It was a normal Thursday – as normal as they get when you’re in 10KTF. I was live-streaming with Meby for the DAM show – a Thursday afternoon mainstay, where we comment on 10KTF updates as they happen. DiamondHandz was tied up with IRL work and said he’d be on later. We were copy-pastaing in Discord. Checking blockchain transactions. Scanning Twitter for new notifications. The usual. And then, I see a message on the live stream:
“IS THAT MEBY AND ATAREH?” – Press
Curious about what he meant, I looked closer at the latest 10KTF tweet. It showed Wen Moon standing in front of a bulletin board. My name is probably hidden somewhere – a first for me, but not Meby or Diamond.
But the team loves to hide easter eggs like this. But something felt off about the message Press sent – why would he be so excited for another name easter egg? That’s not new, at least not anymore. They’ve been doing it for months.”
And that’s when I finally went to Battle.town, (the subject of the tweet in question) and…
Queue this reaction (remember, we were live streaming and it was all caught on camera).
While that was just the beginning of that week’s excitement, there’s a lot more that came in the following days as the campaign for votes was launched by each of the Captains.
Today, I want to take you through everything that happened from my perspective after being named one of the Captains in 10KTF.
I. Hey Atareh, Surprise! You’re a 10KTF Captain!
Let’s talk about the reveal on battle.town for a moment.
My only warning was an innocuous message: “Stay on the stream for as long as possible today.”
And I’m happy we decided to keep streaming. It’s a reaction I’ve watched back a few times now. When you’re surprised, emotions take over, and all social facades and pretenses fall off – at that moment we became kids again, just for a brief moment. I forgot I was still being live-streamed to hundreds of people, including the WENEW team. A million thoughts raced through my head, but I couldn’t hear them. I was overrun with emotion (read: adrenaline).
I think you can intrinsically tell when something big is happening. You don’t need to think about it consciously, your body takes over. Your body feels it. The rush.
But when I did get a moment to think about it, it sank in that much more:
You’re a character in a story you’ve been following for close to a year. It’s one of the most exciting projects in the NFT space, of the few that captured thousands of people’s attention for almost a year (which in NFT time, let’s be honest, is a decade). It’s a project founded by wildly accomplished individuals in and outside the NFT space. Your DMs and mentions on every platform are blowing up. Guy Oseary starts following you on Twitter. This is big.
Personally, it was validation that I’m on the right path and that I decided to invest my time and energy in the right team. Call it luck. Or a deeper knowing that something greater was being built here, even all the way back in September 2021. Many OGs will attest that: we knew.
Then, just as quickly, another realization sets in: you’re now in a competition.
II. Competing with your partners and the opportunity ahead
You can see the realization hit me and the switch in posture on the live stream. Apprentice BamBam is asking for “BLOOOOOOD” in the comments. This captaincy wasn’t just a cute moment for the three of us, it was also a popularity contest. Between my co-hosts (and friends). That means a winner and losers. More cries for blood in the chat. Oh shit.
Nobody likes to lose. The least of all me, and I’ve always been this way. It’s probably why I work as much as I do. In a competition, you tend to frame your competitors as your “enemy” – it’s easier to go to battle that way, psychologically speaking. We’ve all done it, whether you realize it or not. But, this was different. While Meby and Diamond were now my competitors (and just for the next few days), they were my friends and co-hosts first. They would continue to be so after this competition ended. This is a lot to process for me. How do they feel about all this? I should probably check on them.
After the 4-hour live stream and the impromptu debate on Thursday, the three of us finally got a moment to breathe. Our heads are still spinning, so are our mentions on Twitter and Discord.
We’re all now front and center on the 10KTF stage, and we have a job to do: put on a show. We recognize this is an incredible opportunity and moment for us individually and for the DAM show collectively.
While we are now technically in competition, we still needed to keep the connection between us three solid – that’s what makes our on-screen dynamic great. It’s easy to say, “no hard feelings, let’s have fun,” at the beginning of a competition, but when you’re in the thick of it and start to feel the pressure, things can fray. And let’s be honest, the easiest thing to do is to keep it a “friendly competition”, but the harsh truth is: that’s boring. Bland entertainment. The audience demands blood. Claws had to come out.
We ended our video chat debrief with a reminder: that this was a test. From who? Not sure tbh – be it the WENEW team, the universe, whatever. But framing it that way helped us keep the main thing the main thing: we’re all trying to make it in web3. As of that date, we’d only been shooting the DAM show for just under eight weeks. It may feel like we’ve been around for a while, but we’re still brand new. We know “making it” in entertainment is not easy – especially in a space as crazy as crypto and NFTs. There will be difficulties and pressures, both external and internal. We will inevitably butt heads with each other – it’s not about avoiding those realities, but navigating them together. It’s in those challenges and hardships that great friendships are forged, and we saw this competition as that.
Two months in, how solid is the DAM crew, really? Are our laughs just for the camera, or can we get through this and still put on a show?
Can we handle this new level of attention (and the inevitable scrutiny), or do we crack under pressure?
We’d share some barebones campaign ideas we all had and ended the call shortly after, knowing the real work would now begin.
III. My campaign theme: Fight with atareh
That night lying in bed, my brain is firing on all cylinders. What will my campaign be about? What story should I tell? How should I tell it?
At the same time, I‘m reminded that I have a (big) move coming in 3 days – a move that I have not started packing for. Never mind that – you’ll find time for packing later; you have a job to do right now.
