How VRJAM is Redefining Live Experiences in the Metaverse

If you’re like most of us, your favourite concert experiences were desperately missed during the pandemic. Artists also suffered significantly — according to an annual report conducted by UK Music, almost one in three industry-related jobs were lost during COVID-19. Employment in the sector also fell by a devastating 35%. 

It’s easy to wonder: what if we’d been able to experience live concerts remotely at the start of 2020 (set designs, lights and all)? Better yet, what if said experiences allowed us to interact with artists in real-time — a feature not (so easily) allowed at typical gigs? After major artists such as Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X and Post Malone have used virtual concerts to increase their fan engagement within the last year, a rising startup is here to show us what the next step of this looks like.

gmw3 recently attended the exclusive platform preview of VRJAM, a ‘multiverse’ platform for music and live entertainment in the metaverse. With an upcoming launch date in the coming months, we were thrilled to be in the front row of a live show performed by record producer and artist DJ Junior Sanchez. We also had the opportunity to speak with Marc Daille, VRJAM’s Head of Marketing, to learn more about the company’s objectives and plans to release its technology this year.

How VRJAM works

According to their official website, VRJAM “empowers creators, platform owners and brands to effortlessly create inspiring immersive experiences that redefine fan engagement.” They’re hoping to achieve this “by making content beautiful, interactive and immersive.” Using blockchain technology, the company also aims to help artists more easily monetise their work by selling tokenised versions of concert tickets, merchandise and other assets on the platform.

How are the worlds created? According to Marc Wille, VRJAM’s Head of Marketing: “We first create a 3D model of a venue (if it also exists in the real world) using a laser scan technique. We then have a basic layout of the place and add in the details and specifics. This, of course, can be an (almost) exact copy of the real-world venue, but we can also add things or alter things. Our tech gives us limitless possibilities.”

Photo by © VRJAM –

VRJAM is also currently in the process of signing a series of well-known artists (who are yet to be named). Artists and record labels will have the opportunity to join VRJAM’s Creator Guild, which is a “rapidly growing network of creators and industry members driving the evolution of live music” in the metaverse. Members of the Creator Guild can create, publish and trade their work as NFTs, create and publish avatar concerts and live events, look for new ways to publish their music and more.

Additionally, the company has launched its own native cryptocurrency token — the VRJAM Coin. Recently, VRJAM raised over $2 million USD in a pre-sale of its VRJAM Coin (with a market cap of $50 million). Once the platform has officially launched, the VRJAM Coin will be listed on an exchange, which will enable anyone to buy and sell the platform’s native cryptocurrency. A blockchain ticketing feature is set to go live this summer (according to the company’s roadmap).

Artists and labels that join VRJAM’s Creator Guild will receive an allocation of the VRJAM Coin, which can be used for all transactions made on the platform. As more artists are poised to use the platform to sell their work as NFTs, tickets, merchandise and other products, the more the volume of trade in VRJAM Coin will increase — thereby stabilising its value.

An immersive street party

During the preview, I was seated at a pre-prepared station inside London’s Shoreditch House (equipped with my own table, laptop, customised avatar and Meta Quest 2).

After putting on my headset, I found myself (in floating avatar form) standing within what looked like a fun and busy suburban block, lit by the muted glow of overhead lanterns and streetlights. The streets were also dotted with various tables, drinks and discarded red cups, mimicking the appearance of a real-life street party gone right. A diverse and colourful crowd of in-game NPCs also materialised around my avatar, dancing and vibing in tune with the surrounding beats. 

The life-like avatar of DJ Junior Sanchez — who was physically located in Brooklyn, New York while donning a full motion-capture suit — appeared at his own dedicated set, equipped with strobe lights, laser beams and mock fireworks. The other attendees also joined the virtual space — also floating around the pavement as their own respective avatars. 

Photo by © VRJAM –

Throughout the course of the set, we were able to teleport around the block party and speak with the other attendees’ avatars as if they were actually beside us in real life. I said hello to some other industry professionals that I had spoken with (in person) prior to joining the live event. Luckily, I also got the chance to speak with company CEO Sam Speaight (who was physically situated inside his hotel room in Los Angeles).

Once DJ Junior Sanchez finished his virtual set, we were given the chance to ask him questions. I asked him: “Where do you see the metaverse in five years?” His response was that he believed it would become a ubiquitous part of our lives and take over the internet as we know it.

What’s next?

The COVID-19 pandemic can aptly be characterised as one of the darkest periods the music industry has ever seen. In addition to the aforementioned numbers, figures now reveal that live music revenues suffered by about 90% as artists were unable to tour or perform. Musicians have also since started standing up to leading mechanisms (such as music streaming platforms like Spotify) for clawing away at any last dregs of revenue they were able to hang onto.

Will platforms like VRJAM change this landscape?

“This is exactly one of the reasons we started VRJAM,” says Baille. “With big tech dominating the music industry more and more, artists are looking for different models to connect with their audiences and generate new revenue models. We are offering that. But we also allow artists to push the creative boundaries of their art and move into the virtual space. We strongly believe that in a more decentralised model like VRJAM is offering, artists [will] have more control over their art and over how and when they wish to monetise it.”

Photo by © VRJAM –

In the future, VRJAM also plans on creating more immersive event spaces in the metaverse. “Think about arenas, comedy clubs, whisky bars or underground dance locations,” Baille describes. “Also, here, the only limit is our imagination.”

VRJAM plans on releasing its tech to the public later this year. To stay up-to-date on what’s next and join the VRJAM community, be sure to join their Discord and Telegram groups and follow their Twitter page for more updates.

Stakester: An Interview with Andy Nolan

You can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Stakester, I’d not heard of it until one of their NFTs appeared on my LinkedIn page. After I did some digging I discovered an app for iOS and Android which allows users to register and compete against other users across particular videogames to win small pots of money of gems which can be redeemed against goods from one month of Spotify Premium, right up to a Peloton Bike.

For each game played through the app, you’re rewarded with gems which are used in the prize catalogue. However, real money is up for grabs too – $1, $10 or $25, all you need to do is ready up and the app finds you an opponent. At this point, the app gives you the user’s details in order to play the game. After the game concludes, each user takes a photo of the results screen and submits it to the app for the winner to be rewarded.

The NFTs are a new thing, something fancy which adds extra value to using the app. In fact, while the NFTs have been minted and sold, the team is still working on implementing the utility they will deliver. The NFTs themselves act like a membership to better utility within the app, in fact, they look like a backstage pass, except these have a cheat code scribbled and attached, reminding users of how we traded cheat codes back in the 1990s.

I sat down with Stakester’s head of marketing, Andy Nolan to discuss aspirations for the app, the future of Web3 inclusion and gaming competition.

GMW3 – Can you tell us a little about how Stakester originated?

Nolan – Our founder, and CEO, Tom Fairey had set up a jujitsu match with this big Russian guy, they put money down because Tom was the smaller guy. Tom won, the Russian never paid up. It made Tom wonder if there was an app that could cover these kinds of competitions and gambles. He was working in financial security at the time, he was bored, so he roped in a few friends from work to set up Stakester, but for videogames, as jujitsu was probably too niche.

GMW3Stakester allows players to set up competition across mobile games, but also console and PC. Where do you see the most activity?

Nolan – It’s interesting, we thought there would be people flitting between the two, but there’s not as much of that as we expected. At the moment, there are two disparate audiences, but historically the ‘arenas’ side, which is console play, has always been bigger. Having said that, the mobile side is starting to pick up and we’ve got some really interesting stuff coming down the pipeline.

GMW3 – It seems as if Stakester is attempting to create a community of gamers to play together, after all, once you’ve played a game against someone, there’s no stopping you staying friends.

Nolan – I like the analogy that this is like playing five-a-side football in the evenings after work. We’re all playing, we’re a bit older, the football dream is over for me, but I love playing because of the experience you have; there’s competition, but it’s minor and you can make new friends. 

