With the rapid rise of NFTs, it’s easy to lean on numbers and the underlying technology to showcase the impressiveness of NFTs.
Indeed, NFT sales have soared to become a now billion-dollar industry. From the re-iterated $69million sale of Beeple’s work, to the $230 million market value of NBA Top Shots, mainstream celebrities adopting NFTs to bolster sales and branding, it is clear that the medium of NFTs has reached a point beyond its niche experimental status.
How NFTs operate has allowed for the taking back of control from galleries, museums, and big shot labels, into the hands of independent or emerging artists or creators. The model of NFTs has subverted traditional means of selling collectibles, art, music, and even games. Its unique code on the blockchain has also allowed for creators to assert authority, ownership, and agency over their sales and thus creating long-term benefits in terms of generating income, such as through future sales with built-in royalties on the platform.
The value of creativity
But amongst the conversation surrounding NFTs – its technology, its hype, and its sensation driving numbers – the value of creativity itself and the potential for it to drive the NFT economy forward has taken a back seat. But there has been a revival in recent times within the NFT world that’s been shaking the perceptions of people.
This moment in NFT history is redefining the capacity for NFTs to benefit creators, collectors, and community beyond just capital goals, by drawing on the imaginative spirit of the NFT communities that bolster it. This category of rejuvenation has been catalyzed by one of the most talked-about NFT projects in the last month, The Loot Project.
What was the Loot Project about?
Developed by Vine co-creator Dom Hoffman, The Loot Project was at its roots, mind-blowingly simple. The idea was to have a random item generator for which would generate the names of various weapons, armor, and accessories, similar to that of fantasy role-playing and world-building games. He called these loot “bags”, and people were allowed to mint these bags for free, only paying for the transaction fees required by the Ethereum Network.
In what seemed to be a phenomenon that followed typical NFT hype stories, these bags of “loot” (or to everybody else, simply white text on a black background) were snatched up almost instantly. All 8000 bags in total garnered high resale prices overnight, with the lowest priced loot bag going for a whopping $20,000. Today, these prices have more than doubled due to the number and variety of projects that snuck up behind it.
What started with drawings and artworks done to imagine what the items in the loot bag might look like soon grew on a massive scale, evolving to take on a life of its own. Entire imaginary worlds began popping up around these items, and large communities began gathering online to create, craft, and participate in the world-building loot mania. People were creating guilds, marts, games, and a whole assortment of creative projects with what they found in their bags.
Divine Robes and more
‘Divine robes’, an item found in the loot bags (There are only 396 divine robes), quickly turned into a drool-worthy endeavor for the community, with an online market www.divineroles.com created specifically to trade these divine robes. This one fictional item went for a minimum of $169k.
After Divine Roles came Lootmart, a project that used smart contracts to allow you to “unbundle” your loot bag and create individual ERC 1155 tokens for each of your loot items. You can then trade these tokens with others who are doing the same.
Creators began to take notice of the buzz loot bags generated, leading them to create their own versions of the project. Within days, a wave of other similar NFT projects had emerged like The N Project and Bloot, a cheeky x-rated spin-off of the original Loot. One by one, these projects kept surfacing, each getting more intricate and more creative than the last, all of which sprung from The Loot Project, to which had no origin game at all.
That’s right – The Loot Project as developed by Hoffman came with no proprietary game or mechanics for how people should use these items. There were no adventurers, no maps, nothing that would culminate in a playable experience like how we’re used to when thinking about games. The loot bags were as they were minted – randomized text on a screen – which then translated to being unique items on the blockchain. Whatever people wanted to do with the unique item they got was entirely up to them, limited only by their own creativity.
NFT improv to boost the community
In a tweet, a user called Loot “NFT improv”, calling it an invitation to respond with a “yes, and…” – the ‘and’ signaling all that is speculative and all the possibilities for creation. In another tweet from Vitalik Buterin commenting on The Loot Project, he expanded The Loot Project philosophy is that “pretty much anything that anyone creates “exists”, what matters is to what extent other people build upon it.”
“What people build upon it” in the case of loot became the impetus for the growth of The Loot Project on the scale that it did. If anything, it has shown that the power of speculation is lucrative, and it drives the creative mind to come up with incredible ideas when there are very few limitations. Even if one removes the aspect of profit-making from the project, it still has real power and genuine merit when it comes to the dimension of creating. The loot project is creative speculation that forms the foundation for the existence of anything that can come to mind.
After all, The Loot Project isn’t so much about the NFTs that got minted, neither is it about the prices they fetched, but more of what was created around it. These are essentially just items on a list, just as NFTs are at the end of the day philosophically just a string of code on the blockchain. What is interesting and truly powerful were the gradients of imaginative uses that people came up with. It was what gave life to the project, and essentially ascribed value to the item from the bottom up, through creativity and community.
Power from the bottom up
Today, the monetary value of loot bags are only contingent on the world and communities created around it – people taking control of what these NFTs can do, creating, imagining, maximizing, and expanding on the myriad of potentials embedded within these unique items. Loot owners have the ability to craft the parameters for which these items could become playable, in a way that was the most fun or the most relatable to them and their community.
Even Dom Hoffman himself admits that if he created a game for loot at this point, he would have no power to steer the community to want to play it, due to its decentralized nature (although it isn’t something he wants to either, and prefers it when the community takes control of the premise for these bags.)
What happened with loot isn’t just another story about sensational high prices over seemingly esoteric art or an NFT project that rode off the hype. Loot’s genius is in its autopoietic nature, meaning that it organically created an ecosystem for creatives to not only manifest their creative abilities but to really piggyback off of the merits of other creatives, inevitably producing pockets of fresh and diverse communities.
The true value of NFTs
In a way, The Loot Project is a testament to the depth of NFTs as a decentralizing force in the creative world. The communities that grew out of the Loot phenomenon have really harnessed the power of NFTs to build entirely imaginative worlds for which they were able to see a reality that matched their passions and interests. If NFTs are a mirror for how we think about the real world, then the idea of NFTs is to begin to see that an increasing amount of what holds value to us is often entirely speculative, and doesn’t exactly exist in the world until you choose to create it. As with the case of Loot, value doesn’t have to work around the dollar amount, it can be anything you imagine it to be.