Guardians of Justice (2022)

So this popped up on my Netflix feed the other day. It gave a lot of Kung Fury vibes, with a surreal take on the 80s. GoJ is that, but quite a bit more. It tries to answer the question, “what if Superman was depressed?” Or perhaps, what if superhero flaws were human?

Adi Shankar is a very particular individual. He takes mainstream ideas, and then strains them through all the tropes he can muster, turning the subject inside out.

Guardians of Justice is such an endeavour. The plot itself is a unhealthy take on the superhero genre, with an in-your-face approach to get the message across. Alan Moore runs on multiple complex levels, but the goal is deconstruction (and The Watchmen technically only has 1 superhero, everyone else is human with a fetish). There’s no subtlety here, and the mix of genres (live action, anime, CGI) help to keep it interesting. There’s something to be said about a boss battle being more like a video game than just a mush of blurry CGI.

As much as I enjoyed the 80s comic book and (heavy) social filter, the more enjoyable part was how every character has some rather massive flaws that are not plot bound but based on the character. It makes for a dark take on the “good vs bad” of the MCU, and honestly highlights the rather major flaws in that recipe. There are no giant plotholes here, no hand waving, no McGuffin to chase.

I can’t say the series is for everyone, it is not at all a pick-me-up type of story. It starts off on an incredibly dark take and just dives deeper as the story goes on. Heck, by the end you’ll wonder if there ever was a “good guy” in the entire story. Still, I’m glad that the series came out. It takes some interesting risks, and for the most part, they pay off. Well worth a binge.

Lost Ark – Part 2

I’m far enough (?) now to have unlocked most systems, and have a few more thoughts on the game. By now I have:

  • Stronghold
  • Ship
  • Level 50
  • Item Level 460

The game has multiple phases to it. The period from start until you unlock the ship, it’s borderline Diablo. You have a ton of action skills, combat is explosive, the bosses are engaging, and there’s tons of voice acted content. A few systems are explained up til this point, but it primarily focuses on harvesting and stronghold upgrades. The stronghold is a time-gated construction bit, and still seems to serve no real purpose. Maybe for battle potions later.

When you unlock the ship, the game opens like floodgates. The rather linear map turns into a real world that you actually need to navigate. The sailing mechanics are relatively simple, and ship upgrades are meaningless (and I think impossible) until a much later point. There’s just tons of content to be had here… it’s really quite astounding. The open world areas are thematic, and while some may seem repetitive, there are others that are really well done. It’s not terribly challenging, at least for anyone with ARPG experience, so it feels a bit like fast food. Then you hit the first real content gate.

Lost Ark has item levels for the gear. By the final quest you will have a set of ilvl 302 gear, which is more than ample for all the content you just did. To access the next bit, you need to get it to ilvl460. Now, the thing about this is that increasing your level only comes from honing, or rather using material to increase your current gear. Each piece needs to be upgraded 8 times. Getting that material comes from 2 main activities – island quests or chaos dungeons. It’ll take a day or two to get it all sorted out.

I disliked this part, tremendously. Mostly because it was so jarring. While you do get your ship a lot earlier, exploring any of the islands at that time feels very disconnected from the rest of the game. Chaos dungeons are OK I guess, just a set of waves of enemies you need to clear within a timeframe. You get extra rewards twice a day, which can accumulate over time. Plus, there’s an RNG mechanic when upgrading gear – it’s possible for it to fail, moreso the higher the ilvl. This would be the long tail of the game…which seems, from Steam at least, to be less than 2% of the playerbase.

I haven’t gotten into any of the other systems or currencies in the game yet. The card decks, engravings, and stones give some flexibility or min/maxing for combat – very obtuse RNG systems that are akin to legendary farming in Diablo. There appears to be something like 100 currencies in-game, most of which are island specific. This is closer to reputation farming from MMOs, but super confusing because you’ll see a vendor and have no idea how to get any of the currency. It in turn means that over 90% of the currency is meaningless. This isn’t a complaint as much as a statement… look at WoW… how much content prior to Shadowlands is even remotely relevant today? Seems a similar thing here.

