October 20th, 2022 | My Curio Cards Meet Crypto Kitties. On The History of Plasma Bears

The Early Days of NFTs

Once upon a time, in ancient history, way before NFTs were cool, a number of small, indie projects launched on the Ethereum blockchain. Some of them were pure art projects. Others were tight online communities. Some of them were on-chain games, while others were designed as sociological or economical experiments.

Despite the NFT boom of 2021-2022, most of these historical NFT projects stay under the radar by the crowd until this day. Perhaps, their times of greatness will come in the future, when the public becomes more educated about the history of digital assets on the blockchain. 

This article is dedicated to one of the most iconic NFT projects of the early days, known as Plasma Bears: from the unique origin, through its historical significance, to their value and as a collectible. 

Leonidas. eth, 2019

The Idea Behind Plasma Bears. How Did It All Start?

Marguerite deCourcelle, a.k.a. the Coin Artist is a pioneer in the area of blockchain gaming. She started her activity in 2014 and teamed up with a number of blockchain experts to create Blockade Games, incorporated in 2018 together with Ben Heidorn and Diego Rodriguez with a mission to create free-to-play NFT games, popularize blockchain gaming, and make it so user-friendly that even a kid can play. In 2021, she was listed as #30 most influential person in the NFT world by Fortune Magazine.

In November 2018, Blockade Games raised over $833k in seed funding from investors including BlockTower Capital Partners and Horizon Digital and used this money to develop multiple Neon District, a free-access RPG in cyberpunk convention featuring collectible NFTs on Ethereum blockchain.

Plasma Bears were released as a game in early 2019 and placed on the Loom side-chain of the Ethereum network. As the Opensea description of the collection explains, 

“Plasma Bears is a casual social game about collecting, constructing, and adventuring. Collect bear parts to craft unique bears and send them on quests to earn loot and craft more bears! Plasma Bears is a casual social game about collecting, constructing, and adventuring.”

The game was a form of an online puzzle in which the user had to collect parts of bears representing 115 unique designs prepared by one of the associated artists and combine these designs into full-fledged bears. Every full bear consists of 7 parts: the head, the torso, 4 limbs, and a heart. Patchwork bears consisting of parts representing different designs were also full-fledged, functional Plasma Bears.

Users received daily random bear parts if they logged into the website every day. They would get one random bear part each time and then could trade or exchange parts with friends to create a full bear. 

Bear parts also had an added adjective to describe them, with 10% chance each — Angry, Cheeky, Despair, Flirty, Happy, Joyful, Sad, Sexy, Surprised, and Sassy – as well as varying rarities: common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, and Legendary. Every bear part was also coming with five traits: Strength, Agility, Cunning, Heart, and Stamina. These stats were added up after assembling a full bear. 

Having assembled a bear, you could have taken part in a daily adventure to win badges or upgrades to your bear – packages of bear parts that could improve the stats of your bear, depending on the mission difficulty.

The Plasma Bears’ Artists

Plasma Bears designs were a team effort from a number of artists, including:

Xcopy: a digital artist active in the NFT space and crypto art, known for his dystopian style. He has been publishing NFT art since 2018 via platforms such as SuperRare and others. His most famous piece is Right-Click and Save As Guy, which sold for approximately $7,000,000 on 9 December 2021. Xcopy’s art gallery: https://xcopy.art/

Cybourgeoisie, a.k.a. Ben Heidorn: The CTO and Co-Founder of Blockade Games, previously a Graduate Student in Computer Science and Research Assistant in Computer Security at Penn State University, and Software Developer and Team Leader in Agriculture. Also involved in the Cyberbrokers collection by Josie Bellini.

Hellocatfood, a.k.a. Antonio Roberts: A visual artist, musician, and curator based in Birmingham, UK, working with video, code, and sound. He is interested in online culture and the ways technology shapes creation and ownership. Currently, also Project Lead for (Algo|Afro) Futures: a mentoring program for Black artists to explore the creative potential of live coding.

…As well as other artists known under nicknames crOwn, psyklon, mysterious-animator, luigy, casper, alchemist, techstars and others.

The Designs

Please find examples of designs by the Plasma Bears artists below (one example per artist):

Index

Design

Name

# of copies

Artist

0

Gold Bear #1

 

zden

3

digitalroadrash

 

ila

4

Bearnoiz #1

 

zden

10

Colorflow #1

 

hellocatfood

22

Glitch #1

 

xcopy

25

Cr0wn #1

 

cr0wn

41

TV Static

 

cybourgeoisie

49

Campaign Supernova

 

[cr0wn, psyklon]

50

ARGSS

 

luigy

69

Enigma

 

[enigma, cr0wn]

70

Loom Network

 

[loom, cr0wn]

71

loop-trippy

 

psyklon

74

4-bit

 

mysterious-animator

113

Techstars

 

[techstars, cr0wn]

114

Alchemist

 

[alchemist, cr0wn]

115

CasperLabs

 

[casper, cr0wn]

Patchwork Bears

Although over 100 original designs were created for the bears, some of the full bears are patchwork between a few designs. This makes them unique and one-of-a-kind. For example, a bear named “Sexy Bear”:

Notable Holders as of October 2022

Despite silence in the media, Plasma Bears won dedicated fans among the most influential NFT investors. One such influential figure vocal about Plasma Bears is Gary Vee.