Andy Nolan ©

Stakester scratches that competitive itch, but with people rather than some unnamed person behind a screen. With our upcoming app update, we’ll be adding in direct challenges, plus a much better chat function to really stimulate the growth of the community.

GMW3 – Can you let us in on when the app update will be with us?

Nolan – I’m not exactly sure – I don’t want to give you a date and it be incorrect – but I’ve seen it up and running, with all the new features and it looks great. There’s a huge facelift on the console side, plus we’ve got some great new games coming to the mobile section; the ones we have right now are all from small developers, but we’ve got some recognisable signing on. Everything is moving a mile and minute!

GMW3 – That’s understandable, particularly with the inclusion of Web3 functionality. How has the app been fairing to this point?

Nolan – We’ve had over 100k signups on the app to this point, which is really encouraging. Our most popular games are FIFA on the console side and Quick Dunk for mobile. It seems most players like to play for around $5-10 per game.

GMW3 – With the recent launch of NFTs, you’re aiming to give utility to players through VIP access. How did the community react to the announcement and inclusion of the rather divisive Web3 concept?

Nolan – I think, there are stumbling blocks for gamers, with NFTs, right? I think, with our project, we didn’t want to create anything which could upset people, where some would just steal IP from a beloved franchise or something like that. Ours are built on giving you something which translates into value. We used cheat codes because nobody owns them, they’re in the public domain. It’s clear that this isn’t a cash grab.

We had a little bit of a mixed response, but there wasn’t really a backlash. I think people understood what we were trying to do and that the NFTs would open up new experiences within the app.

There’s a lot of negative press, plus barriers for people to overcome before that would even buy one. Our only unfortunate situation was launching them right as LUNA, and the market, crashed. But, we’re looking long-term and we aim to deliver all of the benefits by this summer (2022).

GMW3 – Will the sale of the NFTs help fund bigger cash prizes for players?

Nolan – Absolutely. You’ll be able to play for more money. I can’t wait until we have our first $1,000 competition, that’s going to be amazing. However, it’s not just the prize pools, we’ll be able to offer more varied prizes for players to trade their gems through an exclusive prize store for NFT holders.

Those who own a high tier NFT will also benefit from royalties from secondary sales, as each month that money goes into a pot and then NFT holders can collect their share.

GMW3 – Are there plans to offer crypto payments for winners of competitions?

Nolan – I believe so. I think the plan, as they stand right now, is to have a crypto version of the app where you can deposit crypto, play with it and take your winnings as crypto. The Web3 space moves so quickly, it might be subject to change, but I think it would be a cool direction for Stakester.

GMW3 – it would definitely offer the product to two separate audiences, while still focusing on friendly competition.

Nolan – Yeah, and I think the app speaks to two different audiences in the sense that a lot of people in the crypto world want to play games to earn a living, while there are others – typically in Europe and the United States – who want to heighten the tension of the game while still enjoying a game of FIFA.

Right now, our biggest audiences are Europe and the US, mostly because a lot of our marketing centres on FIFA, as it’s our biggest game, it has the most cohesive audience and we’ve got a really engaged Twitter following of FIFA fans.

GMW3 – You must have seen a large jump in users recently, particularly while the pandemic kept everyone indoors?

Nolan – Absolutely! During the pandemic, the app traffic just exploded. It was unbelievable. It was funny how we could track data points; when everyone was working from home we’d often see a spike of activity around 2 pm as if they’ve just had lunch and have time for a quick game before getting back to work.

A lot of people were sat at home playing games anyway and Stakester added an extra dimension to their playing.

Stakester is available on both Android and iOS, through the relevant storefronts.

Women in the Metaverse: Carly Long

Carly Long refers to herself as women in Web3’s “hype girl”. Having amassed almost 20,000 followers (and counting) on LinkedIn, it’s an apt description. Carly is behind a highly successful newsletter, Women in Web3, which regularly updates readers in the Web3 community on female-led initiatives, women-based roles and other notable efforts that are both leveraging and connecting members within the space.

As part of our ongoing series, we recently sat down with Carly to discuss how she got started with Women in Web3, how she first entered the space as an NFT artist and how she’s risen to the fore as an important connector and mediator for those with technical and creative backgrounds alike.

Entering the space

Carly cites tech recruiting as her day job — while also noting her “passion that she’s trying to mix with her day job” as Web3. As a dedicated tech recruiter for Weld Recruiting, Carly helps position senior software engineers, UI/UX designers, product designers and more.

Also an artist and a painter, Carly also taught herself her “own kind of art therapy”. In January of this year, she encountered some downtime — a period in which she carved out some commissioned pieces for different professional athletes, celebrities and actors. 

She was pleased to find that she carved out a niche for herself: “I was like, okay, no — people enjoy my art. And I was starting to see that. There were all these stories of artists making millions on NFTs. And naturally, that piqued my interest. So I was like, ‘what is an NFT? What is Web3? Is this something I could do or not?’ And I just wanted to explore it.”

Carly was pleased to receive ample support from her boss, Matthew. “He knew I was starting to research a lot of this, in my nights and weekends. And he was like, ‘just run with it. He very much understood and knew we were going to be getting more and more blockchain engineer jobs, Web3 developers, that sort of thing — so he let me kind of run that and spearhead that. And I just started having all of these conversations with people in the space. And that was kind of how I learned.”

Kicking off Women in Web3

Carly’s foray into Web3 was furthered by Matthew’s encouragement: “He really encouraged me to start the newsletter and podcasts and just document the journey. And that’s really how Women in Web3 evolved.”

She continues: “I feel like it’s still evolving. I’m not quite sure what it will turn into. But so far, it’s a really awesome community that we have.” At the time of writing, Women in Web3 currently has (x) followers on LinkedIn — and I explain that other colleagues and thought leaders I’ve connected with have shared it. 

On whether Women in Web3 has helped leverage more opportunities for women in the space, Carly says: “Absolutely. I don’t think I realised the gap until I was in it. And the further I go into it and the more I build Women in Web3, I’m realising the gaps just kind of almost seem grater, even though we’re doing an incredible job. And we’re closing them.”

With that being said, however, we both note the abject confusion of entering the space — particularly where things like technical jargon or financial talk are at large. “I know a bunch of women who would love to get into it. But we don’t know where to go, we don’t know where to get started. I feel like there’s a lot of that out there — it’s very daunting. I don’t have an original tech background — I have a creative background. So I can totally relate to when I started researching and learning Web3 and NFTs. As I learned more and more and saw how it was blending these worlds of creativity and tech, I really wanted to highlight women artists.”

On making Web3 more accessible

Being an artist and a writer, Carly and I also note the accessibility that her newsletter and podcast have given not just women, but anyone looking to enter the Web3 space: “The news goes on in my tone of voice as a non-technical person to try and make it more accessible. Whereas [with] the podcast, we take those conversations to another level — and really beyond women just making it more accessible for anyone and everyone who wants to get involved.”

“I picked down a lot of people whose projects I could actually support and stand behind,” Carly explains. “So you’ll notice I [also] speak to plenty of men on there. But there’s usually a really cool tie — like Vijay Pravin. He’s the CEO of Bitches Crunch and his company started employing women who have career gaps because they took time off to raise their children. So they started educating them on Web3 — and now one of those women who came in as an intern is almost one of the highest paid in the company.”

Taking a leaf from Pravin’s book, Carly hopes that Women in Web3 will similarly empower other women to find success in the space. “My hope is that these short, bite-sized episodes can spark someone’s interest to like, ‘oh yeah, I want to look up that company. And maybe I can get involved that way.”

Despite us finding our niche, however, we both make note of the prevalent scepticism at entry points of Web3. What can be done to change this? “The first thing I would absolutely want to highlight is the community of the space. Just dip your toe in and you will receive so much love and support. Obviously, there [are] good and bad sides to it — but the good side is very pervasive right now.”

