PlusHeart Issue #23 - (Crypto) gambling on your community
What influences a memecoin's value? Why would people invest in something that has no trackable metric of success?
PlusHeart is a newsletter about creating on the Internet, creating for passion, and the relationship between fans and creators. It explores Twitch, esports, fandoms, and other places where all these things intersect. Matt Demers writes it in between cups of tea. Support him on Patreon.
I’ve been keeping this subject in my back pocket, but the longer that time goes on, the more it seems to want to burst out. We’re going to write about it this week, mostly because it’s front-of-mind due to some crypto weirdness in my timeline.
Watching the Dota Major also makes me think about blockchain products because of how often companies sponsor events, teams, and other initiatives. The idea of NFT/crypto sponsorships being everywhere is similar to why so many weed stores are currently open in Canada: if a brand gets big enough, early enough, it becomes hard to dislodge. I’ve seen multiple different franchises open (and mostly close) because of this; it’s that “operate at a loss until we make it or the money runs out” mentality that enables it.
But what about smaller projects? What about initiatives that seemingly have no real reason to exist, or even make profit? These “shitcoins” or “memecoins” gaining or losing value didn’t make much sense to me until I literally Googled “what affects Dogecoin prices?” and got a Reddit thread that explained it quite well.
To people, the investment in these projects are about utility and value, but are a somewhat-holistic gamble on the community that’s formed around the product. For Dogecoin, the value that the community provides is the memes, user-generated content and entertainment that would not continue if Dogecoin didn’t exist.
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By investing into Dogecoin, they are expressing confidence and value in the community that Dogecoin provides. After, more traditional market forces (price going up/down, and people reacting to that) are introduced as a result.
I found this fascinating because that seems almost… spiritual? Like, it feels different from why I'm usually disappointed by blockchain products: the only discussion around them seems to be about the monetary value, not its practical applicaiton. Because of this, the coin (or whatever) never “does anything interesting” beyond potentially generating income, and people don’t produce anything valuable from a sense of altruism or community; it’s all just money-minded.
I think crypto in esports has this problem, because it seems to have speed-ran the path from new novelty to “I am tired of this and I have no goodwill towards this concept” with fans. It makes me think about when Counter-Strike: Global Offensive shows up in my Twitter Explore tab: the tweets the Twitter algorithm views as much valuable are money gambling, skin giveaways, or gambling with skins.
With those things being the default narrative, it becomes hard for me to get more “into” Counter-Strike — it isn’t about the game, only what it can do for profit.
This extends to streaming, as well. Besides the traditional "endless begging", you only really seem to get information from some streamers when it pertains to how well their stream is doing. Things are either "up" and it's great, or it's "down" and it's panic mode.
This kind of information rarely has any value for the fan that’s already in the stream, mostly because they don’t really gain or lose anything. Similar to my issue on FaZe stock two weeks ago, this "TV ratings" information isn't directly supplementing the entertainment.
In these cases, the product is already bad, and the product won’t get any better if the streamer gets more viewers: the streamer will just have more people to try to squeeze money from, and the experience arguably gets worse.
These two examples combine when streamers tried (or still try?) to mint their own coins that could be used for premium experiences. The idea of some fan trying to “day trade” optimize a streamer’s coin became laughable for me because it’d be rare that these things had enough scale to justify the effort. Like Ubisoft and Gamestop’s NFT markets, there’s this feeling of “if this is successful, it’s going to happen because of reasons antithetical to the nature of community.”
It feels like the classic thought of “if it gets too big, it will sell out and become lame,” even if we’re talking about Dogecoin. The sentiment I’ve seen from fans is that anything Blockchain-related is poison, even if it’s funding the things they like.
I think they might be understanding that to welcome that product means welcoming the type of people most likely looking to profit from it. Those people aren’t likely to be invested (no pun intended) in a community that wants authenticity, value, and entertainment: they're looking to exploit that community, instead.
Again, I think a lot of this crypto mania is coming from a place of desperation. People see it as a way of escaping the trappings of their current dependence on jobs and systems they hate, or which don’t work for them. In a way, maybe that’s why the gamble on small memecoins might feel like it’s for more pure intentions — at least, to start.
If the community grows to the point it gets lame, at least they’ll be able to cash out and come out ahead.
Housekeeping - PlusHeart on podcast platforms, and more
I messed around with the Sections of the newsletter on Substack in order to make it easier to upload audio interviews to platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Right now PlusHeart has two "podcasts": issues with audio interviews, and my "audio readlong/extras."
You can find links to both podcasts on a new Linktree for PlusHeart. I figured this was the easiest way to have all the different platform links organized easily.
I also had a productive evening of reworking the visual identity of the newsletter, and am happy with how it came out.
I've also launched (or at least reserved) a new newsletter URL for a zine about sleep that I'd like to write. I'd also like to put out a call for anyone who wants to contribute to it (as a volunteer; I don't think I'm going to try to make it into "a thing").
You can find it here:
I still am streaming on Tuesdays (7PM EST) and Saturdays (11AM EST) weekly. Event notifications get posted on Discord.
Cover photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev.