Apr 16, 2024

Crypto: The Game founder and creator Dylan Abruscato joins "First Mover" to discuss gameplay details and how the idea came to fruition.

Video transcript

We saw firsthand at HQ kind of the pain points of using something like paypal to pay our winners. There were, you know, withdrawal minimums and transaction delays and things like that. And, and as just like a crypto fan myself and like a crypto native user, um I always thought to myself like if I were to ever build a game that, that paid its winners, I why would I do it on any other financial rail? Many will play and only one will survive. So the game season two is underway and I'm not gonna lie. Everyone I know who started playing the game has officially been voted off the island. Now, if you are new here, this is an internet Survivor game that you can buy into play the game and vote people off until there is a last man or a woman standing who gets to take home the entire pot, which is worth a lot of money. We're gonna get an exact number for you in just a few seconds. Now, I don't know how you can have a job and stay on top of this. But people are, there are tribes 24 7. Chats, immunity challenges and more things that are going on. Our next guest is going to tell us all about it. Dylan Abruscato is the founder behind the game that is taking the crypto community by storm. He's been working on it for five years, launched in January. And now he gets to sit back and watch people form alliances backstab each other and have a general fun time all in hopes of winning that epic jackpot. Dylan Aristo. Welcome to first mover. Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. Thanks for being here now. People are going kind of wild playing this game. I want, it's totally insane. Right. I want to take a step back though. It's been five years in the making. Um, when you started making this game, did you envision this future? Uh Honestly, yes. So, uh, it, while it's been on my mind for over five years, uh, we didn't actually sit down and start building it until just a few months ago. Um, and, and I can give you some context there, but, um, I actually started my career in TV. So, uh I was an NBC page out of college. I don't know if you watch 30 Rock. But, um, the character Kenneth. Yeah, the character Kenneth is like a fictionalized version of my first job out of school, which was like the SNL desk page. So I was totally bit by the live TV. Bug bounced around a bunch of different networks, uh, and, and shows and, and really only stumbled upon tech by way of HQ trivia. Um, so, I don't know if you, if you remember HQ or if you played HQ, but it was essentially a live mobile game show that went bonkers viral in like 2018 that I think I applied for, I think I applied to be one of the trivia hosts. Yeah, I think I did. Did you ever audition? Uh, no, I didn't make it that far. Oh, man. Yeah, we, we had a handful of hosts, uh, but really only joined HQ kind of for like this grand vision of, of the future of live TV and a live interactive TV network. So, in the same way that HQ took a traditional TV game show and made it live and mobile and interactive, um, the same could have and should have been said for a talent competition or a dating show or a Shark Tank format. And in my mind as a huge Survivor fan, a live interactive Survivor format. So, um, when I said it's been in the works for five years, I actually pitched this idea internally at HQ. What is now CTG. Um, and that was about five years ago, but it's just one of those ideas that just kept coming up in the back of my mind over the course of the last five years and in between every job I've had and, um, you know, finally was able to sit down and properly build this thing a few months ago. It's the ideas that stick around that you got to give a chance when you have that time to actually give them the attention that they deserve. And it seems like you made a good decision here. Um Why crypto though? Why crypto? Yeah. Uh Definitely for a handful of reasons. I think, you know, when I first had the idea, definitely didn't have crypto involved. Um I think we saw firsthand at HQ kind of the pain points of using something like paypal to pay our winners. Uh There were, you know, withdrawal minimums and transaction delays and uh things like that and, and as just like a crypto fan myself and like a crypto native user, um I always thought to myself like if I were to ever build a game that, that paid its winners. Uh I, I, why would I do it on any other financial rail? Um And then also the, the cost to, to buy in and in season two to mint the entry NFT is 0.1 E which at the time was around 300 ish dollars. Um And I just knew that, you know, our corner of the internet was kind of uniquely suited to spend the equivalent of a couple $100 on, on a game like this in a novel use case. And I think I would have had a much more difficult time trying to convince 800 web, two folks to buy into something like this. So it was partially for, you know, ease of use and the financial rails. But then also because uh the