She continues: “On the flip side, I would tell people to absolutely do your research before you invest in anything, before you put your money into anything. It is crucial to be aware of the other side of Web3. And right now that looks like a lot of people trying to take advantage of those who are trying to learn it. I’m very open about that.”

On filling more roles with women

In one of Carly’s most recent Women in Web3 newsletters, she raises that while job openings in Web3 appear to be opening up, women are only filling one-third of them. Being a seasoned recruiter, does she have a special approach to encouraging more women to enter the space?

Again, she cites Matthew’s help as a catalyst for her stance as a Web3 recruiter: “He really pushed me to be like, ‘I know you don’t feel like you know everything — especially about Web3 and NFTs — but just like, put yourself out there.”

She also adds: “I feel that a lot of women in a male-dominated industry might feel as if they can only step up to the table if they know their stuff or if they don’t have any questions. But it’s really okay to just go as you learn — and there are so many male counterparts in this space who want to support and lift women up.”

A valuable connector

Carly is determined to not just be a recruiter or educator, but also a friend and sounding board to everyone in the community. “I wanted to be one of those communities or those sounding boards — like that circle of trust that I mentioned — where I can just be very welcoming to anyone who has questions. And I love connecting people. I don’t look at myself as an expert, I look at myself as a connector — so I can connect them to someone else who might have a job for them or who might be able to help their project.”

Her advice to other women (and just about anyone entering the space)? “I would say to find your niche and your circle of trust and those people who you can rely on. So anytime you have questions, put it out there on LinkedIn or Twitter and you’ll get a billion people outside of that circle who genuinely want to help. But then you’ll also have them to really be a close sounding board.”

What’s next for Women in Web3?

If you ask Carly, the sky’s the limit for Women in Web3. “I know a lot of different projects have started Telegram groups and community WhatsApps. So we might start that with some different offshoots of the newsletters — maybe like a one-on-one with some of the guests on our podcast, those sorts of opportunities.”

She’s also looking into planning more events in Nashville, where she’s currently based. With this initiative, Carly will be partnering with and working with female lead tech groups in the city. “There are some really awesome women in power at different VC firms in Nashville,” she says. “So sharing it with them and opening those doors for people is a very low risk.”

By converging her talents for connecting people, writing and creative problem-solving, Carly stresses the importance of carving out in-person opportunities. “I think creating more of these opportunities and spaces is just another good way to start getting more and more women in the door.”

To subscribe to the Women in Web3 newsletter, be sure to follow her link here. You can also follow the Women in Web3 podcast on Spotify using this link. Carly’s additional handles can also be followed here.

Women in the Metaverse – Paula Marie Kilgarriff

Currently serving as an international lecturer on Web3 fashion marketing, branding and retail innovation, Paula Marie Kilgarriff has become a formidable leader in the burgeoning space. Leveraging her expertise in luxury fashion, digital technology, business development, branding, digital retail and more, you can find her in all sorts of corners right now.

As part of our ongoing series, we recently sat down with Paula to discuss the future potential of various Web3 technologies, the role of fashion as an important metaverse entry point and why Web3 is truly benefiting from the power of female leadership traits.


With 20 years of experience working in e-commerce, Paula’s first venture involved lecturing on both e-commerce and fashion. She spent a decade in China, working with various different technologies (including VR, AR and QR codes) before moving into the e-payment sphere. This included serving as the founder and CEO of The Style Workshop, where she assisted with the development and training of various luxury brands and served as a keynote speaker at a long list of panel discussions.

Paula worked with several brands working on their technology — particularly in terms of how their marketing and sales strategies would serve the field of e-commerce. Citing China as pioneers of app technology and gaming, she also explains how it was “only natural that retail would become part of entertainment and gamification.”

Paula eventually returned to her home country of Ireland, noting this time as her official entry point into the Web3 space. Citing academia, computer science and fashion industries as the three main components of her background, she notes how Web3 protocols are “a kind of natural progression of her career and academic work”. 

“I like the vibes of Web3,” she says. “I think it’s very youth culture-orientated. It’s got a lot of diversity and inclusion and we’re challenging and revisiting existing narratives.”

She continued: “We’re, you know, looking for new models and monetisation and IP models for creatives, which is also linked back to the fashion industry. And I also like real-time supply chains that have DAO mechanisms for consensus-building on what types of collections are coming through — plus the co-creation opportunity for people who are not in fashion in terms of the art and design part, but who still have an opportunity to build new fashion products and services.”

Teaching future creatives and builders

Paula also works as a guest lecturer for Master’s programmes at both the London College of Fashion and Nottingham Trent University, offering unique instruction on how she believes Web3 will change fashion and which types of protocols are most conducive to improving the industry. At the moment, she breaks down how the metaverse is now serving as a distribution sales platform for brands who are trying to dip their foot into the Web3 space through 3D modelling.

“We say NFTs are actually a natural extension of the integrated marketing communications plan. So you don’t always have your marketing team. They don’t have your metaverse activation. So it’s natural — my gang would have to have an understanding of online technology and an in-store environment. So the seamless integration between the two — whether it’s an omniverse you’re shopping in, an app, or an IRL activation — is all integrated.”

How are the advents of Web3 being received by her youngest students? “They’re very curious,” she says. “And if I use a lot of Web3 mechanisms to explain the future of education, they’re really down. They love the idea of attention tokens or attendance tokens being paid to go to college — they like to think that they can use them to influence the curriculum and the delivery format of the exams.”

In fact, Paula’s first-year students seem to be the most eager of the bunch. “They’ve got the finance cards and whatnot. The Master’s [students] are coming back from work, so they’re more interested in the metaverse as our 3D distribution and sales platforms. And there’s a great opportunity for us to service our customers in real-time, so they’ll accept it from that point of view. But my first years will be more about NFTs and all that kind of crazy stuff — because they’re coming from a gaming background.”

We also bring up the plethora of scepticism that’s surrounded the growing space, particularly within academic circles. “You’re always going to have this kind of hype stuff initially, but at the end of the day, the technology is phenomenal and very disruptive.”

“What I’ve noticed about that generation — you know, people say their attention span is a little bit limited, but it’s not really — I just think they want to understand the applied part of it. And I understand that — because if you’re coming from centralised systems and older education systems, we do condition you in a certain way based on the culture or for some reason.”

She continues: “The great thing about Web3 is the fact that you can pick and choose their stakeholders, right? So you have real-time people in those areas and those disciplines telling you about history. And so it’s such a great opportunity to learn more intensively and more specifically if that makes sense.”

Making fashion more digitally accessible

In 2022, we’ve clearly seen a newfound combination of both physical and digital assets develop within the fashion world. Top brands have begun selling their pieces as NFTs, while others have increased their visibility within popular games and metaverse-based events. 

Paula recently helped with handling metaverse event sponsorships for the successful Metaverse Fashion Week, which was recently held within the popular metaverse platform Decentraland. Working alongside Admix, she assisted brands with selling billboards and 3D wearables at the virtual event and helped them distinguish which ones were able to provide pre-universal content. “I was basically trying to qualify, or validate who would be suitable to have — or whether we’d need to create premium diversity content or not.” 

“You see, the great thing about 3D modelling and the metaverse moment is that it’s a piece of cake to make products right — particularly for coming from e-commerce platforms. But when you’re getting into like, virtual experiences and you know, the intangible nature of immersive experiences — that’s much more complex and difficult to communicate through technology.”

Paula is vocal about where improvements could have been made to the first inaugural fashion week in the metaverse (such as pointing out the pitfalls of ‘digitally twinning’ products in both the physical and digital worlds), she also stresses that it was a “great first step” for Decentraland. “I thought the brands were very, very brave, actually — and curious. I think they basically wanted to figure out: ‘Okay, let’s dip our toes into the waters.’ It was a great kind of opportunity for brands to just get familiar and comfortable with the space in terms of what we know which ad makes will have hyper-personalisation and real-time and 3D wearables.”

