Gamifying Crypto — The Benefits of Personalized Avatars

A new development named “monKey” is testing if combining gaming elements with identicons adds to a coin’s growth and value


A lot of obstacles are standing in the path of cryptocurrencies’ mass adoption, ranging from price volatility to inefficient user experience. From a UX standpoint, a major part of cryptocurrencies is not really optimized— the wallet address, also known as a public key. A public keys is a long string of digits and characters. It represents the user’s ID. The length of this string makes it nearly indistinguishable from a similar string that differs by a couple of characters, usually caused by a typo. Therefore, the process of sending funds between users is highly error prone.


Ethereum public key visual representation — Blockies

An identicon is a visual representation of a hash value that serves to identify a user of a computer system in a form of an avatar while protecting the users’ privacy. Identicons in crypto are not new. Ethereum uses identicons (known as Blockies). These identicons are not meant to replace user profiles. They serve as security icons that aid the user as they are a convenient way to check if an address he wants to interact with is the correct one. The symmetrical aspect of the icons allows our brain to see faces or objects, making the icon more recognizable.

Identicons are useful as a second layer transaction verification method and Blockies gets the job done mainly because of a psychological phenomenon known as ”Predriollia”, defined as an event in which the mind responds to a stimulus, usually an image or a sound, by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists. Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations.

The following questions arise: Why would our brain need to imagine faces? Why force it into a mental exercise when we can display an actual familiar physical object?

Your wallet’s public key is its identity, so why does it have to be so boring? One Cryptocurrency is trying to change that with monKey.

Banano — Nano’s first official fork

DISCLAIMER: I am a Banano Developer.

Banano is the first official fork of NANO and was developed to offer fee-less, almost instant micro-transactions. Banano started as a joke between a devoted group of NANO contributors and resulted in a coin that is a product of a considerable amount of effort without taking itself too seriously.

I have mentioned Banano in my previous article:

Banano’s goal is not to replace Bitcoin as the leading form of digital cash. Instead, it thrives to be a gateway for people that do not know anything about cryptocurrencies or think that the barrier for entry is too high, as it demands some technical skills.

It does so by gamifying certain aspects of crypto that can be hard to grasp by non tech savvy groups such as the elderly and young children. Numerous stories were brought up about how people that lacked Cryptocurrency knowledge claimed that earning virtual coins in Banano’s main coin distribution method, a game entitled “Banano Runner”, was an enjoyable experience.

Banano Runner gameplay. You can hear children enjoying the game in the background

After gamifying coin distribution, the next step was to gamify the user’s identity-his public key. The goal in mind was to create a more personal user experience

Public key + monkey = monKey

monKey Promo

A monKey is a unique monkey-shaped avatar that is generated using a Banano public key. Each monKey has a unique combination of fur color, eye color and additional accessories such as hats, glasses, shirts, pants, mouth types, tail decorations etc. In order to make it even more fun, the value of the accessories is classified into 3 categories: Basic, Rare and Premium which differ in the probability of showing up. There are hundreds of billions of possible monKey combinations. Each avatar is unique.

Several crypto related projects are proudly declaring that their identicons come in 100,000+ different shapes and forms. With that in mind, let us examine the monKey numbers: An RGB color ranges from (0,0,0) to (255,255,255). Therefore, there are 256³ = 16,777,216 color options. By only examining fur color and eye color generation we get 16,777,216² = 281,474,976,710,656 monKey options. This is without even considering the 7 classes of accessories and their corresponding coloring. The number of possible monKey combinations is too large for the human brain to comprehend.

Some technical details

As the purpose of these monKeys was to be integrated into every Banano web and native application, the monKey generation process had to be quick. A big issue with this was the way of handling coloring and the number of accessories we had in our inventory.

Flood fill algorithm

At the beggining of the development process, I believed that working with a PNG format might work. The coloring was handled on the server using a Flood Fill algorithm and the accessories were stacked over a base picture.

The problem: The size of the accessories directory was over 3MB which was in no way suitable for web applications. As a result, a monKey was generated in approximately 7–9 seconds and weighted an average amount of 500kb. No thank you.

The Solution: Transforming every PNG image into an SVG format changed the whole process drastically. As no suitable Python SVG parser that efficiently handles image appending existed, a custom one had to be written. This parser reduced the size of every SVG image by removing unnecessary XML elements. It also changed class names in the CSS-formatted “style” section in the SVG so the colors of every layer will not blend. The finalized avatar was compressed using gzip before it was uploaded to a CDN and with the help of AWS CloudFront for images delivery, the results were better than expected. The generation process now takes approximately 2 seconds and the average weight of an avatar is 10kb. Now we’re talking.

Blockchain Gaming

Although not generated from a user’s public key, a lot of similarities can be found with the famous Ethereum based dapp “Crypto Kitties”. These kitties are what’s known as “Crypto Collectables”- A cryptographically proven scarce digital commodity. As some of these cats are more rare than others, there exists an actual supply and demand for them. At the highest point of their popularity, a rare Crypto Kitty was sold for 250 ETH which was worth 115,000$ at the time.

CryptoKitties are simply a visual representation of a hash

At least some aspects of Blockchain gaming are proved to be working. Taking a bit of inspiration from them and subtly injecting it into more traditional applications, such as wallets, might be a good idea.

monKey integration and usage

A custom website was made for monKey testing. The monKey generator allows you to experiment with monKey without having a real wallet address (even though creating one is recommended and only takes seconds). It allows you to explore monKey possibilities and choose the parameters you want, such as background addition and a different image format. You are welcome to try it for yourself, maybe you will be lucky and draw a Premium accessory.

The monKey generator receives a Banano wallet adderss as input and outputs a unique monkey avatar

Using a third party API, monKey was integrated into Banano most used applications:

monKey integration in Banano’s official wallet adds security benefits as it is easier for the brain to remember images than words

monKeys used as avatars in for personification

As can be seen, monKey is being utilized both as an additional security measure and as a creative personalized avatar. While the security benefits of a pictorial wallet address were previously brought up, the recreational aspects were not yet discussed.

How can an avatar add more value?

Using a one-to-one public key to avatar relation may just be the beginning. Blockchain gaming is getting an increasing amount of exposure. Gamifying aspects such as a public key opens up a ton of new possibilities. Psychologically speaking, people crave customization. Character customization is a big deal in the gaming world because it pulls the player into the story.

Top project contributors can earn a vanity avatar

Imagine earning rare accessories for achievements that are gained by contributing to the network. Wouldn’t it be cool if your avatar earned a crown because you were running a node for 30 days straight? Due to the fact that each avatar is unique, another interesting option is to develop a p2p marketplace for avatars and accessories. Creating an avatar customization economy adds another use case to the currency.

Final thoughts

One of the reasons cryptocurrencies are not yet mainstream is due to the fact that a lot of the population find them difficult to operate. The wallet address form is a financial hazard. Therefore, using an identicon as a second layer security mechanism is a good practice. Nevertheless, current identicons are often boring and not personalized. Why not make them more accessible and friendly? Personalized avatars such as monKey may aid in bringing in a cut of the population that is currently not interested in anything Cryptocurrency related.

monKey is an example of how incorporating gaming elements into the more technical parts of crypto can create value. Creating an identity from a public key is an interesting experiment, the results of which might change the way Cryptocurrency applications will be developed in the future.

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