The New Yorker: Why the “Boring Ape” BAYC Avatar Can Sweep the World


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Yesterday NBA star Stephen Curry bought a “Boring Ape” BAYC for 55 ETH and used it as his Twitter profile picture. Is the “Boring Ape” BAYC a rich plan or a cultural future?

Written by: Kyle Chayka, Special Writer for The New Yorker Compiler: Perry Wang

The Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) project was launched in April this year. It is a peculiar combination of membership-based online communities, joint-stock groups, and art appreciation clubs. Photo Credit: Bored Ape Yacht Club

In social media, agreements are fragile and alliances are fleeting. Do your best to be provocative, and you will be rewarded. For example, conflict and confrontation can promote interaction in social media more than politeness or cooperation. For example, in early May of this year, Kyle Swenson, a 25-year-old clothing dealer in Orlando, Florida, suddenly noticed that the tonality of the content pushed to him by Twitter had changed.

The accounts he follows are increasingly replacing their avatars with cartoon avatars of monkeys: monkeys wearing sunglasses or rabbit ears, monkeys wearing leopard prints or rainbow fur, monkeys smoking cigars, or monkeys emitting laser beams from their eyes. . Many of the apes have bored expressions or grimaces. Some apes have cigarettes in their mouths or have red eyes.

In this Twitter chaos, the monkeys chatted with each other in a relaxed and encouraging tone. These ape avatars come from a website called Bored Ape Yacht Club, which was officially launched on April 30, providing 10,000 unique cartoon primate images as non-homogenization Tokens (NFT) are sold, and the price of each ape is about $200, and ETH is accepted. The website’s slogan reads: “The Boring Ape NFT also allows you to obtain membership in the Ape Country Club.”

Below the advertisement is a crumbling wooden building with a string of colorful lights hanging on it.

Within one day after the website went live, all 10,000 pictures of Bored Ape Yacht Club were sold out. On May 3, when Kyle Swenson decided to buy one. He paid about $1,700 on OpenSea, the NFT market, and bought one. The boring ape he bought had an academic style—sailor hat, plaid shirt, pufferfish vest—”it looked like mine,” Swenson said.

A few weeks later, he bought another one. He had previously traded the NFT of NBA Top Shots, which was linked to popular shots in NBA matches and wonderful videos of basketball games in the form of NFT, but he believes that this wave of buying boring apes is more influenced by others. “This is FOMO,” he told me. “I see that many people who I value their views on NBA Top Shots have turned their avatar photos into boring apes.”

Matt Galligan, the co-founder and CEO of the encrypted instant messaging network XMTP, managed to buy four boring apes during the launch. He told me, “It has become a symbol of various statuses, a bit like wearing a high-end watch or rare sneakers. .”

The New Yorker: Why the "Boring Ape" BAYC Avatar Can Sweep the World Bored Ape Yacht Club draws rich and detailed images from the personal tastes of its founders, more than previous NFT incarnation projects. Photo Credit: Bored Ape Yacht Club

Bored Ape Yacht Club’s first batch of NFTs brought in more than $2 million in revenue. Later, the turnover of this series of collections was close to 100 million U.S. dollars, of which the cheapest ape usually sold for nearly 14,000 U.S. dollars.

In recent months, the project has sparked a wave of similar clubs and NFTs among the crypto fanatics. Collectors can buy cute cartoon cats from Cool Cats. The company released thousands of its own NFTs on July 1, and they sold out quickly. (Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson bought one as his Twitter profile picture.) These collectors can also buy angular sci-fi female characters from Fame Lady Squad, punk ducks from SupDucks, and 3D rendering pills from BYOPills , Buy Shiba Inu from The Doge Pound, which is very suitable for Meme playing terrier, and buy bonsai from Zenft Garden Society.

New projects will be launched every week, and their products will be hyped up on Twitter, the main public discussion area of ​​cryptocurrencies, in the hope of driving their products to sell out. “Everyone has seen the success of Boring Ape and started to quickly abandon their own projects,” said Aleksandra Artamonovskaja, founder of Electric Artefacts, a London curatorial consulting firm, who has bought and sold many NFT avatars. “I pay the rent by trading jpg pictures on the Internet. That’s how I told my parents.”

Each head club is a strange combination of a closed online community, a joint-stock group, and an art appreciation club. When an ape (or a cat, a pill, or an alien) is bought at a high price, the perceived value of all 10,000 NFTs in its group will rise, just like a painting that has set a record price at an auction. Make all the works of the artist have the same value doubled accordingly.

When a buyer sets his Twitter profile picture as a new NFT picture (which is a sign of loyalty), it is also a signal to other buyers of the club to follow him on social media. (“I changed my profile picture to an ape, and on the first day I grew hundreds of followers on Twitter,” Swenson said.) The central base of most clubs is the real-time chat app Discord. The Discord server of Bored Ape Yacht Club has more than 13,000 members-fans and NFT holders-and hosts ongoing discussions in channels such as #crypto-talk and #sports-bar. The co-investment of both social and financial aspects has formed a bond between club members in the broader chaos of the Internet.