The future scope of metaverse fashion

From Metaverse Fashion Week to record-setting fashion NFTs, there’s no questioning that we’ve seen the idea of digital assets effectively enter mainstream consciousness within the last year. But will this concept bring more people into Web3? 

“In terms of adoption? Absolutely,” says Paula. “I think people should have the choice in the future where they’ll want to have a physical or digital item, so I definitely think so.” Moreover, she explains how she believes that digital items are “the key to a smart contract that we own if it’s a luxury good, in addition to being a key to co-create.”

To enhance the digital fashion world, we also discussed further possibilities that we may see down the road. “The metaverse is going to be a great opportunity for everybody — but particularly customers and what kind of products and services are made. And I think if you have this ‘IRL’ online activation, you have to mirror the physical and you have to merge them together. It has to be seamless. Whether they’re in a metaverse or in a store, it has to be the same.”

In regards to how we can best mirror the ideal customer experience inside a metaverse platform, Paula discusses the idea of creating a digital alternative signal into a metaverse — or building capabilities for users to redeem points within the metaverse that could also be redeemable in physical stores. “That’s what the brands want to hear,” Paula asserts. “They’re not interested in all this part — they want it all integrated inside the customer supply chain.”

The upsides of female leadership 

Given her position as a female who teaches leadership to young learners, Paula isn’t afraid to underline the upsides of female leadership traits and how she believes they are beneficial to the space. “We’re pro-life, or pro-community. It’s our job to nurture, lead and discipline men. Because female leadership traits are pro-life and they’re pro-progression.”

“With centralised systems, we’re born into cultural and social norms that no longer serve us,” she proclaims. “The thing about Web3 is that it’s not coming from a historical narrative. It’s brand new, where everybody’s invited. Everybody has a right. Black, white, green, yellow, pink. It hasn’t been defined yet. And that’s what’s beautiful about it.” 

“What do I want to say to women?” she poses. “Rock on. Do what you want. Say what you want. I do think women have this — they’re strong and without them, you can’t build strong communities.”

Achieving balance in a future metaverse

What does an ideal future metaverse look like to Paula? “I think there should be a healthy balance of centralised and decentralised metaverses,” she says. Also highlighting the value of receiving information from non-centralised sources, she mentions how “history is written by the victors, and sometimes those narratives are inaccurate.”

“With these decentralised organisations, we get first-hand knowledge about what’s going on the ground — and then they get the opportunity to tell us. It’s not coming from this privileged, centralised monarchy that no longer serves the community. So that’s what I’m most excited about [with Web3] — it gives us the chance to build correctly by the people, for the people.”

However, we also stress the importance of staying on the business curve. “We don’t [just] want to be happy about it — we also want to make money from it, we want to be clever. I just want to be a bit more clever about what information we put out there, what kind of businesses we create. That’s why women are so important. If you’re replicating certain types of technologies, it’d better be replicating human conditions. But be damn sure that there’s children, women, everybody’s representative — because you’ve got this piece of technology that’s replicating something that hasn’t been created in its true form.”

Ultimately, will Web3 technology become more ubiquitous one day? “I don’t even think we’ll talk about NFTs in the future,” Paula says plainly. “I think they’re just gonna come with the deal.”

To learn more about what Paula’s working on next, follow her on her Twitter and Instagram pages for more updates.

Annka Kultys Helps Us Bridge the Gap Between NFT Artists and Art Collectors

This weekend, gmw3 stopped by the Annka Kultys Gallery in London to view one of its most recent installations — a metaverse gallery titled Web 3.0 Aesthetics: In the Future Post-Hype of the NFTs. The programme, which showcased a total 27 animated and interactive NFTs, was curated by founder Annka Kultys for — a new NFT marketplace that works with world-renowned museums and galleries across the globe.

The show, which allowed viewing of all 27 NFTs inside the metaverse, was accompanied by a three-part online auction — the first respective segment titled ‘Metamorphosis of the Body’. The following auctions, which will be shown later this year, will be titled ‘Digital Florascapes’ and ‘Digital Abstraction’. According to the official website, these trilogies have presented “the NFT aesthetics as a continuation of traditional art”, exploring “the historical bridge in these two apparently separated spaces”. 

Using a Meta Quest 2, we were able to traverse a digital gallery built by Kultys — equipped with specialised rooms that housed each respective NFT. The NFTs ranged from still images to 3D animated segments — each one springing to life when digitally “approached” inside the metaverse. Notable featured artists included Black trans activist Danielle Braithwaite-Shirley, digital artist and animator Marjan Moghaddam and renowned avatar project LaTurbo Avedon.

In her own words, Kultys has noted the propensity for NFTs to focus more on interests, cultural outlooks or community goals, rather than the quality of the art itself: 

“I have noticed that NFTs have created a focus on hype itself, rather than the art behind it, which was accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hype around the cryptographic token, the prices paid, and the novelty of the blockchain consumes all press coverage, not to mention private chat apps and online platforms. We don’t, however, talk about the digital art it points to, the conceptual work, the content, the art itself.”

Annka Kultys

Throughout the programme, Kultys also calls us to question: what actually defines a good piece of art? While it might seem simple, it’s also a deeply complex question that has been raised many times throughout the course of art history.

If they’re counted as an art form, then NFTs are now statistically among some of the art world’s best-selling pieces (Beeple’s now infamous piece sold for a total of $69 million). However, this hasn’t prevented the quality of NFT art from being called into question. While much of the well-known artwork is certainly (or arguably) endearing in its own right, the general chunk of the most well-known NFT projects — including Bored Apes, CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties — don’t quite feature something you’d find on the average art collector’s wall.

In fact, many of these images have primarily been created through a programme that algorithmically randomises different traits (such as hairstyles, accessories, clothing items and skin colours). At the time of writing, creators don’t even need any preliminary coding knowledge — machines just take care of the work.

Photo by © mundissima –

Moreover, the quality of NFT art has been so heavily debated by art communities as of late that in January of this year, five out of six community voters opted to exclude NFTs from any articles listing the most expensive artworks by living artists. One argument among voters was the idea that NFT technology is too new to be considered a viable art form. And if you ask J.J. Charlesworth, art critic and senior editor at ArtReview, Bored Apes can be summarised as a “collector aesthetic” that “isn’t aspiring to be great art.”

It might seem apt that the backlash against NFTs can be compared to previous aversions to modern art forms. Kultys, who is ever-aware of these trends, highlights how “abstract art has frequently baffled many people, largely because (unlike body and still nature) it seems unrelated to the world of appearances. Around 1910, several artists began to experiment with abstraction (Picasso, Cezanne and Braque). Today, we live in a world which generates abstractions. With the right software, an image on a screen can be morphed from figurative to abstract at the press of a key.”

Leading art experts have also weighed in on the visual calibre of popular NFT art, insisting that it appeals much more to cultural appeal as opposed to artistic integrity. According to J.J. Charlesworth: “Trying to apply art world standards to some NFTs is missing the point. A lot of the NFT market is based on collectables and there’s always been a visual culture in collecting — from comics, to trainers, baseball cards — that is very mainstream.”

With all the above taken into account, Kultys has done an excellent job at exploring “canonical themes within art history”, In her curatorial statement, she addresses her belief that “NFTs have created a focus on hype itself, rather than the art behind it”. By “examining the gap between the separated worlds of NFT and ‘traditional’ art”, she uses both the gallery’s Instagram account and her curatorial goals to compare her chosen NFT works with reputable classical and contemporary art pieces (including Sir John Everett Millais’ popular Pre-Raphaeliate gem ‘Ophelia’ and Marina Abramović’s performance piece ‘The Artist is Present’).

