I Can't Stop Looking at This Gaming PC Shoe

It fills me with deep sadness, but it also elates me. I’m having a lot of feelings about these shoes.
January 22, 2021, 4:07pm
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Image: NZXT

I know a thing or two about gamer shoes. I am not a sneakerhead, but I am a gamer and there are similarities between the two. Both sneakerheads and gamers fight scalpers to get what they need—whether it’s graphic cards, consoles, or the latest Air Jordan drop—and both have a clearly defined aesthetic. These new sneakers, created from the fusion of a shoe and an RTX 3080 graphics card, are the marriage of the two aesthetics.

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I can not stop staring at this video. It fills me with deep sadness, but it also elates me. I’m having a lot of feelings about these shoes. I feel wonder because these shoes aren’t real in the traditional sense, and horror because they’re digital creations meant to be sold as if they were a normal shoe.

My first thought is, “how many RTX 3080s” had to die to produce this sneaker? I’ve been in the market for an RTX 3080 since they released in September last year. As many gamers know, they’ve been impossible to get unless you’re willing to buy them from a reseller on Ebay.

My second thought is, “My god, these shoes are beautiful.” Filled with computer components, the shoe appears to fail at being both a foot cover and a gaming PC. This is a pure aesthetic exercise, the marriage of two cultures. Shoes and gaming joined together in one monstrous vision.

And that’s the point. The shoes are the creation of NZXT, a company that builds custom gaming PCs, and Artifact Studios (RTFKT), is an art collective creating custom collectible sneakers. Artifact Studios’ previous custom designs include shoes inspired by Fall Guys and Animal Crossing. RTFKT are the people behind Elon Musk’s digital Cybersneakers, which are based on his Cybertruck design. They’re sneakers are strange, gloriously impractical, and hypnotically beautiful. They’ll also never cover your feet in the real world.

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“These are virtual sneakers [non-fungible tokens] (NFTs) that we designed, we specialise in creating virtual collectibles and AR digital try on’s to flex them,” RTFKT told me in an email. NFTs are unique digital items whose existence and ownership are backed by a blockchain managed system. 

I know this sounds like someone put a bunch of trending technology concepts from the past five year, put them in a blender, and told you it's a shoe, but this is the reality of the situation. For example, consider RTFKT's "The X" shoe. It's a real shoe which is partly designed by an "AI." It's a physical sneaker that goes on your IRL feet, but it also comes with an exclusive Snapchat filter and a virtual item for your avatar in Sandbox. Game, an online game where you can flex with your digital sneakers. According to RTFKT, this shoe was sold at auction for 22 ETH, worth about $22,000. 

Since they’re digital, no RTX 3080s died to make the shoes a reality. But NVIDIA GPUs in NZXT machines did render the shoes. “To celebrate the start of our partnership, we as RTFKT decided to do what we do best: create a sneaker that gives an idea of what the future is gonna be like and make the internet go crazy for it.”

I am crazed. The RTX 3080 sneaker will sit on a digital shelf somewhere, a testament to itself. I want it, but like the RTX 3080, I know I can not have it. Which only makes me want it more.