crypto community and crypto Twitter specifically is so ripe for innovation and experimentation. All right, talk me through the gameplay. What are all of these people who are chatting 24 7 about crypto the game experiencing? Yeah. So at the highest level, it's a massive internet uh survival game. It's been compared to Survivor Hunger Game Squid game. Uh You know, this idea of, of many play one wins um at the onset and to enter players, Minton NFT which represents their slot in the game. Um And over the course of 10 days, they essentially compete in different challenges and every single night they vote each other off until the last person standing wins the pot. Um But from the onset, there are 10 random tribes that everyone's initially assigned to. Um and chaos essentially ensues where like they form alliances with people they recognize on Twitter uh or maybe have worked with in the past or are just meeting for the first time, decide who they're going to vote with, who they're going to vote for. And the challenges kind of range in uh in diversity from like classic arcade games. So this season, we had a take on snake that we called worm that was sponsored by Wormhole. We did a take on Brick Breaker. We called poop Breaker where players had to essentially like get as high of a score as possible to win immunity that night. Um We have crypto puzzles, digital scavenger hunts. Uh really, uh just different on and off chain, uh, immunity challenges. If you win that you're safe from the vote and then everyone else votes each other out each night. The crypto community is really just a community that, that embraces everything. Don't you think? Like, I just feel like they're so accepting of things like you could launch a game like this and have people rally around it, get sponsors to rally around it. Have you experienced that before in your career? Honestly? Uh I mean, I, I think yes, in the sense that like at HQ specifically, we had tens of millions of people download this thing, drop everything they were doing to like tune in at three Eastern and nine Eastern to play. Um I think the main difference is like the 24 7 engagement that we're seeing with Crypto. The Game HQ was uniquely a 15 minute show and that was very intentional. Um This is, has kind of like, I think I initially envisioned it being a game show, but it's really just ballooned into a 24 7 crypto reality show where people have favorites, there are enemies, there are uh you know, villains, there are uh all stars that somehow make it to the finale every season. Um and, and, uh, I don't know if you know Boys Club, but they're doing a kind of like a watch. What happens Livestyle Companion Podcast every night. Uh So the sense of like it turning into its own universe and really becoming this, this show that started within a niche community is something I've never experienced before. Well, what's the secret sauce? Right. You're at HQ, you're here, you've been able to create this really engaged community that let's face it. A lot of folks who are building in this space haven't been able to do. What do you think it is that keeps people coming back that keeps people engaged? I've seen people on Twitter say that they're getting like these cortisol hits, they're really loving it. They're super engaged. They haven't really experienced something like this in a while. What do you think it is? Yeah, I think it's a combination of things I think uh first and foremost, like I had this idea before. There was a crypto component tied to it. Um And I essentially sat down and thought like does doing this on and for crypto, make it a better idea. In this case. I think the answer was yes, I don't think I would have seen nearly the success or virality if I sat down at a white board and said, OK, I want to build a crypto game or I wanna build an on chain game. Uh So I always encourage folks to basically, like, lead with the idea and then it's up to you to decide if you think, uh, adding crypto enhances the experience or not. Um, and then also, I think that, you know, the entire world loves reality TV. And, uh, I personally believe that it's so antiquated to sit on your couch and watch 20 random people compete in a reality show when in this day and age, like, everyone should be able to play a reality show if they want to or be a contestant on a reality show if they want to. So the internet and crypto specifically have kind of like enabled this mass participation in traditional formats. So, you know, personally speaking, I always wanted to go on Survivor. I applied every year and never got a call back. Um And now there's this game that, you know, is heavily influenced by the, the game mechanics and the dynamic of, of that show, um that lets anyone who wants to play it, play it. So, uh I, I really think this is kind of the future of, of, of live TV, and, and reality shows. That's a really interesting comparison you draw here. This is like the decentralization of reality TV. You know, you don't have to go through that application process, maybe not make it. Everyone is welcome. And