Nothing to Collect

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Beanie Babies. Pokemon Cards. Pogs. Football Stickers. Wrestling Cards. Bottle Caps. VHS Tapes. Comics. Action Men. Happy Meal Toys. Pencils. Pens. Action Figures. Magazines. DVD’s. Blu-Rays. Posters. Soda Cans. Balloons. Lego.

Are just a few of the things over the years I have dedicated my time to collecting. Money wasted many would say. Well they can whisper away because I loved collecting them and watching my collection grow, excited at every new addition, searching and seeking out new variations or ‘rare’ ones. It was all a thrill. Most of all I loved having it, looking at it, playing with it, reading it, watching it, rearranging it, posing it, storing it. I loved having it! A collection I could get out and share and show off. That was then… welcome to the now! And Cryptokitties!

It was only a matter of time before Collectibles went digital. We’ve been collecting things digitally for years from achievements to trophies to items, potions, armours, weapons, currency, monsters, friends etc. Collecting has long been a feature of the online gaming community and payed for gaming is nothing if not old hat now. Gone are the days of selling your Habo Hotel account for £50 on the school playground or setting up online swaps for armour or swords though. However the digital age continues to progress, which brings us to Cryptokitties. What makes Cryptokitties so desirable and a ‘bona-fide’ collectible though? What warrants the hundreds and thousand of dollars exchanging hands for them too?

While such a statement of Digital Collectible seems at odds with itself, not to mention likely accompanied with an air of scepticism and concern of legitimacy. How does an intangible effectively non-existent object obtain value and rarity?  Anyone of the Beanie Baby age or of any collecting background will instantly understand the thrills of hunting out anything rare or special, that 1 in 1000 bear or 1 in 200 praying crocodile or whatever it may be but is such an idea able to live digitally. Well let me introduce you to a Cryptokitty.

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For Sale equal to $600

They’re cute and personable. They’re tiny little kitty cats. And they are all the brain child of the company Axiom Zen and where their true magic lies is in their breed-ability. As you and another player can breed your kitties and make a new, one of a kind, kitty. Which you can then breed with another making rarer and rarer varieties. For each and every generation of Cryptokitty has its own unique genetic code which when paired with another produces a new code and so fourth and so fourth. It’s all very simple, highly addictive and culminates in an extremely collectible game. But how do they retain their uniqueness, how can a piece of digital code become rare? Cryptokitties work off a Blockchain system which is what such digital (Crypto) currencies as Bitcoin and Ethereum work off of. A Blockchain is a system of assured validation through the use of information distribution. For instance say a cat is a 1 in 5 collectible, 10 people would be given information stating this. Then say someone else comes along claiming its a 1 in 3 collectible, you now have 10 sources to check this information against to validate it’s claim. Therefore ensuring the legitimacy of an item, a currency or a collectible. This is how Axiom Zen are forging ahead with this new era of collectibles. VOX did a fantastic in depth explainer if you want to know more of the inner-machinations.

At the end of the day though you are simply buying a piece of code with the promise of uniqueness while the validity is unquestionable what is stopping the people behind Cryptokitties downgrading rarities but releasing more of a said generation? This I guess however has been the downfall of any form of collectible. We perceive, create and trust in it’s preciousness out of sheer want and need for it to be collectible and of value or rarity. So is a digital collectible any different from an real world materialistic one? In a world at conflict with itself over the need and want for tangible literal collectible objects vs. the desire for ease of access, space saving, everlasting and innovative digital versions of our possessions. Could these digital collectibles be the next step in our electronic evolutions.

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