Photo by © Rokas Tenys –

As we see a considerable expansion of Web3 technologies, we’ve now learned that both digital and crypto art has entered a first of many steps in progression. While crypto collectors and artists continue to work in the NFT space “without being aware of the rich art history that exists elsewhere”, she’s simultaneously raised the most important message of all: that “traditional art and NFTs are two sides of the same river — and to navigate from one side to the other we need bridges or to jump in the water”.

Releasing the Grip of Grief with Games

I don’t like the hyperbole of saying that videogames saved my life, but it tracks true. Nowadays so many people say similar; ‘this song saved my life’, ‘this book rescued me from the edge’. Videogames did a lot for keeping me alive in a very dark period of my life. If it wasn’t for games, and to a lesser extent, writing about them, there’s a strong chance I wouldn’t be sitting here now, telling this story about how I used gaming to deal with the grief of bereavement. 

In 2007, my three-year old daughter Amelia was a passenger in a road traffic accident. The car was T-Boned on her side of the vehicle. Amelia suffered severe brain damage, was rushed from Essex to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, where she spent five days in intensive care, had two bouts of brain surgery and several blood transfusions. She died on February 8th 2007 after it was revealed she was brain dead. We removed life support. My world collapsed. Everything went dark.

The following months, probably years, were spent in a trance. I wasn’t sure what I needed to do, or even what I wanted to do. I reached out to my gaming buddies I’d met online, looking for a distraction; we played Crackdown and Rainbow Six: Las Vegas on Xbox 360. I wasn’t finding joy anymore though. Perfect runs through Terrorist mode of Rainbow Six didn’t please me, the beta of Halo 3 brought a small amount of fun to my post-tragedy life, but I was struggling to connect with the hobby I started twenty years previously on an Atari 2600.

The Grip of Grief

Grief feels different for everyone; for some it can feel like the loneliness of being the last person at a party; for others, it’s an overwhelming sadness that washes over them like waves of a frigid ocean. However it’s experienced, grief is relentless, it never seems to let go. It does occasionally relax its grip, allowing for some light to get through, as fleeting as it might be. In those moments I felt an overwhelming guilt that I could feel hope, which triggered another spiral.

I spent several years in this state, lacking any form of motivation or ‘want’, drifting from game to game, finishing them and feeling no sense of accomplishment. My days were spent in a mire of tiredness, guilt, shame and mostly, anger. My world felt empty despite having my wife and second daughter at my side. 

The death of Amelia gave me a sensation of lost control. As a parent, we feel we must protect our children from anything and everything. I couldn’t prevent the accident that took her life, I couldn’t save her in the moment she needed me the most, I couldn’t control my emotions any longer. The only control I had was in removing her life support and I didn’t want that. Loss of control is part of being human, but I needed, desperately, to reinstate my grip on it.

Isaac’s Eternal Journey

In 2011, a game came along that stole me away from my grief. A game played in bitesize chunks, it didn’t require too much of me.  It’s a game that has now been in my (almost) daily rotation for those eleven years, I’ve grown with it, it made me fall in love with the roguelike genre, it gave me back my sense of control. That game is The Binding of Isaac.

Edmund McMillen’s The Binding of Isaac is a roguelike played from a top-down view. With a slight edge of Robotron, players can shoot in cardinal directions while exploring separated rooms where groups of enemies await. Edmund’s major inspiration for Isaac was The Legend of Zelda, though his masterpiece is not at all family friendly.

I think I discovered The Binding of Isaac through YouTube. It first appealed for juvenile reasons, the game is filled with gore, scatological imagery and debased toilet humour. Beneath this is a deep and resonant story of religious indoctrination and the control religions have over people, as well as the human struggle with our minds. Over the years, McMillen has expanded The Binding of Isaac several times, but Isaac’s story has remained the same; to escape his murderous mother who believes Isaac is a danger, an evil.

In order to escape, Isaac must traverse several ‘worlds’ battling enemies and large bosses who resemble religious and parental tropes. In order to do this, Isaac collects items to change his base stats, attacks and abilities. Items synergise with each other creating powerful combinations. Over time you learn which combos bestow the most damage, you learn which items effectively ‘break the game’ open by min-maxing every room, every enemy, every item drop. It rewards the player by handing them full control over their fate.

Controlling Destiny

This aspect of control appears in all roguelikes, the majority of titles require the player craft their character builds, paying attention to the smallest upgrades and details to gain enough strength to battle demons and monsters. Ultimately, over the years, these games – Enter the Gungeon, Dead Cells, Spelunky, Hades, Nuclear Throne – have given me a psuedo-control over death.

To some extent, all videogames give us this control. Even playing Mario as a kid we were controlling the life and death of our hero and the enemies around them. But with a roguelike, there is rarely a safety net of ‘lives and continues’, there’s always a sense of finality, because often death relinquishes all progress made on that attempt at the game. Besting death in a roguelike is about more than success, it’s about retaining our growth, our abilities and our progression.

For me, during a time of desperate fragility, I needed to find solace and rediscover my sense of self. I could do that via these games, by crafting a character, slowing my play style and taking my time. They each allowed me to take calculated risks and create controlled situations because the finality of death had visited me, leaving me empty – progress could be lost with one missed shot, one wrong move, one blindsided action.

If we look at Spelunky, a game about discovering treasures untold in a series of worlds, we find a game hell-bent on killing us. Sure, the hero can take a certain amount of hits from middling enemies before dying, but that one bad jump could land you on spikes which kill you instantly. All that time, that care, robbed from you. Mastering this, taking control of the character’s fate, is in some ways empowering.

This sensation stepped up once I started dabbling with FromSoftware’s SoulsBorne games, arguably the pinnacle of roguelikes, though they’re often classed as adventure games. These titles, when broken down into their constituent parts, asked more of me as a player. My demons were bigger, more dangerous, my life more fragile. There was more on the line. A SoulsBorne game feels more like Spelunky; you can get peppered with small hits, but a one-hit kill is always around the next corner.

Repeat After Me

Roguelike games offer more than an adjustment of control. After devoting thousands of hours to these games, repetition becomes a large factor in the gameplay loop. Every journey starts out the same way, each try becomes another attempt at beating the same situation. Repetition is a powerful tool to those in desperate need when struggling with grief and anxiety. A recent study by Tel Aviv University states this on repetition, “people often act in these ways because they help increase a person’s belief that they are managing a situation that is otherwise out of their hands.”

Discussing the power of repetition, Dr. Jill Owen, a chartered psychologist from The British Psychological Society, says this, “repetitive behaviour and rituals can be very effective in increasing focus and reducing stress”. Over the years, the discussion points of videogames and their impact on mental health has begun to change. In the 2000s we saw many up in arms on the damage these games did, now we realise these were knee-jerk reactions to an emerging technology becoming mainstream.

Videogames offer us solace, they offer us peace when it feels like the world is against us. More than that, they offer us a different view, through first-hand experience or playing a role. They allow us failure at little to no cost; they can help build an emotional resilience; games create a sense of community and they can aid in rebuilding a life slowly, step by step, item by item.

Nowadays gaming is celebrated for having a positive effect on our mental health. Once society began to look past the violence which dominated the 2000s and developers began exploring our own psyches, games took on a new role. Psychologist Roy Sugarman explores the aid of videogames in those dealing with grief with Wired where he says, “Games put you in a metaphoric world where you can express a range of stuff honestly, where you can express grief.”

This is it, but What if?

I still gravitate towards roguelikes above all genres. Mostly because I still feel lost a lot of the time. My world is still fragile, the cracks still show. Sometimes I still need that sensation of organised chaos; that possible control over the game. The Binding of Isaac is still the answer I give when someone asks “what’s your favourite game?” I give this answer because it did save me in some way. It turned the lights back on, helped me rebuild my shattered world. Plus, it’s simply a masterpiece of game design.

