Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are successful not only because people can make money from essentially playing video games, but also because they touch upon core parts of human nature. They allow people to:
Have a sense of purpose
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People are born to create - it's what we do best. Since the dawn of man, people have been creating things, from new spears to beautiful cave paintings. In fact, scientists at the University of Toronto conducted a study that revealed that the human brain has evolved to enjoy art. Viewing pieces of art showed an activation in different regions of the brain that are associated with pleasure, memory, recognition, and emotions.
The actual act of creating art (I am using art as a catch-all term for all creative work, including things like designing web pages and virtual building) has a massive impact on our brain. According to Christianne Strang, professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama Birmingham, art actually has a large, positive impact on our mental health. The process of creating has been shown to activate the reward center of our brain and lower stress levels. Creating art has such profound benefits that it is even widely used as a form of therapy.
Within the NFT space, users can create artwork ranging from static images to entire videos. The best feature of crypto art is the fact that users can easily monetize and earn money from their creations. In the “physical” world, there are issues with artists being able to effectively make a living by creating art. NFTs provide artists and creators with accessibility to a worldwide, 24/7 marketplace to sell their work, allowing millions to earn money by being creative.
Users can create entire buildings within virtual worlds like Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space, spending hours designing every detail. If an NFT game or project does not have any direct creative aspect to it, then users can take the project into a virtual world and design something creative there. For example, the trading card game Gods Unchained is mainly focused on battling and has no direct creative outlet, but users who love Gods Unchained can buy a piece of land within the virtual world Cryptovoxels and design an entire Gods Unchained themed house. The point is, NFTs allow people to create.
This trait is often an unspoken piece of the NFT ecosystem because it's so simple, but many games, virtual worlds, and collectibles are designed to be fun. NFTs have a “fun” aspect to them that traditional crypto simply can't match. With NFTs, users are dealing with digital objects instead of just an order book, like in crypto.
There have been countless studies performed that explore how having fun impacts people. For example, evidence shows that fun is a massive stress reducer. So, instead of coming home from work and cracking open a beer to reduce stress, people can jump into their favorite NFT game and get involved with the NFT ecosystem.
The NFT space is exceptionally social, and that is probably due to the nature of the assets. As unique assets that are sold to individuals, NFTs force interaction between users. With traditional crypto, users rarely, if ever, know their counterparties.
NFTs are social not only through trading, but also through gaming. Many of the games that are being created require you to play with, or against, other users. Games like Axie Infinity or Gods Unchained allow you to battle friends, and platforms like Somnium Space and Decentraland allow users to hang out in virtual worlds.
Purely collectible NFTs exist, too. There is a long tradition of collectors coming together to discuss their hobbies. Trading card players love to chat with each other about their cards just as much as classic car collectors enjoy discussing their cars. NFTs are digitally native, and therefore people from all over the world can collectively explore this common interest. Being digital, the assets are easy for collectors to display and discuss in chat rooms, live streams, virtual worlds, and more.
The exact reason why people collect is unknown, but science tells us that it is an innate human behavior. There are different schools of thought: some psychologists believe that collecting is a trait we picked up from our early days as hunter-gatherers (those who gathered the most berries have a higher chance of survival), while some psychologists believe that it allows us to connect with something larger than ourselves. Regardless of the reason, collecting plays a huge role in our society. NFTs are the only type of digital asset that people can truly own, so they are perfectly suited for scratching that collecting itch.
Both of the above cars serve the function of driving from point A to point B, but only one car signals wealth.
Humans are extremely social creatures and are born with an innate desire to belong to a community. Back in our early days of belonging to tribes, acceptance was life or death: it was very hard for a single human to efficiently hunt and live on their own. A great method to be accepted into a group was to signal status by acquiring goods that show your worth to other community members. While the stakes aren’t as high as our early ancestral days, people still tend to showcase status with the items they purchase. NFTs allow people from all over the world to signal status by acquiring assets that are rare and expensive.
All of the above points show how NFTs directly touch upon human nature, but possibly the most important NFT characteristic of all is providing users a sense of purpose. Perhaps someone works a regular 9-5 job that they do not particularly enjoy, but when they are finished they can go to any computer and have instant access to a global community of collectors, gamers, and technologists.
The NFT ecosystem has something for everyone because it's so diverse. Art lovers can enjoy crypto art, gamers can explore games, and technologists can build in virtual worlds. Once someone finds a niche that they enjoy, they can fully immerse themselves within the culture and become an important part of the community. This gives people a sense of belonging and purpose.
All of the above points are just a few of the reasons why NFTs are set to succeed and become a massive component of our digital lives.