Even that first night lying in bed, I knew I would use video to tell my story. I’m obsessed with telling stories. I’d already directed a few DAM show opening skits, so it just felt right. As I share more of myself with the web3 community, it felt right to introduce another layer of myself: I’ve been training in Muay Thai for two years, so I’d do a “fight” video; it felt right given what’s to come in New Tokyo: fighting the Kaiju. My campaign would be centred on: fighting with me rather than for me. Any leader worth their salt knows that you must be willing to get in the trenches and do the dirty work – to be there alongside your soldiers on the frontlines. Show, don’t tell. Let’s show everyone.
That video was one of the many ideas I wanted to execute. There was also a campaign website, IRL lawn signs, smear campaign videos… the list went on. But I had to remind myself constantly that I only had three days (and I needed to pack still). So as any good product manager worth their salt knows: you work with the resources you have, and within the constraints you’re given. You don’t try to conjure up more time. Those reminders narrowed my focus solely on my campaign video.
The campaign video
The campaign video would be my anchor. Something people could point to and watch when they ask the question: who should I vote for in my battle.town points?
The video had to do a few jobs, all while being constrained to 2 minutes and 20 seconds (the maximum length allowed on a Twitter video):
- Explain the situation and stakes to a broad audience*
- Introduce the three Captains
- Reveal my song choice
- Convince people that atareh is the right Captain for the job
*If you’re in 10KTF and spend time in Discord, then you know what’s happening and why it matters: Toadz mad. Summons Kaiju. New Tokyo attacked. Wagmi-san building mech. Buy time for him with a song. But we must remember the bubble we’re in. Do outsiders know wtf is going on? Do people who only dabble with 10KTF and aren’t die-hard understand the stakes and why picking a song matters? Wait, how tf is a song going to help…? Never mind that for now.
Giving context and explaining the stakes is paramount for every story – movie studios spend millions to produce a trailer that’s just right. Give enough context to get people to care, without revealing too much.
I felt 10KTF and this Captains’ arc needed a trailer. The goal was to get you to understand why voting with your battle.town points mattered. It didn’t matter if you were an OG or just entered the project, watching the first half of my campaign video would explain the situation and what’s at stake: A Kaiju threatens the future of New Tokyo, and you can help in the battle by picking the right Captain with the right song.
So, what was the right song for me?
Picking a song
In my campaign video, I’m running at 6:00 am in an undisclosed location in New Tokyo while flicking through songs, deciding which one I’d go with. Was that how I actually picked my song? Of course not.
But the actual process wasn’t too far off. I had a few options, from 10KTF classics (shoutout JEON SOYEON) to Toronto Classics. All those felt unrelated to my campaign and shoe-horned in. Since my theme was “fight with atareh,” I went deeper into the fight music genre. Initially, I was sure I was going with the Rocky theme music (trumpets, not Tiger).
But I got great advice from some great people (specifically, Viranda and holdemlouis). It was: “Be authentic. That’s what got you here, that’s what people love.”
While the Rocky theme was great fight music, it wasn’t true to me. I didn’t grow up with or care for it too much. Hip-Hop was my bread and butter. My childhood. That’s where Till I Collapse by Eminem became the obvious choice. Pair that song with a Kaiju catching these hands on a boxing bag, some 10KTF easter eggs** and I felt I had a winner.
**Keen observers noticed the Stupidly Sharp Scissors and Long Ass Measuring Tape at 1:48.
*** Check out the behind the scenes and bloopers cut of my campaign video here
IV. Losing, gracefully
I said it earlier: I don’t like to lose. Whether it’s a pickup soccer match, a friendly game of foosball, or a 10KTF election. But everyone must learn how to lose and do so gracefully; it’s a part of life.
And lose in this election I did. How do I feel about it? Not so bad, all things considered, because I put in a lot of effort. I’m happy with how my campaign unfolded and what I was able to create in the middle of a move to another undisclosed location. (It’s also not lost on me that, while I came third, the DAM show collectively won by being elevated on this stage. Keeping perspective is essential when the ego flares up).
After three days of getting four hours of sleep, I finally slept ten hours the day of the battle.town registration was ending. I woke up that Tuesday morning (read: 11:30 am) remembering a comment my mom had made to me a few days prior:
“There are terrible floods in Pakistan right now; consider helping in some way; people need it.”
I had filed that comment away somewhere in the recesses of my brain at the moment, given everything on my plate. But I did put it away somewhere safe because it resurfaced that morning. and for a reason.
As the battle.town mission registration timer ticked from hours to minutes, I knew that people were expecting a statement from the winner and losers of this competition, be it a tweet, a thread or something more elaborate. We had just done three days of what felt like a political campaign, so at that moment, it only felt right to end it with something on brand: a politician’s statement conceding and recognizing defeat.
The format was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, referencing how Obama posts statements on Twitter; I hope that was not lost on people. (No, I don’t think I’m that self-important to be posting long statements on Twitter). While the format was meant to be facetious, the message was not: while we battled our metaverse Kaiju, others fought one IRL with real-life consequences.
I was blessed to be in this position, to be hosting the DAM show with two great people, and to be elevated to center stage alongside them for that week in 10KTF. I didn’t want all that attention to only be about us. Attention is powerful, and if you can capture it, you can capture value. I wanted to make sure that something I deeply cared about got some of the attention, too. That’s why I wrote that statement. To everyone that donated or shared the message, thank you – know that you’ve made a difference, even if you don’t feel it.
From start to finish, the campaign was five days – a workweek. One of 52 we get in a year. But wasn’t just another “workweek.” Time slowed down. It tends to when you’re thrust into novel experiences. With most things in life, what you put in is what you get out of it. I’ve put a lot of time into 10KTF and this community. I wanted to do the same with this opportunity: to put on a show for everyone. To do my part in creating an experience that everyone will remember. I hope I achieved that because what happened that week was historic: It was the first time in NFT history that community members entered the lore.
Thank you for the wild times, Grailed. Here’s to many more. See you in NYC.
– Captain atareh.