if you play the game really good, you might win. Yeah, I mean, the season one winner, um his, his name is MFL on Twitter, he played from Japan. It's, it's a live show. So he cast his votes overnight every night. Uh doesn't speak a word of English. Um somehow uh won over the hearts of everyone because uh on the finale, everyone that was previously eliminated, comes back on and cast their votes for the winner. Um He created wholesome memes that he sent to his tribe every morning. Uh He sent poems and I don't know if he's actually a poet or he whatever he put in Google translate, spit out something that read poetic in English. Um But just became this kind of like beloved figure within the game. And there's no scenario in which someone that doesn't speak English that lives in, you know, rural West Japan could have gone in a traditional reality show and won a life changing amount of money. Now, what happens to the winner once the show moves on to the next season? And the reason I'm asking you this is because as I was preparing for this and looking at what people are saying on Twitter and, and watching, watching some of the content, I was like in squid games, the winner gets to come back and join the team. Like, are you, are you creating a community where all these people who have come together, winners and people who haven't won um can continue to engage with each other and continue to form this relationship 100%. So, uh everyone that played season one was given essentially a 24 hour early access uh to, to join season two if they so chose. Um So that was mainly as a thank you to everyone that played season one, but really to give them a chance to continue this thing and kind of like build on their character arc and, and continue in this universe that we're building. Um So we saw, you know, it wasn't 100% but, uh almost everyone that played season one came back and played season two. Um and there are a handful of players, you know, right now, I don't know when this is going to air, but right now, 100 and 16 people are left and they're currently running around the internet in a um immunity challenge sponsored by Unis swap to win an immunity and guarantee themselves a spot in tomorrow's finale. A handful of those players were key players in season one. So it's definitely a game of skill that folks are, are, are learning how to master. I love this. Now, tell me when, when you set out to build the game now that you're watching people play the game in the second season. What's the lesson that you hope people take away from playing the game? Yeah, I think it's just that, uh, like this is, this is a very fun and wholesome and like community driven game. I think when I first thought of this thing and we first put it into the universe. Like, I, I imagine that a game where you have to eliminate each other and vote each other out, uh, would be very cut throat and there would be a ton of backstabbing. Um, but it's actually turning out to be this, like, incredible network of, of players. Um, I heard someone is like, was able to expense their entry this season because they're the company they work for thought. It was such a good, like BD networking impact. But you have people from like all walks of life that could be on your tribe and could be in this thing where you're forming like very intimate alliances with. So if you're someone that is a student or an early stage crypto founder or just someone who like loves uh gaming in general, like you could randomly be assigned to a tribe with uh someone at a tier one crypto VC firm or someone that is a later stage crypto founder. And I've seen just uh in going to places like youth, Denver and NFTNYC, like there is just genuine uh friendships and kind of like lifelong alliances that have, have been born out of this game. So, um like I said, initially thought it would be very uh ruthless and cutthroat, but it's turned into this uh kind of wholesome community. I've heard that there is some backstabbing going on but everyone's shooting. It's, it really, really well, yeah. You know, there, there I'll definitely get a few D MS after the voting period takes place every night from 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern and right around 9 p.m. I, I'll get a couple of D MS from the brand account. Like I'll, I'll do anything to know who voted me out, like who backs stabbed me. And then, you know, the next morning those will turn to, I slept on it. That was the most fun I've ever had in crypto. You know, overwhelmingly positive feedback can't wait to, to run it back season three. So, um, there that, you know, you can't whittle the field down from 800 to 1 without some backstabbing. But the overwhelming reaction is like, this is so much fun. Dylan, thanks so much for joining the show and I can't wait to watch the finale. Yeah. Yeah, same tomorrow. One person will win 80 E which is, you know, about a quarter of a million dollars with, with today's prices. So definitely some, some life changing money on the line.

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