Preserving Privacy in Web3 Gaming With Zero Knowledge Proofs

Blockchain Today
6 min readFeb 12, 2024

Blockchain-based web3 games promise revolutionary new business models like play-to-earn. But public on-chain data also raises privacy concerns for players. Private personal and competitive gameplay data on transparent ledgers causes tensions. Zero-knowledge proof (ZKP) systems offer clever cryptographic shields safeguarding privacy in multiplayer web3 games without compromising verification integrity.

The Privacy Perils of Public Blockchains

Blockchains intentionally operate as transparent public ledgers where all transactions get broadcasted network-wide. The openness establishes validity and confidence in operation integrity for use cases like cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

But unfettered transparency grows problematic for web3 games with personal gameplay actions and competitive match data. Analytics scraping public data for behavior patterns, playbooks and strategies raise uneasy privacy questions. Data anonymity proves challenging on pseudonymous blockchains.

Zero knowledge proofs offer game-changing cryptography advancements that allow validating information authenticity without exposing actual data. This lets web3 games embed verification logic on blockchains while protecting privacy. Players can prove gameplay integrity to others without revealing sensitive personal data.

Let’s examine zero knowledge proof systems more closely and see implementations preserving multiplayer privacy for web3 game users.

What Are Zero Knowledge Proofs?

Zero knowledge proofs (ZKP) are cryptographic methods that enable proving validity of certain statements or data artifacts without conveying actual information. They create mathematical confidence between two parties — a prover and a verifier — that some qualification holds true while preserving informational secrecy.

For example, ZKPs can prove someone owns a valid drivers license without revealing license details. Or that a web3 game player defeated a level without exposing actual gameplay traces, inventories or other personal data. The proofs affirm legitimacy of player actions confidentially.

Enabling Web3 Game Privacy With ZKPs

Here are two major zero knowledge proof systems holding great promise for web3 gaming privacy:

ZK-SNARKs

Zero Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Arguments of Knowledge (ZK-SNARKs) are powerful zero knowledge proofs using very compact signatures that require no interactivity between prover and verifier. They generate tiny validity certificates that don’t expose private data.

ZK-SNARK circuits help web3 games encrypt sensitive gameplay data like player inputs and match outcomes on chain while still reliably conveying legitimacy. This retains essential verification without public transparency. ZK-SNARK adoption is growing fast across Ethereum, Polygon and other chains.

ZK-STARKs

An even more efficient ZKP variety is Zero Knowledge Scalable Transparent Arguments of Knowledge (ZK-STARK). They deliver similar succinct, non-interactive proofs but with greater transparency that data holds true without exposing actual values.

ZK-STARKs improve efficiency and verification further over ZK-SNARKs for hiding personal web3 gameplay data. Leading experimental rollups like Scroll and zkSync support STARK based proofs as they get integrated into more games.

Real World Web3 Gaming Privacy Solutions

Let’s see zero knowledge proof systems already safeguarding privacy for real world web3 game players:

Immutable X

Immutable X is a scaling layer built on StarkWare ZK rollup technology exclusively for NFT games including top titles like Gods Unchained. It executes transactions off the main Ethereum blockchain using STARK proofs before settling on chain.

This allows games to keep sensitive gameplay actions like chess moves in Gods Unchained private while still leveraging Ethereum for consensus security. Only final game outcomes get public visibility maintaining competitive secrecy. Immutable X is crypto’s leading web3 gaming privacy trailblazer.

Ubisoft Quartz

Major gaming studio Ubisoft launched an NFT initiative called Quartz allowing players to acquire cosmetic game items called Digits. To prevent reveals of player inventories or assets they own, all Digits minting and trading occurs using private zkSNARK proofs shielding purchase data.

Ubisoft prioritized privacy amidst player skepticism over blockchain item ownership. Selecting ZK proofs set an encouraging precedent for mass market gaming studios embracing web3 features while respecting user concerns.

LeewayHertz Saankhya

Blockchain development firm LeewayHertz created an experimental poker platform called Saankhya also utilizing zero knowledge proofs for hiding game actions. ZKSNARKs ensure players cannot spy on opponents’ held cards, betting patterns etc that should remain secret for game integrity.

Saankhya offers provable fairness and decentralized governance via blockchain without transparency tradeoffs in the actual card gameplay. Such solutions display promise for ZKPs protecting competitive integrity across web3 gaming genres.

