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The Horrifying Reason GameStop's Marketplace Is Under Fire

GameStop, the famous gaming retail chain, has a notorious shady side. That's why it shouldn't have been too much of a surprise for gamers to find out that the company was profiting off of an NFT that looked eerily like a photograph from one of the most tragic events in American history. Gamers are still in an uproar over the incident, and the company has remained silent in response.

It all started with GameStop's decision to host an NFT marketplace. It all began back in January 2022, as reports circulated about GameStop signing a deal with a cryptocurrency company. The move seemed to be GameStop's way of joining in on a trend in gaming, and the decision quickly divided the internet. Many gamers were supportive of the company's foray into blockchain technology, but others felt that the move was the beginning of the end for GameStop.

GameStop's market itself relies on independent creators who make art to sell on the platform. Artists must apply to the program via a submission form, which will prompt GameStop to examine the application and approve or deny artists accordingly. As of now, potential buyers can only purchase or trade NFTs that originated on the GameStop platform, according to the site's FAQ

While GameStop does not approve each individual image uploaded to its platform, it does approve or deny specific creators, with the platform apparently getting a feel for each person's work before allowing them to enter the marketplace and begin making sales. But despite this individual vetting process, GameStop approved a creator who attempted to sell an NFT that bore a striking resemblance to a famous photograph from 9/11. Here's why this GameStop listing is causing an uproar.

GameStop sells an NFT based on a famous 9/11 image

Gamers discovered the questionable NFT and quickly began sharing the news online, comparing the NFT and the original photograph "Falling Man" by Richard Drew. The image shows a man falling head first, the vertical windows of a building in the background, and the story behind it is heartbreaking. Drew's photograph captured a horrifying moment on 9/11, showing a man jumping from one of the Twin Towers to his death in an attempt to escape the burning building. The image shocked many and captured the sheering horror of the attacks, becoming emblematic of the tragic events of that day.

One creator minted an NFT for the Game Stop marketplace that bore a striking resemblance to "Falling Man." This image depicted an astronaut falling in front of a similarly vertical-striped background, head facing down. The creator, Jules, had minted an entire collection of astronaut-based NFTs, but this one stuck out to viewers for its similarities to "Falling Man," due to the angle of the astronaut's body and the striking background. The description of the image claimed "this one probably fell from the MIR station."

As soon as gamers began tweeting about the image, word spread quickly. And that's when the real debates began.

The internet debates the image's intentions

Some NFT fans tried to debate that the offense caused by this image ultimately wasn't GameStop's fault, as it was created by a user, not the company itself. However, one commenter argued that the image was still GameStop's fault, tweeting, "They are still selling it under [GameStop's] name, it is still going into their pockets, and they are still terrible people for doing this." Others noted that an NFT of the actual "Falling Man" image had actually been available on other NFT platforms for some time, so an apparent adaptation of it shouldn't come as a surprise. There is also still some debate regarding whether or not the resemblance to "Falling Man" was intentional.

Forbes' games journalist Paul Tassi shared that the "Falling Man" astronaut had been removed since news broke of its existence. Tassi wasn't sure if GameStop or the artist themselves removed the picture. One gamer shared an alleged message from GameStop's NFT division stating that the creator had been suspended from minting NFTs. Though the message did not specify if the artist would regain permission to mint new content in the future.

Mostly, gamers were horrified that the NFT existed in the first place, and weren't sure if the image was meant to poke fun at a tragic event or pay homage to it. One commenter tweeted that the incident shows that NFT marketplaces don't support the freedom they purport to. "But I thought NFTs were decentralized on the blockchain, where the control and decision-making is transferred from a central entity to a distributed network. Huh," they said.

GameStop has not commented on the controversial NFT, not has it not publicly explained how it is dealing with the situation.