← Return Home

Re-Envisioning Zenratstudios With Blockchains

Background

April 28th The DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) launched a Crowdfunding company that would be run without Staff or CEOS. For those who don’t know the company is a piece of software that runs on Ethereum (a type of world computer like Android, or Windows existing within the internet) using blockchain, the same technology that powers the digital currency bitcoin, but with more added and complex features.

TheDao is a company running on Ethereum, to whose shares are known as “Dao Tokens”, they are valued and backed by Ether the cryptocurrency or fuel that runs the Ethereum (world computer). Members who buy these Dao Tokens are ‘shareholders’, and shareholders as a whole can vote on what proposals for new businesses they will fund. Proposals are “contracts” written in code that communicate to TheDao which is written in code, an agreement that members vote on. Curators are the arbitrators of this code (in Zenratstudios basic and limited understanding of it). The proposals are requests to use a portion of the “Funds” within theDao for their own projects.

Note: This is our basic understanding of TheDao as of today 6/1/2016, there may or may not be inaccuracies in part of our thinking. Blockchain technology is a new concept for us in general as up until recently beyond the ‘currency’ Bitcoin and altcoins, we did not know much about Blockchain, what we know is that Blockchain is fascinating. It offers a programmable solution to real world problems, it can handle complex thoughts and ideas, and create entire ecosystems.

What is programming games, and writing stories, worldbuilding rich lore and rpgs but the same thing. The digital world and real world are starting to blur making what we can do and how far we can push the limits even more fascinating to experiment with.

Story & Challenges

We never intended to take part in the Dao’s community. Interest in theDao was simply as a speculator who thought this would be a great way to make quick money in order to fund our company and hire workers to manage the social media of our site. It was just another new coin to us. But bad news released on the same day of the release caused the stocks to go down and forced us to realize that we hadn’t really known what we had signed up for. This in turn forced us to realize we had a real stake in this and were ‘involved’ in what happened next. The fate of theDao as a company surviving and of the value of our “Dao Tokens” (and consequently our investment for Zenratstudios) depended on our (the members of TheDao’s)ability to work together with others as a community. This forced us to come out of the shadows of our workshop and explore social media which we had been avoiding, but most importantly to really engage with the community. It also forced us to explore more about what The Dao and Blockchains were (what we had gotten ourselves into rather than ‘just’ a coin).

What we found was a discovery of something that could be applied to our own company especially as we struggled to deal with the complex interconnected branches that Zenratstudios planned to be long-term and how to expand from our short-term position into that, scalability (the very thing blockchain is learning how to tackle now).

We had the games and books we wanted to publish, entire IPs, and services for publishing the works of others and more that we wanted to offer. We also had an idea that involved crowdfunding people in the communities game ideas and having them voted on by the community to be designed by our team once we had grown into it, to design games people wanted made but didn’t have the skills or teams to do so (once we had grown large enough to have a dedicated team ourselves). Zenratstudios also had the vision of creating an “ARG” and other types of similar games whose category we don’t know that required taking action, inspired by ChoreWars, Superbetter, Halo’s ARG.

However our limited experience with web development and time combined with our limited funds and increasing need to bootstrap made it difficult. We could not learn how to do everything, our survival was dependent on assembling a good team and delegating tasks in-house or finding the funds to delegate tasks out of house through independent contractors.

For this reason we decided to focus on bootstrapping, at present we have gone out and begun to invest a little bit of money into cryptocurrencies that we had set aside for the business.

Vision

Zenratstudios aspires to be several things:

  1. A Game and book publishing company
  2. A non-profit/for-profit hybrid organization
  3. A spiritual resource (based on eastern philosophies) for personal development and growth
  4. A Digital/Virtual Island/Culture “Existing nowhere and everywhere” with its own economy and a way to reward and pay members within the community for self-improvement and paying it forward.
  5. A live action ARG [alternate reality game that plants puzzles in the world and gives real rewards]
  6. A resource and asset to the community

We wish to provide solutions for some of the world’s problems using games, storytelling and gamification to do so.

In a video game every player jumps in and starts with nothing, and yet through hard work and fun they end up making money, finding loot, and purchasing the things they need in order to grow themselves and “Level Up!“. Imagine if life worked like that? If you could pick what you wanted to be, and be rewarded, for growing yourself as a person. Zenratstudios has always believed Games could save the world, since a very young age wanted to do just that but didn’t know how, thought maybe it was a crazy idea but kept working towards it.

Then Jane Mcgongial wrote the book “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better.” and gave her speech on TED TALKS and Zenratstudios knew this was it. We could do this. But her ideas and what we wanted to do kept expanding, until we encountered TheDao and delved into “The blockchain”.

Game Company’s Where CEOS are paid just like everyone else?