I do have 1 particular peeve with this game, and it relates to the approach to instancing and death. When you die, you can either resurrect on the spot (a plume, which are super limited, or bought in the store) or revive in town. The latter is obviously preferred. The former is an interesting decision point depending on the instance you are in… if you die, you need to restart the entire instance. It’s not like 2 minutes to get back to a corpse either, odds are it’s a major boss fight after trekking the entire instance once again. It feels a bit like raiding in an MMO where the trash instantly respawns after a death. It’s an annoyance more than much else.

I’ve got more stuff to do here no doubt. Finishing this content will give me access to the final bit of Tier 1 dungeons to get to ilvl600. Getting to ilvl 802 apparently means using the auction house…odd that bit. ilvl 960 to get to the final bit of Tier 2. Tier 3 starts at ilvl1100 and currently ends just after ilvl 1415. the moment to moment gameplay is really quite amazing. Not so sure the west is actually in the mindset for the RNG grind required for tail end progress… certainly not when my game library is overflowing. I’ll have another post up in a month to see how this plays out.

Echo Chambers & Autocracy

I’m on record a few times now stating that social media is like a cancer. It slowly spreads itself, and unless you’re checking in, it will take over your life.

I deleted Facebook a few years ago, when my youngest was born. I still recall the reason for it, one of my friends on there was posting multiple links a day about some racist conspiracy theory. His volume was filling my feed. I talked to him about it, he was absolutely convinced about the topic and was surrounded by the digital equivalent of walls of “news” articles on the topic. Even if he tried to get out, the algorithm was feeding him more garbage. I wanted none of it, and just deleted everything.

It’s not like things have gotten better. The proliferation of mobile apps made fast food junkies out of many of us. When’s the last time anyone actually read an article that was more than a paragraph? Hell, one that covered a few pages? The pandemic on top of it has made more people turn into hermits and reach out for any type of social link. And the “system” rewards people for taking advantage of this, either with an “influencer” tag, streaming donations, or political aspirations. The more rage-inducing content they can pump out, the more the algorithm feeds eyeballs and $$$.

Tangent for a bit here. The UK election a few years ago, there was a fair amount of online weight that Corbyn was going to win against Johnson. It didn’t matter than Johnson lied profusely, it only mattered that he had sound clips. Johson beat the tar out of him, to the incredulous voices of the interwebs. The echo chamber of the online communities could not bear to hear that any other option was present. Not much different than /thedonald, where if you didn’t tow the line, you were banned. This in effect builds multiple rabbit holes that go in completely divergent paths, and the folks within are either oblivious to the other, or are mortal enemies. It will, at some point, reach enough of a fever pitch that an individual with lesser capacity, will take it as incentive to do something horrible. And then nothing will change.

Autocracies (or dictatorships) are quite similar. They focus on inner circles of sycophants (yes-men) who are only as good as long as they tow the line and say what the “leader” wants to hear. Take a different path, and you’re out on your butt. In reflection, it’s pretty clear that Trump was/is surrounded by this model and the loss of the election turned into his typical – it’s someone else’s fault. Whether he actually believes this or not isn’t relevant, it’s the impacts of that message, and the refusal to accept that a different narrative is possible. It’s created its own echo chamber.

Russia is the more recent example of this, in that Putin’s military information clearly was not accurate. We are 1 month into the invasion of Ukraine and still Russia has not taken a major city. Russia the superpower, with UN veto power, the saber rattling country that has been a boogeyman for decades. He’s been cleaning house of his advisors ever since, which makes you wonder who in their right mind would want to step into those shoes. It bears pointing that even the West has been surprised at the results of this war. Not so much how effective Ukraine has been at resisting, but at how poorly organized Russia’s machine has been. The logistical errors alone are baffling.

I’d be lying if I thought there was an obvious solution out of this. There are historical reference points, but none that can account for the speed of social media and hunger for outlets of anger. I can only help those around me by talking to them, looking at multiple sources of information, and having actual discussions over a coffee/beer. I can supervise my kids consumption, and talk with them about the reality of the content (Mr Beast is neat and all, but I have a better chance of becoming Spider-Man). I didn’t think we’d end up here so fast. Wonder how long it will last.