Gary Vee is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and Internet personality who gained international acclaim as the Founder and CEO of the VaynerX Group and a motivational speaker before he started his activity in the NFT space. Today, he leads VeeFriends, one of the most valued and popular NFT projects, which recently landed $50 million in venture funding

Gary famously declared in an interview with Coinbase (February 2021): 

             “If I had to give one NFT to my kids that wasn’t a VeeFriend, I
              would probably give them my Xcopy Plasma Bear. There is a
              project from 2018 called Plasma Bears that really matters to
              me. (…) 

              I’ve been very thoughtful and focused trying to find female
              artists that I enjoy. Plasma Bears done by a female project in
              2018, had 5, 6, or 10 different artists make the bears. One of
              these artists was Xcopy. Xcopy in the last 3-4 years has gone
              on to become easily one of the most collectible and most
              expensive, and most sought-after artists in the world.

             Gary (me!) as a collector loves providence and origins. It’s why
             I like NFT. The fact that somebody did a little project for
             probably a couple of bucks (I don’t know the details) but went
             on to become the Xcopy… there is everything for me about it.
             (…)

              Female-led project in 2018, Xcopy made 3 bears, and here is
            the best part: they did have a side chain. That side-chain failed,
              layer 2. It was crushed. Disappeared! The community got very
             little time to know that you can get your bears over, so many
            of the bears burned in the ether. Gone! In essence, my favorite
             stories. Burned in the fire! (…)

             So, everything that my collector and origin and providence
             are, happened in this project. Female-led project (early by the
             way!), burned, lost, bears so there’s less than it should be…
             and one of the five most important artists made it. I figured
             that out and found 3 full Xcopy bears (…). Right now
             they are my price position NFT.”

However, the list is much longer.

To mention just a few notable holders:

Vitalik Buterin is a Russian-Canadian software developer best known as one of the co-founders of Ethereum, next to Gavin Wood, Charles Hoskinson, Anthony Di Iorio, and Joseph Lubin. Since Plasma Bears were launched on the Ethereum network, a special bear known under the name Vitalik’s Bear was created and airdropped to him as a gift. 

Logan Paul is an American wrestler and YouTuber, wrestling under the WWE brand and at the same time developing his YouTube channel “Logan Paul Vlogs” with over 23 million subscribers. The channel is listed in the top hundred channels in the US. Logan also became an NFT creator and launched his own collection of NFTs, “99 Originals.”

Matt Medved is an American entrepreneur, journalist, DJ, and record producer. He launched NFT Now, a web3 media company focused on non-fungible token (NFT) coverage and curation. He also established Billboard Dance, Billboard‘s dance and electronic music channel.

Steve Aoki is an American DJ and record producer. Steve collaborated with top artists including will.i.am, Afrojack, BTS, LMFAO, Linkin Park, Iggy Azalea, Lil Jon, blink-182, Backstreet Boys, Vini Vici, and Fall Out Boy and is known for his remixes of multiple artists including Kid Cudi. He established the Steve Aoki Charitable Fund, which raises money for global humanitarian relief organizations.

Tom Bilyeu is an American entrepreneur and a co-founder of Quest Nutrition, which sold for $1 billion to Simply Good Food. In October 2016 Bilyeu and his wife, Lisa, started Impact Theory, a for-profit media company created to “leverage the self-sustaining power of commerce to radically influence global culture.”

The Loom Network Disaster

In May 2020, the Loom network got closed, leaving little time for the Plasma Bear owners to migrate their bears onto the Ethereum mainnet. Players could technically bridge their bears over to Ethereum, but due to gas fees and lack of market activity, few people did. On this occasion, most bear owners, including Marguerite deCourcelle herself, lost their bears forever. The disaster caused only 1,209 out of about 80,000 full bears to remain in existence. As of today, the game can no longer be played… but the bears can be traded via Opensea.

Where Does The Real Value of NFT Projects Lie?

Is it a unique storyline? 

The Plasma Bears story is unique, in the sense that it happened rather than being crafted, or directed. NFT projects of today develop extensive, multilevel roadmaps and engage established brands and artists to capture and keep the attention of their users. 

On the contrary, Plasma Bears’ story was marked by a “natural disaster,” namely the breakdown of the LOOM network. As a project, Plasma Bears do not promise anything; while getting a bear, you invest in the past and in history, not in the future.

Is it scarcity? 

After the LOOM network went down, only 1,209 full bears successfully migrated to the Ethereum mainnet and remained alive. Compared to other, modern NFT collections, this makes for an extremely scarce collection. 

