[Graduate Thesis]
WAGMI to the Moon

2021-2022, Design Research, Speculative design, Design Intervention, Generative Art




Thesis Adviser: Tim Durfee


Introduction

We’re All Gonna Make It (WAGMI) To The Moon are a collection of board games that navigate directly in the convoluting, overwhelming yet utterly fascinating world of NFT art. Owing to the explosion of the NFT, user-generated art – which can sometimes be substantive, but is often artless and even kitsch – has sometimes skyrocketed to be as valuable as the blue chip art in galleries and museums.

Hence, the first game WAGMI (named, as with to the moon, after popular expressions in the NFT community) allows players to learn about the nuances that constitute NFT art projects and the niche NFT community while indulging in rapid art making. On the other hand, To The Moon simulates the random chance of success, collective experiences of value, and cultural and social implications of the NFT art market.


Despite skepticism about its infrastructure and the overpromises of decentralized financial liberation, the burgeoning NFT technology presents an opportunity that invites us to engage in NFT with naivete as uniqueness being transformed into currency. Intending to explore the matter of NFT art in the gray area between “This is something special!” and “This is definitely a joke.” WAGMI to the Moon likes to invite all the NFT skeptics, haters, and confused beings to traverse the space of NFT art, examine the technology critically while learning about the excitement and fun of engaging with NFT. Ultimately, the board games along with a corresponding social website, create a network for all the WAGMI artwork reaching beyond the WAGMI universe and being minted as actual NFT – all in the hopes to make it to the moon!


Special thanks to Thesis Adviser Tim Durfee, Co-Advisers Anne Burdick and Elise Co, Thesis Writing Advisor Sam Creely, Thesis Writing Co-Advisor Elizabeth Chin, Media Artist David Leonard, Legal Consultant Michelle Katz, Production Assistant Kuan-YA Wu, Playtesters Elaine Purnama, Melody Ling, Mavis Cao, Qi Tan, Kate Ladenheim.


Concept

The inspiration for the project comes from my ongoing research paper on a particular capitalist occurrence of Limited Editions: The aesthetic experiences and the question of value proposed by the kitsch, fun, meaningless, unworthy, and absurd limited editions. WAGMI to the Moon is not a parody or a critique of the NFT art fad. Instead, the point of the games is being aware, understanding, and taking the jokes very seriously to celebrate this absurd, overwhelming, and fascinating moment of NFT art. The board games are meant to develop beyond educational purposes and offer an onboarding experience for people to look at the space critically, recognize potential issues, learn about the nuances and implications, and open up deeper conversations around the topic.

The subject of NFT is hard to approach since many people seem to have a strong attitude about it despite only knowing the polarized, reduced, satirized narratives from the news media, or the wild promises from overly enthusiastic crypto bros. NFT presents a pseudo-novel way of consumption and opportunities for digital creatives to make a living with their art. In the meantime, the institutional art world despises the “folk art” sold online while eagerly capitalizing on it. The corporations and startups cannot wait to jump onto the bandwagon with little investigation into the technology, despite the infrastructure of NFT technology being constantly overwhelmed by the explosion in usage. NFT has become synonymous with fad, hype culture, false promises, digital scams, trash art, memes, and crazy financial gain, to name a few.


For many many NFT believers who are deeply engaged in the NFT community, they understand how ridiculous trading these jpegs are. They recognize the potential, nuances, and risks of the NFT technology, and they embrace the joke and pay to play. In addition, the participation in the NFT space shows the punk spirit of making fun of the high brow art world, government institutions, and neoliberal capitalism. There is no single way to critique the NFT art phenomenon since NFT is now deeply intertwined with the concept of art, financial market, politics, online subculture and communities, and blockchain technology. The project recognizes the multifaceted nature of the subject, looks to invite diverse points of view, and encourages meaningful debates and conversations of NFT.


The games not only imply the gamification of the NFT space, but the physical game also helps translate the abstract concept of NFT and crypto finance, and vast online phenomenon into tangible forms, that allow the players to play spontaneously, casually, even drunkenly with those around them. The players are offered a golden ticket for a single or several pieces of art that can be minted as actual NFT at the end of the game, which is very much up to them to take or leave it. Most importantly, one needs to understand the joke to criticize or even make fun of it.


Apart from the craftsmanship, high concept, and elaborate generative algorithms, NFT art thrives on community engagement, gripping narratives, and compelling stories. Ultimately, the games will also become a generative art project that intervenes in the NFT market space with the artworks produced in WAGMI as a commentary to the often kitsch, artless, and funny jpegs currently flooding the NFT market.

WHY BOARD GAMES?


Initially inspired and intrigued by how the all-time classic board game Monopoly manifests the implications and critique of our capitalist reality through gameplay, I attempted to develop board games that will help me and the audience learn about the implications and nuances of the wild NFT art phenomena. Games are also one of the best ways to learn about a new branch of knowledge as they can simulate real-life scenarios, incentivize the general public to participate, and build captivating stories through game design. The concept of crypto finance is complicated, and unfamiliarity with the technology will create much friction to get people on board. Physical board games make the subject of NFT, crypto market, and generative art more playful, inviting, and less intimidating. In addition, board games allow the players to learn about the essence of NFT and examine the subject matter purely without digital distraction and the gimmicks of mind-boggling computer algorithms which turn many people away.

WHAT DOES WAGMI TO THE MOON MEAN?

WAGMI stands for we are all gonna make it in the NFT community to show comradery and not to lose hope. To The Moon, is a crypto slang meaning when the price of the coin or the art piece reaches a skyrocketing price. The game wishes to incorporate the language in the NFT art to provide the players with a more genuine experience of the NFT world.