Benefits of Privacy Preserving Gameplay

Integrating zero knowledge proofs for confidential multimedia web3 gaming interactions unlocks many advantages:

Enhanced User Safety

Anonymous blockchain account links to personal real world identities raise safety issues from stalking or harassment. Keeping gameplay data private reduces such risks that public tracing of activities may expose. Users especially from marginalized groups benefit greatly from added anonymity.

Competitive Secrecy

Public gameplay trails allow reverse engineering opponent strategies by analytics. Private smart contract validations prevent such data crawling preserving secrecy essential for exciting matchups. This protects creative competitive meta progression critical in titles like multiplayer online battle arenas.

Reduced Data Mining

Public on-chain data leaves player actions vulnerable to creeping surveillance capitalism via analytics or AI that profile users. Confidential proofs counter such violations improving ethical data standards consumers now demand from gaming studios following scandals.

Increased Scalability

Public blockchains bloat storing bulky gameplay transactions with video, audio and asset metadata. But ZK proofs with succinct signatures minimize on-chain footprints unlocking scaling vital for web3 gaming explosion.

Lower Costs

Hiding transactions outside public ledgers using rollups slashes fees by orders of magnitude crucial for free-to-play titles reliant on microtransactions. Private proofs also allow usage of faster optimized chains tailored for game performance instead of expensive base security layers.

Censorship Resistance

ZK proofs validate gameplay actions without political censorship or restrictions based on unfair geographical access rules. Web3 games can potentially operate freely regardless of jurisdiction when built ground up on confidential validation frameworks.

As blockchain gaming adapts for mainstream usage, zero knowledge proofs emerge amongst the most important crypto advancements protecting everyday player interests rather than just serving web3 commercialization.

Limitations Around Zero Knowledge Game Proofs

While ZK proofs offer breakthroughs securing web3 gaming privacy, limitations still exist in widespread feasible adoption today:

Developer Experience Hurdles

Crafting efficient zero knowledge circuits requires specialist mathematician skills. Lack of intuition around proving schemes poses adoption barriers for programmers used to conventional logic. Abstraction layers must elevate before average game coders can implement ZKPs effortlessly.

Computation Expensiveness

The cryptographic gymnastics essential for privacy proofs require significant processing overheads straining performance on platforms like Ethereum. Specialized ZK rollups partially help by moving work off-chain but optimizations still undergoing.

User Experience Frictions

Confidential proofs add steps to game login flows from cryptographic key management unfamiliar for casual users. Mainstream comfort with blockchain wallets still years away. Usability polish essential so privacy provisions become invisible conveniences rather than visible hurdles.

Verification Game Theory

Hacked zero knowledge proof generators can produce fake proofs that approve invalid blockchain transactions. New censorship-resistant verification game theory models still getting researched ensuring reliability at massive scales between untrusted parties.

But despite current barriers, zero knowledge proof innovation continues accelerating across mathematics and engineering to power user-centric web3 applications ranging from finance to gaming.

The Dawn of Multiplayer Gameplay Privacy

Perhaps no other computer science discipline holds comparable influence safeguarding human interests with technology in the coming age of immersive gaming and existence simulation than zero knowledge proofs. Their cryptography promises balanced outcomes benefiting all stakeholders in virtual economies — owners and users alike — by upholding informing integrity without assaulting intimate privacies so essential for creative expression, and increasingly hard to safeguard as surveillance crosses digital boundaries into brains and bodies.

Multiplayer gameplay serves as the first stepping stone showcasing such a privacy-balanced world aided by math. From there span infinite metaverse possibilities where virtual beings collect experiences and assets confidentially to carry inherent autonomy safe from exploitation by external data imperial ambitions.

Sources

  1. https://arxiv.org/abs/2111.14123
  2. https://www.theblockresearch.com/zero-knowledge-proofs-allow-privacy-134273
  3. https://blog.chain.link/zero-knowledge-proofs-in-blockchain-gaming/
  4. https://medium.com/immutable-blog/immutable-x-alpha-public-release-zkgaming-48d361e46fe5
  5. https://skalex.io/zksnarks/
  6. https://ethresear.ch/t/zk-starks-create-verifiable-trust-even-against-quantum-computers/7284
  7. https://www.ledgerinsights.com/ubisoft-quartz-nft-gaming-tezos-zero-knowledge-proof/
  8. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220811005103/en/LeewayHertz-Demonstrates-the-Power-of-Zero-Knowledge-Proofs-for-Enhancing-Privacy-in-Web3-Gaming-apps-at-Game-Developers-Conference-2022

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