Getting Away

The family took a trip last week to the Dominican Republic. I’ve been a few times now, and the kids have travelled with us as well. It’s seemingly one of the prime destinations for our spot on the globe.

It was a slightly different trip, for a multitude of reasons. Obviously, being at the tail end (?) of a global pandemic has stretched my mental state to a frayed one. It’s one of those slow scrapes, where you don’t quite realize how far along you are until you are able to take a few steps back. I had been working pretty much non-stop for 2 years and there are limits to that. Hell, I had spent weeks working out of a garage while the rest of my family was out on the water… or sitting in a church parking lot to get a decent LTE signal. I took a few days prior to rest up and close out some needed bits, and that really helped be relaxed for the trip.

Second, the DR itself has had a rough time. It is primarily run through tourism, so they’ve had a hell of a time these past few years. The sense of normal, or at least the potential for tourism to return made for a very pleasant experience. The vibe was relaxing (at least in our end) where people were just happy to be out.

Third, the kids are old enough now to not worry about so much. We still spent our time with them, but they are old enough to order a drink or get some food on their own. And young enough to spend 6 hours a day in a pool or on a beach without complaining. Not having to babysit, but instead being able to share the experience with the kids is a world of difference.

Finally, the act of travel itself and vaccinations/masks is an interesting one. Everyday more restrictions are lifted, though you can see that people are still easing into that mindset. The resort staff all had masks, but it’s hard to wear one while in a pool. The plane and airport all had mandatory masks. We did a lot of prep work (paper copies and electronic) to be sure there would be no stress… and that worked out quite well.

When we left, I had just finished snowblowing a good foot+ of a snowstorm. When we got back, there was grass almost everywhere and much milder temperatures. Never quite sure what March will bring here, so it was a very welcome sight to see Spring inching its way towards us.

I do realize that travel is a luxury, and this post isn’t so much about the destination itself in as much as the fact that we got away and recharged our batteries. It’s been an incredibly shitty few years now (and for some it’s certainly worse now), so any ability to just stop and take a breath of normalcy was sorely needed. Hope others are able to do so as well.

Lost Ark Quick Thoughts

February was a damn good month for games. And only games it seems.

Lost Ark came out, with a few years of content already onboard. And there is a lot of content. Almost too much.

I find these types of localized releases quite interesting, because the western sensibilities to F2P are much different than the east. Allods Online is still burned into my brain as to how to lose an entire playerbase with a single swoop (they put in a resurrection sickness that could only be cured with a cash stop item).

From what I can tell so far, Lost Ark doesn’t have a huge burden with their cash stop. The typical acceleration items are there, potions and random boxes and whatnot. The actual gameplay doesn’t seem to suffer from it though… and PvP is normalized, so even if you did boost a character with money, it wouldn’t go very far.

I should note that as with any F2P game with a cash stop, there is a plague of bots. They only seem to be in the city, and they zip through walls. Guess they are running an easy quest to make currency to sell. Literally dozens of them, one on top of the other.

But enough about that. There are plenty of other reviews, videos, and blog posts that praise the game. I am certainly impressed. What I want to point out is one simple matter.

This is what Diablo 4 should have been.

It’s really that simple. The combat itself is tight, there are plenty of skill options, there’s min/maxing, a long tail that is more than about gear score, group content that is more than just DPS. The whole demon/angel bit. This isn’t so much a dig at Blizzard – I certainly could – but more a reflection of how there isn’t a revolutionary bit to Lost Ark. They took the best parts of ARPG games, figured out how to include actual group mechanics, and plopped a rather effective cash stop on the side. Hell, this might be the first game Amazon Studios (as publisher) actually gets right.

I’ll be giving the game a bit more time over the next month, see what comes out of it. So far, it scratches all the right places.

A ridiculous Yoda attempt. Like John Carpenter good/bad.

