Matt Sanders (a.k.a. M. Shadows) is the lead vocalist for heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold. But he’s a lot more than just a famous metalhead: he’s also a gamer, a CryptoPunk, and one of the minds behind the band's 2014 dungeon crawler PC role-playing game called Hail to the King: Deathbat.

On the latest episode of Decrypt’s gm podcast, Sanders shared his perspective on video games that leverage crypto and NFTs—and took a strong stance against so-called “experts” rallying against Web3 technology.

“I’m a gamer, so I understand digital goods,” he said of his early affinity for purely virtual assets. “I understand that there’s a scarcity to it.”


Sanders was relatively early to crypto, and said he bought Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin around 2016. But he was also early to NFTs, and became enamored with the early CryptoPunks community.

“This was a very sophisticated, forward-thinking group of people,” he said of the CryptoPunks Discord server. “I honestly learned a lot from them. And I became friends with a lot of them in real life.”

Sanders has immersed himself in crypto and gaming—and sees the two as a natural fit. Like many NFT advocates, he's not content with paying big bucks for digital items in the closed, "walled garden" ecosystems of traditional online video games.

“It’s insane that we pay the money we pay for the skins,” he said of cosmetic items in non-crypto games like battle royale shooter Fortnite.


In Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), cosmetic weapon skins can sell for anywhere from hundreds of dollars to six-figure sums on the secondary market—but they only work in CS:GO. And in many games, like Fortnite, those purchased items can only be resold in so-called “gray markets” that may violate the game publisher’s terms of service.

Like many gamers who are open to the possibilities of NFTs and crypto in video games, Sanders believes that making such high-value items easily sellable and transferable raises the stakes of games to the next level. He raised the possibility that some could seek to exploit such economies, but predicts that tech solutions will be developed.

“It could be scary-cool,” he said of a possible blockchain game with high stakes, “or it could be just simply what our kids are doing.” 

He echoed a sentiment shared by top crypto gaming industry players like Gala Games, Solana, and Magic Eden: The next generation of tokenized games actually need to be fun, and no amount of crypto rewards or incentives can make a bad game good.

“You have to have a great game first. It can’t be, ‘Oh, we’re an NFT game, and here’s our game,'" Sanders said. "It has to be, 'This is a great game, and everyone wants to play.'"

He’s also not the biggest fan of crypto jargon like “Web3 gaming,” and argued that such terms can create confusion and branding issues. Instead, the singer wants to see content and utility brought to the foreground. Still, he didn’t mince words when asked about the broader backlash against NFTs in gaming.

“There’s just pushback everywhere,” he said, adding that mainstream media has harpooned all of crypto with “experts” that don’t actually understand the tech.

“Humans are storytelling, narrative-based things, right? They need a story, they need to have a narrative, they rally behind things, and they're very tribal,” Sanders argued. “What's happening now is everything is working against this narrative of, ‘This can help you.’ And so it's become so strong that there's just gonna have to be some really nice use cases.”


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