Gimme the loot! Gimme the loot!
Loot and a story on how to create an open-source interactive art experiment with your community.
What is up Noodlers? I hope you’ve had some time catch up on this wormhole. We’re moving fast.
Today I’m doing two things I said I wouldn’t do:
1) Post on a long weekend, when no one will read this (but it’s time sensitive)
2) Write long posts. My mom (a new reader) suggested I cut them down in length.
But I just had to get this piece out… and I felt there was a lot to cover. So next time, mom!
I’ve been meaning to do a post on interactive & collaborative art for a while, unrelated to blockchain. But something happened last week in the crypto space that can’t be ignored: Lootbags.
And they’re simple as this JPEG. But they open up so much more on web3.
Before we begin to talk about Loot I want to give a brief overview of interactive & collaborative art… which I can only faintly remember from my New Media course at SFU.
Today’s post is in three parts. But if you just want to get to the Loot, skip to Part 2.
Part 1: Interactive Art: a brief history
Part 2: Loot
Part 3: Lessons for your NFT drop
And here’s your soundtrack as you read.
Part 1: Interactive Art: A brief history
‘Interactive art’ is a relationship between the author and the reader (i.e. the artist and the spectator), where the piece of art or experience is created by both parties.
And how do we define “art?” I’ll leave that for an Art History 101 class to discuss in a two hour open discussion.
But I think it’s fun to imagine the first instance of art being created. I vaguely recall being at an art museum as a kid, where some artist described that art was first created when a caveman threw their spear at an animal and missed, and the spear landed in a pile of poo. And you had art. It probably looked something like this:
The history of interactive art is also hard to define (e.g. was that caveman creating interactive art with their animal reader?). But an early example comes from the 1533 piece “The Ambassador” by Holbein.
If you, the reader, put your nose up to the right side of the painting and look left, you are experiencing the art piece in a totally different way. Immediately the skull (pictured centred of the image) comes into view with anamorphic perspective.
In “The Open Work”, Umberto Eco describes how every piece of art is “open” to interpretation - as each reader brings their own personal experiences and cultural contexts.
I’m going to skip this wormhole, and just talk about art that fascinates me: art where the author provides a sandbox for their readers to create their own art. This was once referred to me as Meta-Art. Though, after googling this term, I can't find evidence of that. I also tried searching for an example of Meta-Art that I love, but couldn’t find it. (Man, I’m sorry, this is getting painful) But I’ll do my best to describe it, as it illustrates the spectrum between the author and the reader.
The project involved a Mexican sculpture artist who provided prisoners with one clay brick each (the very same bricks that incarcerated them). Their instructions were to carve into the bricks whatever they wanted: their story, experience, hopes, etc. He then collected the art into a show and sold the pieces and used the profits to support the families of the inmates. Who really is the artist? I don’t really care about that question. I just love the concept.
There are hundreds of art pieces like this over the century - I’m sure. But with the internet, the opportunity for meta-art went parabolic. Some have even taken the form of a game. Here’s some cool projects to look at:
An online project hosted by Reddit, that allowed (over one million) human players to cover a white canvas with pixels, one by one, that resulted in an interesting collaborative sand-box social experiment. Many sides arose: Some tried to beautiful artwork, some organized to bring blackness. Read more here.
An online game using the network of the streaming site Twitch, that allows users to play GameBoy’s Pokemon collaboratively at the same time. Again, different sides arose: Some worked together to finish the game, some sought chaos. Read more here.
I tried a similar experiment, called Twitch Plays Keep Me Up. Details in the footnotes.
An online game where players have one hour of game time, from birth to death (where each minute represents one year). In this one hour players work towards building civilization.
Web2 was great for collaborative sandboxes… But web3 is going to take it to a whole new level.
Part 2. Gimme the loot!
OK. So that’s some context for interactive art. But what’s Loot?
Let’s break this tweet down. My mother is now reading this newsletter, so I’ll try to make this simple to understand.
Hofman randomly generated 8000 of these loot bags. They are simply this text (or jpeg of text) of random adventure gear. That’s it. No images or stats… open for interpretation. Ah yes. The sandbox.
Here’s a few more:
He listed them on Openseas (a popular platform for NFTs), for free. You just had to pay transactions fees in Ethereum ( gas fees) to grab the loot bags.
And this is where the experiment began.