China and Russia

I am not a foreign policy hawk, but I enjoy reading up on the subject. The world as we know it has 3 primary super powers – the US, China and Russia. They are, in extremely simplistic terms, focused specific areas of market. Russia in raw goods (primarily energy), China in manufactured goods, and the US in services. There are other countries in the mix, but none of them are large enough to direct their market share like these three.

Politically, these 3 countries have a lot in common, in that the politicians are run by business interests. The slight difference here is that the head of state is all but permanent in Russia and China. Both are also ex-communist countries that still have that generational echo where the country is larger than the people within. This is a complete contrast to the US, where the individual takes precedence over everything (lawsuits don’t really exist in Russia/China, at least as we recognize them).

In terms of military strength, all of them are capable of mutually assured destruction, which is the only bar worth measuring. Digital war strength, well, the advantage is clearly with both Russia and China, primarily because they also control the methods by which information is shared within their countries. China is particularly resilient because of the Great Firewall. Russia has little defence, but a tremendously effective offence.

Foundations set, all 3 countries have a desire to increase their influence/control, as this increases the amount of money they can make. Recall the markets they control, and you get a better idea as to the type of control they desire. For a long time the US wanted more oil security, Russia wanted it’s raw resources back, and China needs more secure borders and material to make goods.

The US empire has been on a steep decline for a good decade now (this is a fascinating subject), their ability to expand is in the traditional sense is all but gone. Russia and China however are both relatively new to the scene and have been taking advantage of this retreat. Both have blustery leaders who will gladly throw a threat around with no intent to follow through. Which is also the case for retaliation, where there’s only so much bluff calling possible when you’re on multiple war fronts. The war in the middle east never truly pivoted, with that focus taking away any global ability to counteract other offensive acts. As any opportunist would, others took advantage. There really hasn’t been any noticeable resistance against either Russia or China.

The war in Ukraine (that’s what it is) is different for many reasons. Importantly, Russia dramatically underestimated its capacity to overtake the country and resistance capabilities. These are not protesters or poorly armed rebels. This is two countries at war. The quick attack and follow up propaganda just didn’t work, and that means that attacks will get more desperate as time draws on. Second, Russia underestimated the western resolve to impose sanctions. Russia makes nearly all of its income from raw material, which has been all but shut off. Now it’s a game of chicken of how high gas prices will get before the west caves, or Russia runs out of options. A desperate country with a deranged leader and nuclear capacity is not a good mix. Without firing a shot, the west has crippled Russia, and it’s a matter of time before their reserves run out.

Which in turn makes for an interesting view in China. Their method of power play was to put countries against each other. With a unified front, they are certainly doing the math as to how the country could potentially resist any similar sanctions. They could certainly survive, with an absolutely massive cash reserve, but it would be a constant drain on their reserves and push a lot of the millionaires/billionaires to lose money – those who are keeping the government in power. There’s a threshold here, where only a certain small % of the folks can be targeted (Jack Ma was untouchable until he wasn’t).

This is just a simplistic view of a hyper complex and interconnected puzzle. It’s not possible to isolate any one part and not impact another… that’s what globalization has done. No country can be self-sufficient in this age, to the point where their lifestyles can be maintained. Higher gas prices is one thing. Empty Walmart shelves… that may be a bridge too far.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting on the global stage. With hope, this can de-escalate and find a long term solution without the continued loss of innocent life. But it’s a turning point all the same for how this tiny blue dot moves forward.

Switch and Steam Deck

I was browsing the Nintendo e-store and found the primary reason why the Switch has a interesting battle ahead. This is a narrow sample of prices on the Switch and then on Steam

  • FF7 $22/$17
  • FF9 $28/$24
  • FF10/2 $60/$33
  • FF12 $60/$66
  • Hades $32/$29
  • XCOM 2 $60/$15
  • Cuphead $26/$22
  • Death’s Door $26/$22

Somehow, Breath of the Wild is still selling for the same price as launch, as well as nearly every other first party game. The perks of exclusivity I suppose. Not to mention Steam can manage to have a sale seemingly every other day.

