Time Scarce NFTs

Three Things: Runescape Skill Capes, NFTs, and Time

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As a teen, I spent weeks of my life playing Runescape. Weeks. 

Skilling Up

It appears uncommon, many individuals who are in crypto played Runescape, World of Warcraft, or some other MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game). The most common analogy derived from Runescape is of the infamous blue party hat as the original Runescape NFT and a representation of how useless items can have an immense monetary value. But, I’m not going to talk about Christmas cracker rewards (you’ll get this if you played the game, nerd) and instead discuss another aspect of the game which I believe crypto should draw from.

Runescape was an amazing game for several reasons. The gameplay was fun as there was something to do for all types of gamers. It was social with groups (clans) and some tasks required multiple individuals to complete. And most importantly, it took fucking hours to do anything.

In Runescape, if you achieved level 99 (maxed out) one of the skills (i.e. farming, cooking, mining) then you received a skill cape. 

There were two factors that made skill capes so desirable. First, they weren’t tradeable, you couldn’t buy your way to success. Second, there wasn’t a supply cap on the number of skill capes that could exist – if you achieved 99 in the skill, you could buy one. 

Notably, skill capes in Runescape weren’t tradeable which increased their social value because obtaining a cape couldn’t be gamed. 

Source: OSRS

Maxing out Runescape’s most time-intensive skill, Slayer – killing special monsters – requires a minimum of 300 hours of gameplay. That’s equivalent to 12.5 days of nonstop playing or 37.5 workdays (8 hours each day). Even the lowest time-intensive skill in Runescape – Prayer – demands at least 8.5 hours of gameplay to reach the top level. When a player in Runescape wears a skill cap, it means they grinded out some stat for days or weeks. 

I bring up Runescape because skill capes are an example of scarcity through time and labor. 

Time Scarce NFTs

Time is universal and naturally limited making it the most equitable resource – everyone has the same 24 hours. NFTs can take a page from the Runescape playbook by integrating time or labor-intensive tasks into how they are earned. To date, acquiring most NFTs simply requires capital, creating an NFT culture built around money as opposed to merit. 

NFTs imbued with a culture of grinding breeds a community based on shared experience. Time scare NFTs don’t necessarily have to be labor-intensive. Zapper’s NFTs required habitually checking their application every day to receive experience points to reach certain levels where NFTs were rewarded. 

The magic of software is that there can be all types of experiments:

  • NFTs/badges rewarded for performing several habitual tasks in a DAO (e.g. voting) 

  • Non-tradeable NFTs awarded based on skill or effort (e.g. NFTs for people who hold over X amount NFTs from verified OpenSea contracts) 

  • Non-tradeable NFTs that require being created from acquiring non-tradeable subparts( also NFTs)

  • Non-tradeable NFTs that permit access to other NFTs which are tradeable are  don’t have

The design space is wide open for new types of NFTs and DAOs and communities that adopt time-scarce NFTs might experience stronger communities that aren’t solely financial in nature.

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Special thanks to Gunnar Nystrom for feedback and edits!