Companies have been exploring different gaming and social experiences in the Web3 spaces as they continue to build out the next generation of 3D internet experiences. Ownership and community have been essential to these new experiments, as well as new web infrastructure like blockchain.

Saro Mckenna, co-founder of AlienWorlds, and Mable Jiang, chief revenue officer at STEPN, shared their views on SocialFi and GameFi, and what could be different in from our current internet experience. The panel discussion was a part of the BEYOND Expo 2022 Web3 Summit, held online at BEYOND Metaverse on Sept. 26. 

The text below has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Saro Mckenna, co-founder of AlienWorlds (top right); Mable Jiang, chief revenue officer at STEPN (bottom); Hikaru Kasai, managing partner at Elevate Ventures and co-host at The Human & Machine Podcast (top left and moderator) talked at the 2022 BEYOND Expo.

Saro Mckenna, co-founder of AlienWorlds

We think that a blockchain construction is really required to be called a metaverse, because only with a blockchain construction can you have people really coming together, peer to peer, who are not simply there because of a centralized platform owner. 

The first thing that we’re doing inside of the metaverse at scale is gaming. But there are many other aspects of our lives that happen within the metaverse, including education, work of other kinds, and certainly, social interaction is in the metaverse, which we’re already seeing through gaming. 

There has been a lot of content creation and especially novel content creation. People are pushing the boundaries of what technology can do. What I love to see is the way that people come together. People are just so ingenious, and we’ll find a way to add value to any system and to create things. In AlienWorlds, there have been whole companies that have been created servicing the AlienWorlds’ metaverse. Some of them have created leaderboards and competitions that have even been built out a little bit, technically. 

For the social-fi elements, if something’s adding value to a system, I think the question is more about who’s capturing that value – the person themselves or the platform owner. And that’s the real distinction between Web 2.0 and Web3.

So I’m not sure if I would necessarily emphasize the Fi (decentralized finance, DeFi) so much if the person is only involved in the system because they want to earn money. I think that’s potentially the connotation when you put the Fi suffix onto something. It’s more about empowerment and just the next iteration of property rights, and that gets extended into a metaverse environment under blockchain construction. And then everything that results from that, all the potential and creativity, get unleashed when you acknowledge the sovereignty of people’s capturing into the platform itself.

I think one of the things that’s kind of interesting is what we see on social media. People have been pushing the boundaries of that for themselves as influencers, right? So these are people who are like super sharers on social media. And they do manage to monetize a bit of a position for themselves through a lot of hard work. But they’re sort of working against the boundaries of what’s been created. It’s only if they happen to be a breakout success can they earn something like a living wage.

Whereas what we’ve done in Web3, the starting point is that people just own the fruits of what they’re doing beyond that and love how they transfer that value around. So that doesn’t mean that there aren’t paid services or that everything’s free. There are plenty of commercial services that get offered in the metaverse. But people themselves will choose to engage in them. And I think that creates far more creativity [in the system].

Mable Jiang, chief revenue officer at STEPN

I would be actually very straightforward about SocialFi, I actually never liked adding the word Fi after everything. I think that’s a very mimetic way of doing things. When we talked about our product, we just mentioned that there’s like social element instead of SocialFi.

Within the whole metaverse, and regardless of how you define metaverse, not everything needs to be powered by blockchain, that are valuable, and needs to be actually stored and have instant finality will require blocking settlement within what we are seeing today.

There are a few things that actually could be monetized, influence is one of them, such as social graphs. That’s something that could actually be recorded by the blockchain. Also, there are a lot of actual activities that people will try to do to accumulate their social relationships. But those activities, those proof of work, do not really have to be recorded every single step on chain, but rather just a result of it. 

There are a lot of interesting potential things that people could explore around, like anything related to social, and could also be captured by tokenizing the specific names or specific results of that social behavior. But I think the process of it probably will still likely to happen in a Web 2.5 stage.

I do think game-fi or like extra to earn has their own merit to it in a certain historical period of time because it has bootstrapped a lot of users within a short period of time. However, I think if you do want to keep these people within your ecosystem, you do need to think about the question of externality. So then you know it’s about maybe working with external brands, or maybe with like some other lifestyle applications to really give the users who you use the extra to earn kind of models, other things to do, or actually to do something that’s like creating values, or at least like creating values for themselves.

One thing that we were trying was opening our merch store (merchandise), but it’s not just a simple shop on our website. It’s actually going to be rendered by a partner within their actual virtual merch store. And people just go in, and they can buy, and they will have the ownership of that. The NFT is for people to get physical merch. That’s an example of the hybrid model. So I think there are many things that we can obviously leverage and go around with it.

Ward Zhou

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a]technode.com or Twitter @zhounanyu.