Of course, over the years, my passion for gaming came back. I rediscovered what it was that made me fall in love with games in the first place – a sense of belonging and escapism. Whether it’s in a cyberpunk strategy, a World War shooter, a colourful battle royale, a mobile idle clicker or a roguelike, my enjoyment returned, along with some of that lost control.

In the same year I discovered Isaac, I also played Minecraft for the first time and used the creative side of the game to express myself, to be more mindful and to relax the thoughts of my busy and broken brain. Minecraft also offers that aspect of control; the deliberate placing of blocks, building shelter from the darkness, equipping your character with the means to survive.

Now I revel in the lack of control some games give, because it reminds me that life is not designed to be controlled. That fate, if you believe in it, cannot be changed or altered. In some ways, failing in videogames has begun to have more impact, because it reconnects me with the fact that life is filled with ‘what if?’ – that life can change in an instant and while that may be out of our control, it doesn’t mean we can’t wrestle it back.

Women in the Metaverse: Marie Franville of NABIYA

After spending four years in the blockchain gaming space, you might consider Marie Franville a Web3 veteran of sorts. From curating events for major tech companies to helping launch an early blockchain gaming project, Marie’s focus is now on building premium metaverse experiences for brands and gamers alike.

Marie now leads indie game studio NABIYA — which she co-founded with Sebastien Borget, co-founder and COO of The Sandbox. With The Sandbox as their chosen metaverse platform, Marie and her team of creative experts are now at the forefront of Web3 entry — creating “tailor-made worlds with games or architectural projects” and “state-of-the-art NFTs” for clients in the gaming, music, art and fashion industries. They’ve also got their own unique metaverse game in the works.

After seeing Marie speak at a panel discussion held at London’s annual Pocket Gamer Connects conference, we recently connected with her to discuss what she’s witnessed in her years within the blockchain gaming space. We also enjoyed covering her foray into building immersive experiences for high-end clients, as well as what she sees for female leadership in the growing Web3 space.

How did things start?

Marie began her career in IT, working as a business developer with Big Tech brands (including Samsung and Dell). Along the way, she found herself curating video game conferencing events — effectively hunting for sponsors and organising game connections in major cities across the globe.

In 2018, Marie began organising events sponsored by Unisoft in Lyon, France, where she’s based — primarily the Blockchain Game Summit, which cropped up quite early in the Web3 space. “At the time, there weren’t so many conventions — the general consensus was that massive adoption of blockchain would happen through video games. This is because game players have an inherent understanding of the value of digital assets.” She further adds: “Of course, the story says otherwise — more mass adoption came through art, with NFTs.”

Marie marks this occasion as her main turning point, describing how she “met really brilliant, bright visionaries — these people really understood what [Web3] was about and how exciting it was. That’s how I fell into that rabbit hole.” She continues: “Nowadays, things have changed — but these people understood how exciting things were and were trying to educate people.”

Marie spent the next four years serving as COO of blockchain video game studio B2Expand before founding NABIYA with longtime friend Sebastien Borget, co-founder and COO of The Sandbox (a popular decentralised metaverse gaming platform that has partnered with a growing list of brands and artists — including Snoop Dogg, Adidas and Deadmau5). 

When Borget caught wind of her idea, he offered his full support to set up the business. “He’s an industry friend and he’s always been very supportive,” she explains. He now serves as the publisher and developer of NABIYA. Amongst their team is also a creative director who has worked extensively in the Paris fashion industry, having previously collaborated with high-end labels such as Christian Dior and John Galliano.

Marie also comments on the power of friendship and community in Web3, describing how: “Many friends in the industry and people work together — that’s what’s so wonderful.”

What does NABIYA’s “all-in-one service” entail?

Today, NABIYA focuses on two missions: one, to conceive and develop their own video game ELEMENTS — and two, to build video games and architectural projects for landowners in The Sandbox.

Now backed by a team of seven experts in art, fashion and blockchain gaming, Marie has helped turn NABIYA into a uniquely creative and innovative collective. While some clients require their help with building artistic or architectural projects in the metaverse, “some people need really cool game mechanics and gameplay. So we are also architects and game builders — we do both.”

On building their client base, Marie claims that “many brands came to look for us”. Some of their most notable clients include popular rock band Avenged Sevenfold (who they’ve collaborated with to create a series of signature NFTs), mobile blockchain gaming pioneer Spells of Genesis and rising NFT project Cyberkongz (with whom they’ve recently formed a co-partnership with).

NABIYA’s wide range of services and approaches also means that their team aims “for high, premium quality — because there are many, many types of businesses and their positioning is different,” Marie explains. “People who have a very strong idea and very strong communities — they come to us and say ‘could you build something for us?’ There is a learning curve with The Sandbox, but we know the process really well.”

She elaborates: “We come up with the concept art, of course working with their director, to really reflect their universe and where they want to go. Then we create, from scratch, their own unique experience — and it’s very unique to their own brand.”

ELEMENTS and next steps

ELEMENTS is an exploration game based on the Chinese cosmogony. In the game’s overall storyline, the player’s mission is to restore equilibrium to a metaverse world using the five elements: Earth, Wood, Metal, Fire and Water. Through a series of 12 chapters, the player embarks on an in-depth and immersive journey through a colourful and historical universe.

On why they chose this theme for their flagship game, Marie simply states her belief that, due to climate change and other environmental issues, our current world is out of balance. In turn, “[the concept] is very modern — because the 5 elements — they are very complimentary and we need all of them to be in balance.”

Each asset created within ELEMENTS is an ERC-1155 token minted on The Sandbox — a fungibility-agnostic and gas-efficient token contract. “Of course, the big, big dream is the utility — we are really doing some research and trying to work with other chains so we can bring our assets that are native to The Sandbox.”

“Maybe it’s a bit naive,” Marie also remarks, “[but] my ambition is to make a game that is fun, enticing and compelling — and then the economy will follow.”

Frictions and next frontiers in blockchain gaming

It’s an issue we seem to keep raising — but gaming communities are still averse to the idea of NFTs and blockchain (an estimated 70% of them consider them to be a negative trend). We’ve already discussed it in previous pieces — and so have other thought leaders we’ve spoken with in the past. It’s become an unavoidable subject when speaking about the advancement of blockchain gaming — but like many others in the space, Marie sees ways for players to see greater incentives with blockchain technology.

“I can see the barriers to adoption — I can see why some people can be bitter or why they misunderstand the intention. At the moment, it’s a bit rough. Everything is still in the process of being built — nothing is laid down or perfectly clear,” she says.

“I think that the conventional games are more and more interested in integrating tokenomics based on Web3. But it’s not because [you] add NFTs.” Rather, she insists that the tension is on hiring: “I’ve observed that traditional video games are trying to input the Web3 component and it’s not done, in my humble opinion, by adding some NFTs.”

Moreover, Marie emphasises the need for more tokenomics experts to join the gaming space and apply a play-to-earn model to more projects and concepts. “We need more people in a new line of career for tokenomics — people who are completely into tokenomics and who understand what’s going on. But these people — they are really scarce.”

With that being said, however, she still notes that we have a long way to go before we see changes start to materialise. “In mobile games, you have free-to-play [models] and you have the economic model to understand how it works. But at the moment, we are still creating — everybody’s trying.”

A window of opportunity for women

Marie also describes the rise of female leadership she’s seen in her four years of working in the blockchain world, noting how the time has never been more optimal for women to find both footing and equal treatment in the space. “I think there is a very big window of opportunity right now and many new jobs are being created, which needs to be defined as we are working on [Web3].”

She continues: “Whatever your speciality is as a woman — whether you’re working as a CMO somewhere or a designer, or whatever your vertical is — there are many ways of connecting the dots at this Web3 layer — so it’s really the right timing now.”