WAGMI Rules and Implications

In the game scenario, the players are NFT artists trying to make it in the NFT market. Meanwhile, the players all have to play the tastemakers and audience for each other’s art. The goal is to accumulate enough appreciation for your art. Enough appreciation means a collection of ten heart-shaped tokens, as high as the mini heart-shaped pillar. The players individually pick a theme card to start the game, and they will have to stick to the same theme to create a collection of art. Resembling the Monopoly board game, you roll the dice, arrive on an empty block, and pick a prompt card to make art based on your pre-determined theme and the prompts. The art-making process is limited to 3 minutes.

If you arrive on a block that already has a piece of NFT art, you can support their artwork by giving them your appreciation (the love tokens), and you will pick an appreciation card. The card indicates influences from the crypto communities, market, news, and culture as well as the implications of the crypto technology.

At the end of the game, rather than having a single-player win the entire game, all the artwork that has accumulated enough appreciation can be minted as real NFT, and all the players have to share the cost of minting. Since WAGMI is about celebrating the limited editions of kitsch, fun, somewhat artless images, the players are highly encouraged to mint their NFT on any proof of stake blockchain such as Tezos and Solona (the minting fee is far cheaper, the system is more responsive, and it is more energy-efficient than Ethereum).

The game WAGMI attempts to illuminate what makes NFT art valuable and the experience of being an NFT artist. Being an NFT artist is much more than just uploading a jpeg. NFT artists have to connect to the NFT art community by promoting on Twitter, organizing discord channels, and building attractive narratives for their art. Since NFT allows many digital creatives to make a living and profits with their art, the players in WAGMI also gain access to more art-making tools when they accumulate more appreciation for their work.

Design and Playtest

Since NFT is simply a pointer to the file of the artwork, not to the artwork itself, there is no limit to the medium of art! Eventually, you can scan your artwork from the game, do some magic in photoshop and upload them as the jpegs as NFTs. During the playtest sessions, we also found that digital art-making creates too much friction for users who are not familiar with particular art-making software, and it takes too much time for them to figure out the technology.

For the themes in the game, the playtest result also shows that players are more excited by abstract themes like lines, dots, shapes, blobs than the representational themes like human-ish or accessories as some players reported that they are concerned about the quality of their art too much when they are asked to draw an animal or a pair of sneakers. The choice of adopting abstract prompts also influences the visual design of the games. In the earlier iterations of the WAGMI board, the board was filled with the common motifs in the NFT art, and the aesthetics were more meme-like. The more abstract visual design of the game also implies that there is not a single approach and aesthetic to NFT art.


To the Moon Rules and Implications

If you remember, some artwork didn't make it in WAGMI, and that artwork will be dropped in the game To the Moon. The players are playing the roles of NFT investors, and they will learn about the excitement, nuances, issues, and drop culture in the NFT art world.

Similar to WAGMI, roll the dice and arrive on an empty block. A random artwork that has not been minted in WAGMI will be dropped and the player will mint them as fictional NFT on pic-coins in this game. The player needs to pay the gas fee of minting determined by rolling another triangular dice. Once your fictional NFT is minted, you place your player marker on top of the block to claim the ownership. In addition, you will need to fill out a paper ledger of the block to keep track of the price of the artwork and the transactions between players. The person who mints the artwork will determine the sale price of the work.

Every time the player lands on an occupied block, the player will need to pick a moon card and a chance card. The moon card will sway the value of the artwork on this block, and the chance card suggests the personal financial consequences. The pic-coin tokens represent the value of the art, while the actual price of the art is negotiated between the players. The destiny of the artwork is dependent on random chances.

The players want to own the artworks that have gone to the moon by the end of the game. And those will be minted as actual NFT under the name of the final owner, while all the fellow players will share the cost of minting. Because the game heavily implies the financial consequences of NFT, players can mint them on any blockchain of their own choice.

The design of To the Moon references the drop culture in the NFT world as the art drops resemble a gamble. Separating the value of the art and the actual price of the art is an intentional choice. The listed price of the art does not matter if no one purchased it. The traded price is ultimately determined by the negotiation between traders and is often jacked up by the market and demands.


Project Outlook
WAGMI to the Moon System Diagram WAGMI to the Moon Generative Art System: All the artwork created in WAGMI can be uploaded to the WAGMI online platform for the showcase. For the artworks that do not fall short in WAGMI, they will be randomly picked and dropped in the game To the Moon for the players to mint them as actual NFT. Ideally, the process of minting on the platform will be streamlined for the users to upload and mint NFT art at ease.

The intervention of WAGMI art in the NFT market is a critique of not all but some gimmicky generative NFT projects that flood the blockchain with insincere and meaningless images simply for financial gains as money laundering schemes.

The generative art projects also manifest a new form of consumption that heavily relies on collections. Each piece of art could look less intriguing than looking at the whole collection of artwork. NFT allows us to own individual pieces of a larger body of work as the buyers invest in the prospect of the project rather than the individual pieces on their own. Taking account of the peculiarity of the generative NFT art project, the WAGMI generative art platform will enable a larger design intervention in the NFT market.

Moreover, there are many other interesting aspects of NFT art that are yet to be explored in either of the games WAGMI and To the Moon. Another game is named Art! Art? Nah! attempts to discuss the tension between the institutional art world and the online NFT world, which is currently in development. WAGMI to the Moon is not only a design project of board games, it also becomes a design methodology that stimulates insightful and meaningful conversations from multiple perspectives and allows the audience to look at a controversial subject critically.

🌄️
BACKDROP
OFF