“When anyone really binds vital interests in it, it will create a new kind of kinetic energy. Everyone can no longer speak arbitrarily, criticize everything without worrying about the consequences,” the individual owns three boring apes and shares ownership with others Two other boring technology investors, Drew Austin, told me.

The Birth of the Boring Ape

According to the founder of Bored Ape Yacht Club, this sense of community is lacking in the Internet world. Many people regard NFT as a redundant existence, but according to them, NFT can help fill the above-mentioned gaps.

“We want your boring ape to become your digital identity,” Gargamel, one of the founders of Bored Ape Yacht Club (this anonymous identity is taken from the character Gegewu in the cartoon Smurfs) told me in a recent video chat. They are collectibles, not hung on the wall or displayed on the shelves, but filled with small square or circular screen spaces that should represent yourself.

Gargamel and another co-founder, Gordon Goner (both have adopted pseudonyms) are unlikely to be technical coffees. Before founding Bored Ape Yacht Club, Gargamel was a writer and editor. Goner planned to study for a Master of Arts (MFA), but fell ill and switched to cryptocurrency day trading.

Gargamel, who wears gold-rimmed glasses and a carefully trimmed goatee, said that both are “literary nerds.” They grew up in Miami and met while drinking in a bar ten years ago. Goner, who has a tattoo on his chest, told me, “We had a heated argument about the American writer David Foster Wallace.”

When Gargamel and Goner started brainstorming on the NFT project at the beginning of this year, the avatar club trend Xiaohe only showed its sharp corners. Gargamel and Goner are familiar with CryptoPunks. The latter is a total of 10,000 pixelated characters. CryptoPunks was issued and listed by a company called LarvaLabs in 2017 and later became a blue-chip artwork in the NFT market.

CryptoPunks are now priced at up to 200,000 US dollars each (chain news note: currently the cheapest CryptoPunks sell for more than 400,000 US dollars). CryptoPunks were not originally designed as the cornerstone of social media avatar clubs, but some collectors (including the American hip-hop superstar Jay-Z) use them as avatar pictures-label them as profile pictures (PFP), and the latter are considered It is the supreme symbol of digital prestige.

“It’s like a Harvard degree in the NFT field,” said Austin, who owns two CryptoPunks.

Gargamel and Goner also noted the success of Hashmasks, an art enterprise that sold 16,384 NFT images in January, with a total value of more than 16 million US dollars. Both of these projects are closed systems; their developers have not promised to add any capacity beyond the limited edition originally released. Gargamel and Goner needed an idea that could evolve over time. “We realized there was an opportunity to launch projects with a broader storyline,” Gargamel said.

One of the early ideas the two considered was CryptoCuties, a group of NFT “girlfriends”, but they found it to be too catering-even creepy. (The male-dominated crypto world can sometimes feel like a fraternity club; the creator of a recent avatar project came under fire for using a female image with dark eyes and taped her mouth, and later came out to apologize.)

Another idea is to share a digital canvas: anyone who has bought it can draw on it. But this seems to be easily used as a bathroom wall for a dive bar. “The first image someone wants to draw is a male organ,” Gargamel said.

However, the image of an online diving bar has been lingering in the minds of the two of them, and a sci-fi storyline has been formed: By 2031, people who invested in cryptocurrencies in the early days have become billionaires. “Now they are so fucking boring. Now that you have wealth beyond your wildest dreams, what would you do?” Goner said. “You will hang out with a group of apes in a country club, and the picture becomes strange.”

Why is it an ape? In the parlance of the crypto industry, buying out of pockets to buy a new token or NFT, risking the risk of losing a large amount of money, is called “Stud” (called Aping in in English, borrowed from the word Ape). “We also like Stud/Ape,” Goner told me.

The New Yorker: Why the "Boring Ape" BAYC Avatar Can Sweep the World

Big explosion

Bored Ape Yacht Club members have obtained the commercial rights to their avatars. Co-founder Gordon Goner said: “People create anything with apes, which will only further strengthen the brand. Before the launch of Boring Ape, the avatar project at that time tended to use low-resolution, usually pixelated images, using 8-bit video. The style of the game. Whether it is a person, a monkey or a ghost, the appearance quality of these images is quite ordinary.

In contrast, Bored Ape Yacht Club has created rich and detailed images based on the personal taste of its founder. The Everglades “Yacht Club” (an ironic name) is set up to evoke memories of places like “Churchill’s Bar”, an old Miami music bar frequented by Gargamel and Goner. “We are deeply inspired by the hardcore rock, punk rock, and hip-hop music of the 90s in the 1980s,” Goner said. “We have always called ourselves the Beastie Boy in the NFT world (Beastie Boy, an American band with great influence in the post-punk era).

From the apocalyptic/Hawaiian landscape bar interior on the website to the lively style of Bored Ape itself, Bored Ape Yacht Club feels more like a 3A video game project rather than a collection of isolated NFTs. The combination of complex visual effects, subculture fashion accessories (shadows of hot topics), and conceited text makes the Boring Ape Universe a very harmonious portrayal of the Encrypted Brotherhood. “We learned a lesson from Hemingway’s iceberg theory,” Gargamel told me. “(The top of the iceberg is 10% visible, and all the foundations are below.”

