Cryptocurrencies seem to be making the headlines lately in a more and more matter-of-fact way. Consider the recent WannaCry ransomware attack – the hackers reportedly asked people who had been affected to pay the ransom required in Bitcoin, the most prominent cryptocurrency out there. So it seems that just a decade or so after Bitcoin was introduced – and thought by many to be utopian, by others a scam, but in any case fleeting – it is on the contrary well established within the digital world and getting stronger by the day. But what are the implications for gamers and the gaming community in general?
What Is Bitcoin and How Does It Work?
If your knowledge about Bitcoin is confined to some vague idea about a currency that only exists online, do not worry. A lot of gamers may be extremely tech-savvy yet not know much about the specifics of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In contrast to what have been dubbed “fiat currencies” that are instituted through government authority and are subject to state regulation, Bitcoin was devised as an alternative, state-free currency that would be powered by cryptography. That means for example that while state-issued currencies can be deflated at will to adapt to market fluctuation, the Bitcoin supply is mathematically limited to 21 million and can never be changed.
Bitcoin, invented by an unknown programmer or group of programmers going by the name “Satoshi Nakamoto” and released as open-source software in 2009, remains by far the most pervasive digital currency, although others like Ether and Litecoin are also becoming more popular. The Bitcoin system revolves around peer-to-peer transactions and works without a central repository or single administrator, thus earning the title of the first decentralized digital currency. Besides buying and trading like any other real-world currency, Bitcoin can also be generated by mining. The currency experienced a spike in price ever since 2013 and is currently set at $2445.
Gamers and Cryptocurrencies: A Natural Fit?
So what do gamers have to do with all of this? Firstly, most gamers who are active on online gaming platforms are getting more and more familiar with the concept and are seeking ways to utilize the benefits of paying in Bitcoin – like League of Legends players asking for an option to buy Riot Points with the cryptocurrency. Other sectors of the gaming market like online casinos have already responded by providing services in Bitcoin. For example, there are online casinos like Vegas Casino that offer everything from blackjack and roulette to sports betting on NFL and NBA in Bitcoin, highlighting the currency’s inherent security features – you can visit the website for more information.
Yet there are also (surprising) drawbacks: as a recent article on PC Gamer highlighted, increased popularity of Bitcoin mining has resulted in the unlikely side effect of raising hardware costs for gamers, as demand for powerful rigs and, in particular, graphics cards has risen. It seems that both gamers and Bitcoin miners both require specialized graphic cards like the AMD RX 400/500 series and thus many sellers are currently out of stock, driving prices for the remaining cards up.
In any case, it seems that despite occasional strains the gaming-cryptocurrency relationship will continue evolving. After all, gamers were really the first ones to utilize alternative currencies, with game-scoring systems often associated with the number of coins, tokens, or gems the players would collect! Then RPGs took it one step further by being the first to popularize in-game economies, where the players could buy or sell items (loot) for money – so what knows what the future has in store?