Her advice for other women entering the space? “Whatever you do, whatever your expertise is — you learn by doing. And there are always, always possible connections to Web3, whatever you are doing. So it’s a good time.” She also adds that throughout her trajectory in the space, she’s been very glad “to see so many women taking leadership positions. I think it’s only the beginning.”

What’s next for NABIYA?

Along with wanting a more equitable space, Marie envisions a more interoperable and cross-functional metaverse. She mentions how certain experts “are a bit wary of interoperability, but it’s one big dream for me. It’s very, very hard technology and I don’t know how it’s going to unravel — but it’s a big dream for interoperability, where you [can] hold a piece of history through your NFT and have utility on different platforms.”

She looks forward to seeing a future where users can create [their] story within all the different metaverses. “It’s a new form of content creation,” she says.

NABIYA is also excited to launch what Marie refers to as “full experiences” this upcoming June, where they’ll be releasing part of ELEMENTS. “Of course, not all of it,” Marie clarifies. “We want to launch the game by degrees, so we can get feedback and build a community. That way, we can build the game with the community. This is how things are done nowadays.”

To stay updated on ELEMENTS and NABIYA’s upcoming projects and releases, be sure to follow their Twitter and Medium pages.

Women in the Metaverse: Anna Fomenko of Fancy Bears Metaverse

Amid the many NFT projects that have become part of a now-meteoric trend, one that’s currently on the rise is Fancy Bears Metaverse — a project and DAO that’s made artists, top athletes, celebrities and even Nobel prize winners a part of its expanding community. Currently, the estimated value of the assets within the Fancy Bears DAO exceeds $700k USD.

As part of our ongoing series, we recently sat down with Anna Fomenko, Polish-based Project Manager of Fancy Bears Metaverse, to discuss parts of the project’s roadmap, current successes, crowdfunding efforts and plans to create a full-chain model for modifying the appearance of NFTs. We also cover why Anna hopes to be a trailblazer for other women who are entering the Web3 space.

How did things kick off?

Anna mentions how she had a bit of an “old-fashioned, Belle Epoque” approach to education while growing up — learning piano, French, history and art — the last being her favourite subject. About a year ago, she learned about NFTs and her curiosity was piqued. “I knew they were like art, but digital art,” she says.

She says she entered the Web3 space about six months ago, when she officially joined the Fancy Bears project with Fanadise. She was particularly happy that they gave her the opportunity to start working with them because “in Poland, it was a new area — and few companies are trying to jump into the space there.” She kicked off her efforts by managing the project’s Twitter pages, before moving into her current role as Project Manager. “It’s been a great opportunity to meet people from all around the world.”

Anna notes how quickly she’s been able to jump into the Web3 space and ramp up her knowledge about NFTs, highlighting how much she’s adapted to the space in such a short matter of time. “I didn’t have a huge background, but as a lover of art, I loved that NFTs were pieces of art and wanted to get involved.”

About Fancy Bears Metaverse

Anna explains that: “First and foremost, Fancy Bears Metaverse is a community of amazing people from all across the world.” Fancy Bears’ main utilities include organising in-person parties for holders (some of which include prominent celebrities), as well as providing exclusive merchandise and airdrops of the community’s token, $HONEY. NFT holders and brands are also eligible to receive a series of exclusive deals for partnering with the community (past partners include Samsung and L’Oreal).

Legendary American boxer Floyd Mayweather, an NFT holder who has become quite active in the Web3 space, has recently become an honorary member of the Fancy Bears community. Anna elaborates on how even though Fancy Bears “is a Polish project, we wanted to focus on not just Poland, but the entire world.” 

Photo by © A.RICARDO –

After starting off with Polish influencers in their roster, they decided to branch out globally. To have a big star as part of the community “seemed like a great idea and Floyd seemed like a great candidate to develop a partnership with” — given that they knew he had a global presence and wide outreach. Mayweather recently donated 20 signed pairs of gloves to the DAO, which were then given to corresponding Fancy Bears holders.

Building the “NFT 2.0”

Now, the Fancy Bears DAO’s main focus is on building and offering Trait Swap — a desktop application that can be accessed when users connect to the interface using their crypto wallets. From here, users can select which Fancy Bear NFT they’d like to make changes to — such as giving their character a new head accessory or fur colour.

How will this work? As every trait (both in Fancy Bears’ original collection and in newer traits) will be an ERC1155 token, every trait swap will mean that each token is being staked in the contract (so long as the trait remains in use). For this reason, the DAO has created a separate trait staking contract. 

“Just like how characters change their wardrobe in the Sims,” Anna describes, “you can try out all of the traits [and figure out] which one will look best on your bear.”

As not all NFT holders were entirely happy about how their bears looked, they’ve started voicing a desire to see something new take place within the project. With Trait Swap, holders are able to make changes to their bears and attach different traits and accessories. In light of this, the DAO is working to apply the same technology to other popular NFT projects — such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, Mutant Ape Yacht Club, Doodles and Cool Cats.

They’re also looking to create partnerships with additional companies, who are also helping them to further develop more NFT traits — even exploring the option for users to carry utilities from other projects. In Anna’s vision, “you can bring every utility [to the project] that you want — whether it’s a ticket to a party or traits from another project.” 

New traits can be purchased with the project’s $HONEY token. Recently, the community offered holders an exclusive airdrop of the token, enabling them to purchase new traits and gain limited access to Trait Swap. From there, users could see the changes made to their NFTs reflected on OpenSea.

“Honestly, people have just gone crazy,” Anna says, “as we not only have our original collection, but also these additional traits.” She touches on some of the unique changes that holders can select from, including the much-loved squid head. “I can see that people really like it.”

Anna also highlights the efforts being made to differentiate Fancy Bears from other projects, commenting on how she enjoys the ability to coordinate and communicate with other projects in order to create something new within the space. “It’s a great way for users to change their bear according to the weather, or the [current] holiday, or whatever.”

She continues: “I honestly think [Trait Swap] is a great idea because we can make more utility traits — and it’s a good possibility for other projects, because, let’s be honest — it’s hard to make a good project because there are a lot of them out right now.”

Using NFTs for crowdfunding

We’ve all heard about the current war and Russian invasion currently waging in Ukraine. One notable feature of the crisis is how the country has pioneered a new source of financial support, as people across the globe have donated millions of dollars towards war efforts using cryptocurrency. According to Alex Bornyakov, Ukraine’s deputy minister for digital transformation, “crypto is playing a significant role in Ukraine’s defence.” As of the time of writing, the Ukrainian government has raised over $42 million USD in donations.

As a Ukrainian based in Poland, Anna also breaks down how the Fancy Bears community has joined the cause. They’ve launched a side project that’s focused on raising funds for Ukrainian refugees currently affected by the current crisis — particularly those who have crossed the Polish border to escape the dangers of the war.

“We decided to make these NFTs for Ukraine — not just because I’m Ukrainian, but because other team members are also from Ukraine.” As of the time of interviewing, Anna notes that 2 million Ukrainian refugees have since fled over to Polish soil. “We just saw that people are in need — they need our help and we decided that we can use the metaverse and NFTs to help them.”

From here, the community plans on deciding which organisation they will allocate the money towards.

Seeing new possibilities for women in Web3

“I’m really happy that it’s a new area, so you can try to make even crazy ideas. Because [the Web3 space] is new, you can basically do everything you want.”

Regarding the timing of Web3, Anna also claims that it’s “the perfect space and perfect moment to jump into.” She’s even started encouraging her other female friends to seek out more Web3 projects. “I’m really happy that I jumped into it at this moment because everyone is learning and trying,” she also says, before also noting that there is “no big difference” between which positions are being held by either men or women. “It’s only about your skills,” she asserts.

