In autumn 2013, nearly a decade before NFTs came to disrupt the art world, I began to assemble a vast collection of 3D artworks.
I was then exploring Second Life. In this virtual world, items can either be unique and transferable, or duplicable and non-transferable. Having a duplicable object is far preferable since, over periods of maintenance and other updates of the metaverse, it regularly swallows the objects used to build its own universe, which then disappear into the digital void. A copyable object is thus infinitely duplicable, but impossible to transfer to another account.
However, non-copyable objects, therefore unique specimens, quickly find their use.
And their value.
My desire for collection arose on Flickr, the social network where I published images of my avatar. As I was consulting the public thread of the community, I saw an image titled darkroom supplies gacha by Floorplan appear. The components of a photographic darkroom were grouped there. Trays, chemistry bottles, tongs and of course the centerpiece: the enlarger.
I spent a decade in my own darkroom, thoroughly exploring photography. Seeing this reproduction of the familiar toolset, I was moved, amused; I was a customer. I wanted this virtual set immediately. I already imagined the installation I would create in my pixelated manor. I followed the link provided with the image and teleported myself to the site of a new event, which I had never heard of before, and which was to become the most famous in Second Life history.
Four times a year, The Arcade still brings together hundreds of artists from around the world to present their gacha collections.
In Japan, gachas, or gachapons, are vending machines that operate with coins. Players turn a crank and a random prize is expelled by a metal mouth. It is usually a collectible toy, sometimes part of a complete set. Unlike the toy vending machines we are used to in the West, gachas are not cheap disposable objects; the prizes are high quality, often limited edition and popular among collectors of all ages.
The gachapon was popularized in the 1960s by Ryuzo Shigeta, who is nicknamed "gacha gacha Oji-san" or the grandfather of gacha. Toy vending machines have been around since the 1880s. However, it is Shigeta who came up with the idea of enclosing each toy in the characteristic plastic balls that have become synonymous with gachapon.
The virtual version proposed by The Arcade immediately sparked enthusiasm and a fervor of collectors. While real gachapon collections often limit themselves to dolls, miniatures or plush toys, in the virtual world, everything is conceivable. Whether it's body parts, vehicles, furniture or even real estate.
During my first visit to The Arcade, I knew nothing about virtual gachas. After spotting the image seen on Flickr at the top of an elegant machine, I paid the requested price, or 50 lindens (about 20 cents). It seemed very cheap to me. A set of this kind could easily sell for ten times more. After my purchase, I teleported home. A few seconds later, when my new acquisition appeared on the floor of my virtualhouse, I was seized with dread. There was no box to open to extract the darkroom set. There was only a pair of tongs. Perhaps I had not seen the purchase options correctly.
I went back to the machine. I looked at the image again and noted that the word RARE appeared twice. What could that mean? I clicked to pay the machine again. This time, bottles appeared. By clicking repeatedly, I saw the different objects of the collection line up in my inventory. All commons. No RARE. The duplicates multiplied. I had six pairs of tongs. I must have spent the equivalent of $5 to get half the objects in the collection.
Around me, dozens of avatars clicked at the same time on one or another of the dozens of gacha machines. I discovered diversified and imaginative collections that day. Some included science fiction musical instruments, animated jewelry, baby dragons that could turn into companions to walk with, or more abstract objects relevant to experimental sculpture.
I had just ventured onto a new continent of the metaverse that I had been frequenting for six years already.
I saw comments from happy people who had won the coveted item and others who accumulated an indecent number of commons they didn't know what to do with passing in the public chat. A bot repeatedly announced that it was possible to join the event group to exchange gachas. I then posted in the group a list of the collection objects I was missing and I immediately received many messages. I traded my duplicates with other collectors, some of whom are still my friends today. I became a fan of several artists, notably the king of gachas, iBi 8f8, of whom I own all the works.
My love for gachas was doubly exposed on two covers of my novels. LODE created the flower crown titled Apple Blossom [cidonia] RARE which masks the face of my avatar on the cover of De synthèse. And Curling Wand & Flat Iron / Pink from artist Floorplan, the very one with which I started my gacha collection, sits on the reissue of Ataraxie.
We are several gacha collectors who have become interested in NFTs. In 2021, I joined the Tezos blockchain which hosts a vibrant community of artists. I also swapped my collector's hat for that of an artist and I minted several of my works in this digital ecosystem. About ten of them were acquired by the permanent art collection of the Tezos Foundation.
gachas images | text :