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Why the 'Crypto: The Game' Winner Donated the $200K Prize to Support Tornado Cash Devs

The second season of Crypto: The Game—a competition inspired by reality TV hit “Survivor” that spans both online and real-world competitions—came to a conclusion last week with the anonymous winner, Player 733, taking home the prize pool of nearly 72 ETH (about $210,000).

But they’re not keeping the crypto stash: The winner donated all of the ETH to a legal defense fund that supports Alexey Pertsev and Roman Storm, developers of the Ethereum coin mixer Tornado Cash, who are facing charges for allegedly facilitating money laundering with their decentralized platform. Pertsev’s trial is currently underway, with a verdict expected in May.

Over the course of the season, 800 total players from around the world spent over 4,000 collective hours on the Crypto: The Game website, which had more than 100,000 visits over the 10 days of the season. Just two seasons in, Crypto: The Game founder Dylan Abruscato says he’s already seen a range of themes—and schemes—develop among players.

“Each season is like a case study on human behavior. Season one, we had MFL who won, who was a relatively unknown, anonymous, Japanese-speaking player from rural Japan. That season turned out to have a David-vs-Goliath theme”, Abruscato told Decrypt’s GG. “This season, with people being able to buy back in, people kept comparing it to ‘Deal or No Deal.’”

The new game mechanic—of entries into the game being NFTs, which converted to “Juror” NFTs when a player was voted out—created some interesting dynamics that drastically changed the game. For example, players could buy back in after they’d been voted out, or “whale” collectors could accumulate a large amount of juror NFTs to try and sway the outcome. 

In the face of all this, a group of people—some that had already been voted out—banded together during the season and decided they were going to try to win the game and donate all the proceeds to the Tornado Cash Legal Defense Fund. And they succeeded.

The mysterious Player 733

Eva Beylin, the director of The Graph Foundation, was an excited participant this season. She found herself on Blue Tribe, and like many of the first season players who raved about the experience, she said that was blown away by the competition.

“It was like game theory on steroids,” she told Decrypt’s GG.

Beylin ultimately treated the game like a second job: She’d finish up work and spend all night playing. When Beylin got voted out, on the eighth day of the season, she realized that she had been playing the game a little more honestly than others. Her tribe had been deceived by another one, and several of her ex-tribemates felt betrayed as a result.

When Eva realized what had happened, she felt that none of the players involved really deserved to win the prize pool. She thought that the winner would end up being one of the whales who had accumulated a bunch of jury NFTs, or someone from one of the secret cabals that had formed between teams.

Attempting to sway the expected outcome, Beylin and a few other players joined together to purchase an NFT and buy their entry back into the game. But this time, she wasn’t playing for herself. While deception is a key part of both “Survivor” and indeed Crypto: The Game, they felt that jurors wouldn’t want to vote for someone who had relied on shady tactics.

The “Anon Island” branding for the second season also contributed to the idea to donate the winnings (if they won) to the Tornado Cash Legal Defense Fund, since the coin mixer is seen by crypto advocates as a privacy-promoting tool to help traders evade surveillance.

“I thought a cause should win the game because of how the game had unfolded. Plus, given that this season is called ‘Anon island’ and the Alexey trial happened literally a month ago, not months, it made sense”, Beylin told Decrypt’s GG.

They’d planned to spend the 3-4 ETH needed to buy an NFT entry pass on the open market, but then Beylin said that the anonymous Player 733 approached them and opted to donate their own NFT pass to the cause.

Beylin and her squad—which included Stani Kulechov from Aave and David Phelps from JokeDAO—campaigned through the night behind the Tornado Cash banner in a Telegram group, with the goal of attracting at least 100 jurors to join their cause. And when the fateful moment came, Player 733 won and the funds were indeed donated to the legal fund to support the Tornado Cash developers.

“We the custodians of #733, acting on behalf of the wishes of the 171 jurors of Crypto: The Game Season 02 Anon Island, believe code is speech, open source is not a crime, and privacy is a fundamental human right,” the attached message reads. “We hereby contribute the 71.8 ETH pot to the legal defense fund for Alexey Pertsev and Roman Storm.”

Going into this second season, the big question was whether Crypto: The Game could maintain its viral appeal with a larger player pool, added sponsors and infrastructure, and double the ETH up for grabs.

Given both the player reactions along the way and the memorable finish that followed, it appears that Abruscato and team achieved that goal. After all, “Survivor” has repeated and gradually evolved the original formula across 46 seasons and nearly a quarter century on TV. Now we’re just wondering how next season’s Crypto: The Game players will try to top this one.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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