Is it history? 

You can beat being the most modern and technologically advanced project… but you cannot beat being the first. Leonidas NFT is an acknowledged specialist in what he calls “NFT archaeology.” Leonidas consequently lists Plasma Bears among the most important historical NFT collections. Plasma Bears were innovative in many ways at a time and made it to the pantheon of the most significant projects in NFT history.

Is it sentiment? 

Let’s be real – everyone had a teddy bear as a kid. Both guys and girls, we all recognize the concept of a teddy bear. This is also why, aesthetically, Plasma Bears appeal to many. While some other classic NFT collections are more turpistic and controversial in style, Plasma Bears have a soft design pleasant for the eye, that brings back good memories from childhood.

Not to mention the fact that as a game, Plasma Bears were a form of an on-chain puzzle. Who didn’t play puzzles as a kid?? Everybody did. 

Lastly, is it the banter between the artists? 

The fact that Plasma Bears were created by a team of artists also draws attention to the project. The phenomenon of the superhero squads such as “The Avengers” franchise by Marvel or “The Justice League” by DC Comics, or world-renowned bands such as BTS, demonstrates how team effort and banter between characters or artists matters to the audiences. 

And who knows what the future brings… Perhaps in the future, not only Xcopy but also other Plasma Bears artists will build their names as artists in the NFT community and beyond. After all, they are all still active in the community. 

For instance, cybourgeoisie is now a mastermind behind the on-chain tokenomics of the widely successful Cyberbrokers collection by Josie Bellini, and Coinartist, still leading the Neon District project, is slowly becoming an icon in the space. Who knows, perhaps in some time, when the world will learn more about them, Plasma Bears artists will indeed turn into the Avengers of web3?

The Future of Plasma Bears

In the summer of 2021, the market value of Plasma Bears suddenly skyrocketed when the guru in the industry, Gary Vee, publicly announced that he personally invests in the bears.

Now in the bear market, the project is rather low key, but the owners and fans of the bears still meet at the dedicated Plasma Bears channel of the Neon District’s Discord server. The owners enjoy special “Plasma Bears” Discord roles at the server and meet to discuss (vintage) NFTs and enjoy the conversation with the project creators. 

But what’s the future of Plasma Bears? Is there ANY future in the first place? Is the game going to get revived? Is it going to become a store of value for the experienced NFT collectors? Or, become a living statue of failure in on-chain gaming? Or perhaps, we can expect some new utility to Plasma Bears?

Gary Vee himself declared that his Plasma Bears authored by XCopy are a long-term game, namely, an investment for 2050, not 2025. As of today, the management of Neon District is not planning for revival of the game. And perhaps, this is better for the legend of Plasma Bears. At the end of the day, it was not the most sophisticated on-chain game ever created, and their uniqueness lies in their story.

The Plasma Bears announced on their website:

            “We’re sad to inform you that Plasma Bears is officially
              shutting down. We’re incredibly proud of the Plasma Bears
             community, and inspired by how much you loved crafting and
             collecting your bears. We hope to someday bring Plasma
            Bears back to you in a new, upgraded form. If you’d like to see
             this, please reach out to us at our Discord. Neon District is
            going live to the public in a few short weeks. Everything we’ve
            built for Plasma Bears has been rebuilt stronger and faster for
            a fun, immersive cyberpunk role-playing game experience with
            play-to-earn collectibles on the Matic Network. Come sign up
            for Neon District and join us in our Discord. See you around.”

Does this mean that we can expect a reboot and Plasma Bears v2.0 in the future? We are yet to wait and watch!

———

Sources:

Leonidas.eth (2019). The Definitive Timeline of Early NFTs on Ethereum. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/LeonidasNFT/status/1470397114169630726/photo/1 

Tsagkarakis, G. (2020, May 9th). LOOM Network abandons Games in Favor of the Healthcare and Travel Industry. Retrieved from https://egamers.io/loom-network-abandons-games/ 

Larkin, L. (2021, August 31st). Coin Artist and the History of Plasma Bears. Retrieved from https://www.one37pm.com/nft/plasma-bears-marguerite-decourcelle-coin-artist-interview 

Vee, G. (2021, February 12th). Take Advantage Of The NFT Wave, The Right Way (Interview With Coinbase). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwMJ6bScB2s (the statement about Plasma Bears starts at 16:05).

https://everipedia.org/wiki/lang_en/plasma-bears-nft 

Cuen. L. (2018, November 16th). Bitcoin Puzzle Artist’s Crypto Gaming Startup Now Valued at $13 Million. Retrieved from

https://www.coindesk.com/markets/2018/11/16/bitcoin-puzzle-artists-crypto-gaming-startup-now-valued-at-13-million/

Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2022, October 20th). My Curio Cards Meet Crypto Kitties. On The History of Plasma Bears. Retrieved from https://nataliabielczyk.com/on-the-history-of-plasma-bears

* * *

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