For the past 24 hours I’ve been pacing back and forth thinking about how to apply Ethereum and Dao’s structures to our own business and company, reviewing the problems and challenges that come with it, the pros, and the changes that may occur. Before finally settling on what we want to do and why blockchain is the perfect platform for experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what games and cryptoeconomies can do.

The Pros of converting Zenratstudios into (at the very least if not autonomous) a semi/hybrid-decentralized organization is that it can offer income opportunity to underrepresented people in the community, can handle an economy, transactions and an ecosystem that rewards people for their contributions within the world. It truly helps us apply the game mechanics of a digital world to the real world, bridging a digital gap.

The Technical Cons and challenges are that:

  • Running on Ethereum costs money to operate (ETH/Gas) in combination of our other website management fees.
  • The price of ETH varies and increases, and costs more based on how efficient our code is.
  • The blockchain technology it uses relies on miners and fees (which comes with its own set of problems i.e. they require incentive rather than keeping the blockchain running out of the kindness of their heart)
  • Ethereum is a world computer that updates on its own, any update can break the code and require recoding on our behalf ex. Ethereum’s update from Frontier to Homestead. (we can’t choose whether we agree to the update or not, and would have to update our system manually coding to work with Homestead)
  • There aren’t a lot of documentations or resources available to help new developers
  • Zenratstudios does not currently have the skills and would have to hire or find a willing blockchain developer proficient in Ethereum willing to help, as Ethereum is complicated (it would take time to learn so ‘efficiently’)
  • Zenratstudios would have to hire or have someone on our team able to manage the code and keep it bug free (hacks etc.)
  • Experienced web developers would be required (out-house gets expensive) , so even if we attempted to take the time to learn how to develop on blockchain ourselves we would have a long road ahead.
  • We would much rather build on a more mature platform that allows us to use C# than a javascript based language for back-end code. (Update: Stratis and Counterparty sound promising).

A Social Experiment

In many ways Zenratstudios is attempting to perform a social experiment. We ask questions like:

  • Can Blockchain technology really reward people for paying it forward? How would it work?
  • Can a company and its culture really be its own digital country with values?
  • Can a virtual digital world online offer real income opportunities for anyone?
  • And more

One cool thing is that if we did think of Zenratstudios and other countries like Apple and Google with their own corporate culture and values, then as our own country what we our “citizens” would create of value (our services and products) to the outside world would be considered ‘exports’.

We know for instance that using blockchain technology we can create entire ecosystems and currencies, THE DAO shows us that we can create a global treasury or fund, and disperse it in agreed upon contracts to all members or shareholders who are apart of that fund. There are also services like Bitwalk that rewards people for walking, so what if we merged the two concepts: Rewarding people for real world actions and aspects of the Dao in a way that serves humanity in some way, shape, or form.

Imagine if instead of paying CEOs $119,222,614 – $ 18,755,952, that money was dispersed among members of the community. Traditionally when we work for a company our money goes into the company and we are given back some money for our time, with a portion of it taken by the company.

Here at Zenratstudios we are still working on how this would all work, right down to how we would be governed, and what the co-founders rules would be when more founding members got involved. There’s a lot to study, and many questions to ask. But the idea that all the money our games and products produced not only was equally distributed among all members within the community, but that it rewarded those members for paying it forward and giving back to the world around us, speaks volumes.

It’s interesting to us to see the many new ways that companies are applying these technologies. Can activists and people who wish to help Syrian refugees, victims of war, poverty, mental illness and homeless do the same? Can we solve things like world hunger, bring mental treatment to those in need?

I don’t know all of the answers to these yet, but we’re hoping that through this project we can certainly try.

Currently we will spend our time:

  1. Fundraising (bootstrapping)
  2. Restructuring our company and governance to fit the new proposed organizational structure (decisions)
  3. Preparing a structure compatible with Blockchain technology and Ethereum
  4. Exploring Cryptocommunities to adapt these new technologies into solutions that solve real problems

Here are some awesome links:

To Wait or Forge Forward as Pioneers:

Interestingly enough Ethereum is always evolving and it is still in its infancy. There will be other platforms that may expand or even make easier what we want to do if we wait long enough. Colony for instance may offer just the solution we need, or Ethereum may offer another update that breaks our code as soon as we finish, requiring us to have it rewritten – there’s no telling.

What we do know is that this is the way forward for our company’s vision to save the world one person at a time, the potentials are huge, we cannot let it pass us by.

Stay Tuned and follow us and our journey on twitter!

 

<em>Update: The DAO fell apart but the experiment was great, and we have since added more great blockchain technologies offering possible solutions to problems we’ve encountered. More to come soon on how our opinions have evolved since this post.</em>