“Imagine what Star Wars or Game of Thrones would look like if the project was not owned by Disney or HBO, but was directly directed, developed and owned by a community of builders, creators and participants.”
This is a quote from Timshel, the creator of The Genesis, a creative enterprise that is now one of many built on and around Loot NFT, collectively known as the Lootverse.
Both this statement and Lootverse point to a growing trend in the NFT ecosystem of community-centered or community-led world-building projects that are blossoming into new multiverses in a decentralized way.
For me, building metaverse worlds is the most interesting thing happening around NFT right now.
First, what is worldbuilding?
Worldbuilding in general is the use of artistic means to create a new multiverse. It can be a solo literary act, such as JRR Tolkien’s origins of the Lord of the Rings universe, or it can be a collaborative and commercial activity, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) transmedia franchise.
Recently, a collaborative and experimental style of world-building has also emerged in some NFT projects where communities are working to create their own expansive unreal worlds. Notably, NFT allows community members to exist directly in these universes and own “digital real estate” in a way that is not possible in traditional world-building projects.
Cellarius, the pioneer of this experiment
“Cellarius Universe is an original transmedia cyberpunk series that uses blockchain technology and user-generated assets to create a collaboratively curated story by fans. Our narrative begins in the near future and will expand across the galaxy in space and time. Words, art, and other media will explore the full range of relationships between humans and sentient super-artificial intelligences. cellarius Universe is essentially a mythic story for the future, but it is also a collective narrative whose content and contours will be shaped by its community.”
This is the introductory guide to Cellarius Universe, and even though the project is 4 years old, it still reads like the initial announcement of the NFT community now.
It was a project about a collaborative cross-media narrative that was run by ConsenSys, an ethereum infrastructure development company, between early 2018 and early 2019, but went bankrupt. cellarius was ahead of its time, as the cryptocurrency and NFT ecosystem was in its infancy and unable to support the project’s ambitious vision.
From my personal perspective in writing, the basics that the Cellarius team built would be (and remain) a great start to collective storytelling. I focus on Cellarius here to illustrate that the current NFT worldbuilding project is not a brand new fad product, but instead, they are tapping into a deeper level of creation due to advances in crypto infrastructure and the proliferation of NFT experiments.
5 NFT Worldbuilding Projects to Watch
NFT worldbuilding projects now come in different shapes and sizes. Some are entirely in the public domain, while others are not. What these projects have in common, however, is a community of people actively working to build new metaverse. Some examples are as follows.
In August 2021, Dom created the text-based Crypto project Loot. the project was quickly exploded in the community and quickly captured the attention of many in the NFT ecosystem. Since then, a series of NFT projects have begun to build art, games, and other aspects around Loot NFT, which has led to the organic formation of the Lootverse. lootverse has no central organizing force, but continues to work hard to nurture and develop its narrative.
As 4156 explained last year, “Nouns is a proliferable protocol.” Here his idea is a virtuous circle.
The protocol and the resulting Noun NFT incarnation fund the treasury and attract innovators. the Nouns DAO uses the treasury to fund innovators who want to build on Nouns. The funded innovators’ applications and creations attract more capital and more talented innovators, creating a virtuous circle.
It may seem like Nouns itself isn’t a worldbuilding project, but it actually is. Because the community drives Nouns culture, it leads to a flourishing of Nounish art, storytelling, poetry, and more, planting the seeds for a vibrant Nouns universe of the future.
Sup, spearheaded by Dom and other talented NFT masters, is a creative studio that is building the Superverse, which includes the sci-fi CC0 universe project Blitmap, the on-chain game console project Supdrive, and more. Notably, Sup is also currently exploring an experimental structure similar to CC0.
This is another NFT world-building project, launched around 10,000 pixelated cyberpunk avatars. the Runners community is collaborating to build and write the Runnerverse, starting around Mega City and its rebels’ struggle against the mysterious authority Somnus. The plot, however, will be guided by the community.
Yuga Labs’ Otherside
Yuga Labs, creators of BAYC, launched their Otherside metaverse project this month. The animated trailer for the project depicts non-Yuga NFTs such as Cool Cats, CrypToadz, Nouns and World of Women, so it’s clear that the team has clear world-building ambitions.
Worldbuilding projects are rapidly evolving in today’s NFT ecosystem, and narratives have begun to interpenetrate. I believe that the impact of the projects being built today will be more than just speculative for future generations, but will, like Cellarius Universe, really expand and solidify the greater possibilities of Web3, and have a similar ideological impact on other projects in the same track in the future.