All consoles are built on a software library. The size and quality of that library is the largest factor of that success. Not only does Steam already dwarf every other console, but it offers lower prices in almost every single case, often by huge amounts. I’m waiting for the next hardware version to come out, and most certainly giving it a go.

That said, nearly every time we thought Nintendo was out for the count, they’ve somehow managed to come back up.

Cost of Living Math

Gas prices are reaching records, and I wanted to do a rather simple math exercise to see what that meant. I’m not going to go into why prices are as they are, that’s quite complex and perhaps another post.

  • In my city, gas is $1.85/L. In BC, there are spots at $2.20.
  • The average car has a 65L fuel tank, average truck is about 120L.
  • To fill a tank in my city costs between $120 to $220. In BC, that’s $145 to $265.

Next up, minimum wage.

  • In my city, minimum wage is $15, in BC it’s $15.20.
  • A 7.5hr day that’s net $112-$114. Gross depends on taxes and a few other deductions. Let’s be super generous and say it’s 10% tax, so ~$100 in the pocket per day.
  • A tank of gas costs between 1.2 and 2.6 days of work, at minimum wage.
  • Find a better job is often the reply. A daycare worker makes $16/hr, the people effectively responsible and raising children. Auto mechanics are at $27/hr. Nurses are between $33-47/hr. Teachers are about $45/hr.

Depending on the work you do, transportation options are quite limited. So what’s an acceptable amount of time spent to fill a gas tank, at minimum wage?

  • Half a day? You’d need to make ~$35/hr for a car, $70/hr for a truck.
  • A few hours? We’re in the $90-$180/hr range due to tax brackets.

The median family income in Canada was $62,000. For non-seniors, it was $93,800. Assuming 5 days a week, 50 weeks of the year that comes to: $248/d and $375.2/d. That’s a massive amount of income heading towards fuel.

Fuel Economy

So let’s look at the ratings for a bit. Their discrete values are always optimistic, to the point of frankly absurd, but their relative values have meaning. Let’s use 20,000km per year as the baseline, with 55% city driving, and fuel at 1.85 for regular.

  • Let’s say a 2021 Dodge Ram Classic. 11.9L/100km. That’s about $4,400 in gas per year.
  • Conventional SUV, like a Ford Escape, is 7.7L/100km, or $2,849 per year. Nearly half of a pickup.
  • A mid-size conventional sedan, like a Honda Civic is 7.1L/100km, or $2,627 in gas per year. Nearly half the cost.

Hybrid vehicles next:

  • A pickup, there are less options, like an EcoDiesel or a F-150 hybrid. Both run around 9.1L/100km, or $3,640 per year. About 30% cheaper than conventional.
  • An SUV, like a Highlander is 6.7L/100km, or $2,479 per year. Not any real difference with a conventional.
  • A mid-size, like a Toyota Camry is about 4.9L/100k, or $1,813 per year. This one is practically half of a conventional.

Electric vehicles now.

  • There are no electric trucks yet.
  • SUVs are extremely limited.
  • Mid-size cars have more options, though dominated by Tesla. The average annual cost is around $600 per year – or the price of 3 full tanks of gas for a pickup.\

Again, these are very optimistic numbers. I’ve used a Dodge Ram. I can assure you, it has never hit 11.9L/100km… maybe 14L/100km on pure highway, with 17 as mixed use. That $4,400 turns into $6,285 pretty quick.

I get that hybrid and electric vehicles can cost more, and that plug-in stations in Canada are really only options in urban settings. But I’m also aware that a pickup truck runs $60k, and cities are full of them that have never had a piece of lumber in the box. There are obvious choices and hard choices everywhere.

Personally, our 2013 Subaru Outback (tows + AWD) is at best 9.9L/100km and $3,600 a year. It’s due for replacement. Wife and I had a chat in the summer and hybrid was the only viable way forward… likely a Toyota Highlander at 6.7L/100km and $2,480 per year (32% cheaper). Recent prices have cemented that idea.

Certainly this is an opportunity to reflect on our energy dependencies and long term options. Perhaps this is the kick in the knees where our habits move towards renewables, and give us an actual change against global warming. It’s certainly an incentive for those who are able to work from home to NOT commute. And there’s going to be a price point where it simply does not make sense to drive at all.