Gargamel and Goner asked two other friends to join in, two programmers named No Sass and Emperor Tomato Ketchup, to handle the necessary blockchain programming. In order to realize the image conception of the project, they hired professional illustrators, which accounted for most of their upfront costs (according to the team, the upfront costs totaled about $40,000).

Like many avatar clubs, the characteristics of cartoon apes are then input into an algorithmic program that randomly generates thousands of images with different combinations of body, head, hat, and clothes, just like digital dressing up dolls. Certain features—rainbow fur, laser eyes, robes—are rarely seen, so they are rarer, and these apes are therefore more popular and valuable. Every picture is hidden and will not be revealed until the original collector pays, so buying a boring ape at first is a bit like playing with a blind box-if you are lucky enough to get an ape with high-quality features, you may make a huge profit . This is also a bit like participating in a multi-level direct marketing plan.

Usually, a small number of crypto whales purchase hundreds of NFTs, and then sell their stocks when the price rises; new collectors must be constantly found in order to make the previous collectors profit.

A large number of NFT projects have collapsed, or will not trigger the secondary market at all. As we all know, project founders may “run away with money”, abandon the project company and fly away with collectors’ money. Artamonovskaja, the founder of Electric Artefacts, speculates that Bored Ape Yacht Club’s popularity is due to its relatively good accessibility. “No one can afford CryptoPunk,” she told me. These great apes seem to be the second best choice-“a cool avatar at a reasonable price.” Artamonovskaja reselled an ape for about $1,500 shortly after the launch of the Boring Ape, and she regrets it now; the same one Bored Ape (wearing a Bored Ape Yacht Club brand baseball cap with a pop punk flavor) currently has a price tag of up to $12,000.

The taste of money

For the two founders who made a net profit of $2 million in initial sales, releasing a new NFT is no different from printing money. The fascinating stupidity of the image obscures the amount of capital involved. Investor Austin told me that the way he buys avatars is like “diligently invest in venture capital, which is interesting because I am looking at a fucking boring ape (not a project).”

Nevertheless, Goner told me that he and the other founders do not like to think of apes as an “investment tool.” He added, “If you have a sense of substitution and imagine that artists and geeks are running a hedge fund, that kind of situation is literally making us have a heart attack.”

Like many crowdfunding projects, each NFT club provides potential buyers with its “development roadmap” before launching, explaining how they will handle the funds raised. They promised to open a YouTube channel, donate to charities, and provide collectors with additional NFTs and physical goods. Bored Ape Yacht Club launched a branded baseball cap, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Ape Nature Reserve, and Bored Ape Kennel Club provided each collector with a dog NFT.

But it is also one of the first clubs to give individual buyers apes commercial rights: each member can use the boring apes he owns as their own project or product as a brand and sell them independently.

In the three months since the club’s establishment, the holder of Bored Ape has branded the series of craft beer with the Bored Ape he owns, and produced the YouTube series of cartoons, made painted replicas, and designed skateboards Painting. Clothing distributor Kyle Swenson launched a publication called “Bored Ape Gazette” (Bored Ape Gazette) to report on community news.

A coin holder named his boring ape “Jenkins the Valet” (Jenkins the Valet), gave him a background character as the number one propagator of yacht club gossip, and is crowdfunding an ape as his The theme of the novel.

NFT is not completely secure. Ownership is only represented by a line of code on the blockchain. In theory, anyone can copy an ape image and use it as an avatar. But the club will supervise this unauthorized copycat behavior. “The encrypted Twitter community has this understanding: you can’t steal other people’s avatars,” Artamonovskaja told me.

For most brands that export culture, whether it is Supreme streetwear, Marvel superheroes, or pop music, intellectual property rights are not allowed to circulate freely; exclusivity is its business model. In contrast, the founder of Bored Ape Yacht Club sees its openness as an asset. “Anything that people create with their own apes will only make the brand grow,” Goner said.

Just as Silicon Valley startups are obsessed with “scalable” software, the number of users serving them has grown exponentially. The NFT club aims to create a scalable culture; like open source software, their cultural creation can be organically expanded through the efforts of many users while maintaining recognizability, thus forming a user-made myth. Dom Hofmann, the co-founder of the now-defunct social network Vine, told me, “This is a bet on the assumption that over time, fans may know what is best for the small universe they care about.” He himself He is also the co-founder of the NFT club project Blitmap. Digital investor Austin envisions Bored Ape Yacht Club as a “decentralized Disney” in the future.

To some extent, it is this possibility that drives the popularity of the NFT club: buying a popular new avatar may get a small portion of the rights to the next Mickey Mouse image. However, taking Punk, who inspired Bored Ape Yacht Club, as an analogy, being too popular may be interpreted as not being able to buy tickets at all. What makes a team cool and what makes this team rich are not necessarily the same factor.

The startup founder Galligan kept two of his four boring apes. One of them, a bored ape wearing a beanie and heart-shaped sunglasses, is set as his Twitter profile picture-for now. “The closer it is to the so-called status, the less I want to keep it,” Galligan said. “If the sole purpose of a club is to rise, rise and then rise again, it is a bit low.”

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