Anna cites 3 Cups of Tea — a book about an American man who, when travelling to Afghanistan to build schools, made note of the number of female students that weren’t given the opportunity to have an education. Taking inspiration from this novel, Anna says she’s made it a personal goal to work in an area “that’s helpful for other women.”

“There is no difference if I am a man or a woman,” she comments. “It’s just about my skills, my possibilities and my knowledge about my project and the metaverse.”

She also notes how Web3 has become a “helpful area for everyone” — not just for women, but for “each person” across the world. In the metaverse, she believes that people can have experiences that in previous times, “people couldn’t even imagine.” “I have only positive feedback in this area as a woman,” she concludes, “so I’m really glad that I’m here.”

Her advice to other women entering the space? “Just try, honestly,” she says simply. “Because it’s a new area, it’s really easy to get into it. So all girls have to do is to try and to learn. There is no difference if you are a man or a woman.”

Future visions for Web3 and the metaverse

Overall, Anna notes how she is excited to see where the expansiveness of the metaverse can go — mentioning how as an art lover, she particularly enjoyed visiting virtual galleries during the COVID-19 pandemic and how she would love to see this concept become more user-friendly and immersive. At some point in time, she says that this experience will be “really amazing” and “almost like how things are in real life” — especially if it will enable people from various physical locations to meet together inside a virtual space. “You can meet your friends, even if they’re far away — one day you can just put on some glasses and you’ll all be there.”

Anna would also love to see Web3 become a helpful and more expansive space, with more gaming and PFP projects “doing great things for people”. She’s also hoping to see bigger, better and more innovative possibilities come out of Fancy Bears — especially the Trait Swap app, which she hopes to see add more capabilities to future NFT projects and appeal to greater communities and enthusiasts alike.

“Everyone is really happy that you are into it and that you’re trying to learn. You don’t need anything else — I didn’t have any technical background at all. It’s just about fast learning.”

Anna’s ideal vision of a future metaverse is, in her words, “a safe place where it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, which skin colour you have or which nationality you are. Just a safe place where you can be whatever you want.”

Learn more about Fancy Bears Metaverse

To learn more about the Fancy Bears Metaverse DAO and NFT collection, be sure to check out their official website and collection on OpenSea. You can also learn more about the community by visiting their Twitter and Instagram pages or by joining their Discord.

To learn more about the #NFTforUkraine efforts and make a donation, you can also visit their page here.

Why PFPs are the new Blue Check

NFT was the Collins Dictionary word of the year in 2021 and, at the start of 2022, you can’t move for people and companies trying to get in on the action. It’s clear that the thrill of exclusivity and owning something verifiably unique that others don’t have access to has caught people’s imagination. Trust in NFTs is gaining momentum as brands like Adidas start moving into the metaverse space, focusing even more attention on this relatively untapped asset class. In amongst the buzzwords like NFT and metaverse, it’s likely you’ll have come across the term ‘PFP’ (profile picture) through NFT projects like Bored Apes Yacht Club (BAYC), Crypto Punks, and Fancy Bears. And, increasingly, it’s PFPs that are serving as entry tokens to some of the most sought after communities and experiences in both the metaverse and IRL.

A brief history of PFPs…

PFP or ‘avatar’ collectables are responsible for a large part of the uptick in activity and interest around NFTs. Usually, a PFP NFT project is a cluster of avatars (typically about 10,000) where each avatar has a unique assortment of traits such as facial expressions, clothing and accessories. These traits are algorithmically assigned to individual avatars which are automatically generated based on original artwork. Therefore, these projects are referred to as “generative art”.

The OG of PFP projects is CryptoPunks, which has generated over $2 billion USD in trading volume on the secondary market. Just this month, a single Punk sold for 8,000 ETH, worth close to $23.7 million. The remarkable thing about CryptoPunks and other important PFP projects is that their NFTs are often given away for free or for a nominal price at the start of the project. An example of this that has captured the most mainstream attention is BAYC, a generative PFP NFT project that has 10,000 unique Apes. Anyone with a bit of spare change and tech-savvy could have got hold of an Ape for a mere 0.08 ETH + fees when they first dropped in April 2021. Fast forward to today and the cheapest Ape sits at around 13 ETH. Recently, Fancy Bears Metaverse sold out its 8,888 PFP Bears in just 8 minutes, attracting celebrity holders such as Floyd Mayweather and Jay Alvarez. 

Ben - Fancy Bears
Image credit: Fancy Bears

What makes PFPs the ultimate check mark?

Despite the column inches and social media noise they generate, PFPs are nowhere near mass adoption – yet. But because they have such passionate and vocal communities, they are gaining mainstream traction. Even on the professional social media platform, LinkedIn, NFT PFPs have become a fairly common sight (although they’re often taken down by the platform for not representing a user’s true likeness!). Twitter has recently pursued a very different tack by integrating verification of PFP NFTs, enabling users to not only display them but demonstrate their authenticity to the world. With hundreds of thousands of Twitter users sporting a blue ‘verified’ check mark, it’s safe to say that a legit Bored Ape PFP is now a far more powerful flex, marking you out as part of one of the most coveted communities on the planet.

I still haven’t really explained why leading PFPs have such value. It’s not because they can be exchanged for large amounts of money, although the potential to generate a return certainly doesn’t hurt. But this is a byproduct of their intrinsic value, which is a community of shared values. The metaverse is fast becoming a core of many PFP holders’ social and professional lives. It’s where they make business deals, enjoy concerts or just shoot the breeze with holders who are likely to have similar interests and ambitions. 

PFP project creators can add further value to the community through benefits such as personalised merchandise, exclusive metaverse and IRL parties, giveaways, access to celebrities, and profit share from the projects’ royalties through democratic decentralised organisations called ‘DAOs’. PFPs are check marks without parallel in any other walk of life, making you a lifetime member and an equal shareholder, opening doors and generating FOMO in those on the other side. 

Final thoughts on PFPs

So you bought Tesla stock before it was cool, graduated from Harvard, got a CORE membership and are verified on Twitter. In a world that’s moving rapidly towards Web3 – the decentralised internet – I hate to break it to you, but you’re old news. PFPs represent the ultimate new blue check precisely because they’re disconnected from these entrenched ways of displaying status and privilege. Their intrinsic value comes from communities that have grown from humble origins because of shared passions. They inspire others to want to join, rather than creating exclusivity through deliberate exclusion. And it’s only fair that they enable a little flexing from those who saw their potential first.

Today You Can Get Your Hands On The ModboxSDK

Today You Can Get Your Hands On The ModboxSDK

The sandbox experience in gaming is flourishing within the VR ecosystem. It’s one thing to be able to pick up a traditional controller and fiddle around freely in a game space, but it’s another entirely to be able to immerse yourself in a virtual world and manipulate the things around you. ModBox is one such virtual experience, a game where you’re encouraged to use mods created by the community and create your own. Now, developers Alientrap are giving people the tools to take their creativity to the next level by releasing the Modbox software development kit to any owners of the game.

Modbox allows you to create experiences of varying levels of simplicity and complexity. You can craft a collection of carnival-like mini games or really dive into the tools and let others play through an adventure of your own design. Allowing access to the SDK gives users a heightened level of customization and control over the experience by becoming fully moddable, something that has been the goals of the developers from the beginning. The trailer above introduces users to the ModboxSDK and even shows a quick tutorial on how to do a shotgun mod and change details on it from firing spread to different ways to grab it.

The ModboxSDK is available today and you can already find a deep guide on how to use the kit on the game’s website. From merely getting started to script saving and AI systems, the Alientrap crew is giving you all the tools and information to get the most out of their game. For Unity developers, Alientrap wants to get the ModboxSDK into your hands as well so you can see just how intuitive the program is. Via this form, Unity devs can link to proof of their work and supply an email to possibly receive a free steam key for Modbox. If you aren’t a dev, Modbox is available on Steam for $11.99.

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