spent on advertising, marketing, and user acquisition, and that is flowing to players who are then going and recruiting other people to play those games... There's a lot of hidden places that money is flowing to in the traditional games industry that will be better served if it's going back to the actual players who are investing their time and creativity into those games. So that's where I think a lot of that value gets generated that people don't always consider.
CR: That's interesting, I hadn't considered that. Right, so this is just like another tool for user acquisition?
Bored: Yeah, in a way. One of the biggest games, Call of Duty, they spent like $500 million in one year on marketing. So imagine if they didn’t do that, and that all went to their players and growth. That seems like a way better use of the funds from a player perspective versus blowing it on super bowl advertisements and Facebook ads.
CR: I guess the next evolution will be for these play-to-earn games to just get better because some of the criticism I've seen is ‘okay, these gamers are just on there, just trying to make money out of the game, but not actually having fun playing this’. But I guess it’s part of what you were saying, it just takes time to develop a real good game.
Bored: Yeah, I mean, it's a valid criticism, and it does take time whenever a new video game console launches. Typically there's like less than five or 10 games that are available at first, and half of those games are not very good. It takes time to get to the point where you have thousands to pick from. And only when a platform has thousands of games can you find 10 or 20 that are really good, and we just haven't gotten there.
It's early in the life cycle, and certainly with Bored Box, we're gonna help shine the spotlight on the ones that we think have the most promise, but we are a few years away from there being thousands of really good blockchain games available. And my hope is that we can kind of continue to help those builders and inspire them to look down this path, and not just go down the traditional video game publishing path, which is really hard to compete in these days, frankly.
CR:Is it just about coming up with a good game design? Or is there something about technology that's missing, or hardware that's missing to make a really good web3 game?
Bored: I think that just having a core design for a game in terms of the game mechanics being really sticky and really fun is key. That's the key to it. Then it's thinking about ‘okay, how does blockchain enhance the things that I have already designed that have nothing to do with blockchain?’ That is going to be key. I think that part of the issue in the industry right now is that the best game makers are very much concentrated in traditional video game companies. They're not necessarily open or ready to jump into blockchain because they get a lot of criticism and a lot of flack for it.
So what we're going to see, I think in the next twelve months, is a lot more people who are willing to take the risk, and for those really talented game designers to jump into blockchain, understand how it works, understand how we can enhance the mechanics that they've already been building out. And I think that is coming very soon.
A few weeks ago I went to GDC — which is the Game Developers Conference — and I was expecting to hear a lot of game developers telling me that they're not really interested in exploring crypto, NFTs, and all these things. And it was quite the opposite. I would say like 80% of the people who are neutral are open to it. So the narrative, I think, has already shifted amongst blockchain game developers. The bigger problem is they're a little bit scared to build in public yet or jump to full-time working in web3 because they worry about the optics of it. But I think that tipping point is being reached very soon, and as an investor and as somebody who looks at games that are in development today that are going to be released in 2023, I'm very confident there are going to be some really fantastic games in the very near future that are on-chain.
CR: Oh, that's good to hear, I thought the proportion was more skewed negative to crypto. But you think that the tech is there then like the scalability? That’s the other concern, are blockchains able to handle the kind of throughput that these games will need?
Bored: Yeah, the technology is there and I think the consumer education needs to catch up. I think back to like twenty years ago when people were just starting to play online games. A lot of people for the first time had to learn how to install a modem, get on the internet, and participate in servers. There were a lot of things, a lot of hurdles you had to jump through from a technology standpoint in order to get online and play games in a multiplayer fashion, and people did it because they heard about this really fun online gaming experience and they wanted to hang out with their friends.
Fast forward to today, there are things like that. There are hurdles that have to be jumped over, like learning how to buy crypto, learning how to use a web wallet, and learning how to transfer money between chains — these are things that people will have to learn to do just as they learned to do those other things back in the '90s and the 2000s, and they will do it. Gaming is such a powerful driver for technology adoption, so it will happen.
But no, I don't think the technology is lacking. It'll just be people holding our friends’ hands and helping them [learn] how to do this, how to do this crazy web 3 experience. I will say the stakes are higher, there is more money involved. There is more risk involved and security involved, so I think we have to be a bit more patient and provide a lot more education than people had back in the day when they were using like 56k modems to play basic online games.
One chain to rule them all?
CR: What do you think is the leading ecosystem right now for games like in terms of which chains are leading the way?
Bored: Based on what I'm seeing it comes down to five, which is Ethereum, Polygon, Solana, Avalanche, and Immutable X — those seem to be the primary chains people are building on.
When it comes to gaming, the more transactions that need to happen on-chain, the cheaper you need it to be and the faster you need it to be. So Layer 1s like Ethereum don't necessarily make a lot of sense there. But if a game simply needs you to show that you own an asset… [and] there doesn't need to be a lot of interaction with the web 2.0 gaming portion of the experience very much, Ethereum can work. So if I were placing bets, I'd say Polygon and Solana are probably going to be in the lead, Immutable is catching up, and people are dabbling on Avalanche.
But there doesn't have to be one that rules them all. People play games on PC, they play on Playstation, on Xbox, on Nintendo Switch, on their phones. And many people own multiple consoles, so the same way that people have different gaming experiences on different platforms, they will probably also be comfortable with having different games that work on different chains.
CR: That makes sense. Bored Elon, what makes you defiant?
Bored: What makes me defiant… I think my defiance is towards the status quo and thinking about how industries can change quicker than we expect. Gaming certainly is a space that every 10 years went through a transition, and just because things are done a certain way doesn't mean they need to stay that way. And tying it all back to the news of today about Twitter being purchased by Elon Musk, the Twitter that we knew thirty days ago might look very different than the Twitter we know thirty days from now, so we're living in a state where I think you just have to be embracing constant change. And my defiance is towards a status quo and just accepting things for how they are.
CR: I love it. This was such a fun conversation, I really learned so much and really appreciate you coming on the podcast. It was great.
Bored: Thank you so much.