Mining Nostalgia – Square Enix

This is a weird topic, brought to you mostly by Square Enix themselves.

Without opening the history books too far back, quite a few gamers cut their teeth on Square Enix games, especially the RPGs (Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, notably). There’s a nostalgia factor here, where we are on iterations that have gone on for 30 years. Here in the West, we haven’t been fully exposed to that library – which has a substantial set of franchises.

Now here’s where things get a bit odd. Square Enix appears to have 3 main arms. First is FF14, which is without question their cash cow. Second is their modern IP development stream – which includes Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, and new IP such as Outriders. Finally, there’s the nostalgia miners, the remakes of older games sold on other platforms. The FF pixel remasters are a great example of supremely low effort development, with high margins on sales. There really aren’t any other dev/publishing arms that are able to get all 3 streams working… perhaps Nintendo if they could figure out how emulation worked properly.

Compounding this is the Square Enix board’s bar for success. The Tomb Raider remake sold 3.4m copies in a month and was “below expectations“. FF15 had DLC cancelled. Outriders sold gangbusters and didn’t turn enough of a profit to pay the developers. Marvel Avengers was an attempt at games as a service without understanding how that model actually works. Babylon’s Fall, which met with amazingly low review scores, saved a few bucks in development by simply taking them from FF14.

I have no doubt that game development is expensive, especially when you add in the AAA flavors. It takes a crazy amount of sales to recoup the costs of a big dev team. Somehow we can get Horizon Forbidden West, without any microtransactions to turn a profit, or at least be worth the investment. There’s some sort of challenge here in managing expectations – and Square Enix appears to be extremely optimistic in their projections.

A known IP has a chance of breaching the million copies sold threshold, not a guarantee. It has to be both working and good. (Cue the death of the SimCity). There’s a balance to be had here, where timing and luck have some factor. Titanfall 2 is arguably the best FPS in years, but it launched in the wrong window. BF2042 had a ton of pre-orders, launched broken, suffered refunds, and is all but gone now.

A new IP has a tremendous mountain to climb to get any attention, let alone sales. Hades, a game of the year winner, barely broke a million sold. Dead Cells hit 5m. There are literally thousands of games released every month, how does one stand out from the rest? Babylon’s Fall had rather poor PR before launch, plays like crap, and is nowhere to be found now. It’s a heroic effort to launch a game, let alone a good one.

Cash cow is too disparaging for FF14, more like it’s the sustainable mine. There’s little argument that the game delivers the best MMO experience in it’s genre. There’s also little argument that the cash stop has some of the craziest price points possible. Enough conspiracies that new items go up when another game fails to meet its objectives.

The nostalgia mining is also quite evident. Chrono Trigger was/is available on nearly every device imaginable. FF games have been sold, remastered, remade, and resold for over a decade – often at $30 or more. This is easy money, for the most part. They can’t yet figure out how to get fonts to work properly in any of these games, but the function mechanically and scratch that itch. I’ve had various remakes of the games over time, mostly on my (still functioning!!!) Nintendo DS. Very high odds I’ll pick up Chrono Cross too.

All of this makes Square Enix a very strange company to predict. For every Outriders, we see a dozen Babylon Falls. Somehow 3m games sold is a disappointment. Or that Marvel Avengers is deemed worth saving (perhaps this is due to the IP contract with Disney). I do hope that they learn from the past games so that we don’t end up with the EA approach of completely unrealistic goals that close studios. Not everything can be Game of the Year quality, and experimentation is good. Perhaps this is the best way to fund that innovation.

Crypto is a Scam – Full Stop

Post is mostly a result of the recent Gabe Newell interview where he talked about a bunch of things – Steam Deck which appears to actually be the real deal, and how Steam’s toe into the crypto market had a 50% rate of scammers.