Instantly, people started claiming these bags for free. And just as quickly, the price skyrocketed. Price per bag shot up to $46,000 overnight.
But the interesting part is what Hofmann actually created. It was a community and a sandbox for people to create their own world.
There weren’t any instructions or context. Just simply text on a jpeg. No backstory - but the community made one. And quickly.
Keep in mind everything I’m mentioning happened over just a few short DAYS….
For example, one artist created their own illustrations of the loot:
Soon, people starting using the AI to imagine what the loot looked like:
Which turned into an open market and many other derivates:
Someone made a pixel-character generator imagining what your character looked like based on your loot:
Soon inner communities and guilds formed, based on the items one has in their lootbag. For instance, a guild for lootbag holders of DivineRobe.
Stories and backstories formed:
As well as maps and character strengths and abilities.
OK. I’ll stop geeking out. For me, it’s the medium, not the message. It’s the sandbox that Hofmann created. This tweets sums it up, in response to when someone asked “describe Loot in one tweet”…
“Loot is NFT improv.”
I’m really excited to see where this project goes next. Will we see a comic book? Or an animated series? Hard to say, but they do have the budget. Already Loot has a marketcap of about $180 million.
And just a couple of days ago, AGLD token was launched. Meaning, you don’t need to own a Loot bag to get in on the fun. You can purchase AGLD coins (and governance), and have some says on how the universe plays out (not financial advise!)
The one thing I will be looking out for is to see if Loot can expand into the Metaverse. E.g. can I bring my loot and character into Decentraland or Sandbox? I’m sure this is around the corner.
Part 3. Lessons for your NFT drop
The fascinating part about Loot is how Hofmann created a bottom-up community. As he says:
“I’m not leading the project… I’m providing guidance, when wanted.”
Compare it to, for example, Marvel Comics. Marvel created the universe for the readers. There is of course fan fiction, but it' was a top-bottom approach.
We also have NFT communities like the Bored Ape Yacht Club community. Where BAYC had the artwork and intentions to create a club. Which did however expand naturally with their community. So they’re somewhere between these two extreme examples.
After doing some research, I just came across this thread, which covers what I’m talking about much better (lol) and describes why I’m so excited about this project:
tandavas.eth 👘 @tandavasThe creator creates a canvas. The collectors paint it.
tandavas.eth 👘 @tandavasThis is what NFT should be like. Freedom and decentralized. No limit, no boundaries. Maximum creativity.
And just to hit home this point, this:
Since Loot, we’ve already seen many replicas of the sandbox jpeg NFT project. Some of them quite funny. My personal being Bloot:
Though, so far these Bottom Up NFT projects haven’t really done anything new. I’ll give them a break - it’s only been about six days! But, I’m excited to see how Loot inspires a new generation of NFT projects and community… and gives power back to the readers.
NFT authors need to think about:
How to offer your community autonomy? (Hof gave over owernship and control)
How to release your NFTs (Hof gave away his NFTs for free)
What guidelines will you set up? If any? What is the role of the author and reader? (Hof gave no guidelines)
(I’m not saying you have to be like Hof. But these are just things you should be asking.)
It’s quite fun to imagine different sandbox experiments. Maybe next post I’ll play with some ideas.
As you guys know, I’m working towards my own NFT/DAO project. And I’m certainly going to use this as inspiration.
What I’m hoping to create in the coming months is a DAO project that combines these ideas and passions:
DAOs + communities, open-source
Dollar Collective, giving, kindness projects
experiments, sandboxes (e.g. Loot)
NFT DAOs (e.g. NounDAO)
Supporting and discovering artists
Interactive / Meta-Art, generative art
Power to my readers
I have the all the pieces. I have the lootbag ready.
I just have to put the story together.
That’s it for today.
See you down the rabbit hole.
I tried to create my own version of TwitchPlays Pokemon, but instead of Pokemon, it was with a balloon in my living room. The idea was to create a worldwide game of Keep Me Up -- you know that game as a child, where you had to keep a ballon from hitting the ground. Yeah, I wanted to do that with the internet.
I connected my arduino to a live stream which was controlled via Johnny5, and which let users (at home in their living room) hit the space bar to turn a motor in my living room. The motor rotated a small paddle, launching a balloon. Turned out the biggest challenge was the physics of the balloon. My project never launched. Maybe next time!