First, I want to differentiate the concept of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Blockchain is a different approach to chain of custody, where information is decentralized. Like if you bought a car, the government would have the record of that purchase. In a blockchain, that transaction would be a in a publicly accessible ledger that is shared, and through *internet magics*, difficult to tamper. Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that is dependent on blockchain to determine who has ownership of said currency. It has nothing to do with the inherent value of the currency, which is part of the problem.

Second, this adage is core to the concept. An item only has value (in the monetary sense) to the buyer. A pair of Air Jordans cost a couple dollars to make, but are worth hundreds because buyers believe they are worth that amount.

Boiler Room does a really great job on explaining the pump and dump schemes of the stock market, arguably a better lens than Wolf of Wall Street (which is more a biopic on the effects of greed). The idea here is a simple one:

  • Find something with no inherent value (like a rock)
  • Collect many of these things, which has limited if no cost
  • Apply lipstick to say thing (let’s call it a pet)
  • Convince one person that this thing has value <– the first person is the hard part
  • Convince another person that this thing has more value because someone else thought it had value <– this is peer pressure/herd mentality
  • Continue selling this item until either
    • there is no more inventory to sell OR
    • people catch on

The interesting portion on crypto is that inventory is limited and that creation of said inventory is decentralized. It’s called mining, as it’s conceptually the same as normal mining – companies invest to collect resources, and efforts to collect more are exponentially more expensive. Crypto is created through solving complex mathematical problems, typically with video cards as they have the best processing power.

Bitcoin, one of the most recognizable names, has been mined 18.4 million times in 10 years. There are 2.6 million bitcoins left to mine, and that will take ~120 years to complete, in line with the exponential difficulty. So what to do? Well, you create a new crypto currency and mine the crap out of that, hoping that you can make a profit. Nearly every single cryptocurrency out there is predicated on a limited source controlled by a small group, them hyping it so that others believe there is value and buying said crypto, the seller skipping town, and the buyers eventually realizing it was all hype while the value crashes.

Did I mention that the wide majority of crypto currency cannot be exchanged against anything but other currency yet? You can’t buy an orange with it. If you had 1 Ethereum, you would have to convert it to local currency, and then use that to purchase something. This means that you need brokers to convert the currencies, which are using both blockchain (for the crypto) and standard ledgers to track the purchases. Again, in the wide majority of cases, these brokers actually don’t maintain standard ledgers, which make them a great haven for criminals looking to launder. This is why many brokers operate in tax havens, or areas where there are no extradition treaties.

Non-fungible tokens (NFT) are not crypto, but they do operate using blockchain. What is completely hilarious here is that you don’t actually own anything but the token. It’s like you owning the key to a mansion, but not the actual mansion. Public NFT (like say a unique GIF) are hosted in the public domain, with a key that is simply a URL. There is absolutely nothing preventing anyone from simply going to that URL and downloading the item. Private NFT (like say a unique skin in a game) are hosted on private domains, where the token is a unique entry that grants you access to the item. Of course, that item has absolutely no use outside of that private domain, and only exists for as long as that domain does. So it only has value for people in that ecosystem. Similar to crypto, there is a broker in this mix who takes a cut from the transactions. Can NFT make sense for a game like Battlefield? Is there more money to be made from reselling a single skin to single individuals, or the microtransactions of selling the same skin to thousands of people?

And I haven’t even gotten into the ecological costs of crypto and blockchain. It takes a ton of electricity to run the compute necessary for these items. Farms need to be strategically located next to easily accessible, and extremely cheap power sources.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that China banned all crypto mining and currencies last fall. The absolute dominance of the criminal market was a major driver, but the larger matter of the government wanting to clamp down on all currency exchanges was the fundamental bit.

This isn’t the creation of wealth, it’s the redistribution of wealth. People are investing in this with the hope that there’s an even larger sucker on the other end willing to pay more. And there always is.

Now for the real kicker. While there is a traditional war underway in Ukraine, there is an even larger financial war underway with Russia. Traditional banking is being blocked, which is causing runs on the ruble. People are withdrawing their money to another currency, with the hope that it maintains value. Crypto is an unregulated market with no central ability to manage. It is impossible for crypto to be sanctioned at the global level. It will be interesting to see how long that fact remains true.