Mission & strategy

Tonk exists to liberate humanity’s lived experience of the web.

We do so by pushing the world computer beyond finance. The yoke we’re sabotaging is the feudal network of centralised entities that dominate humanity’s experience of the web today. We’re taking a particular attack vector: by enabling the world computer to hold secrets, we unlock its expressive bandwidth. It’s not easy to encode secrets within cryptosystems that have traditionally been transparent, but thanks to the magic of applied cryptography it’s now possible! We want to create the secrets protocol for the decentralised web. We know that a distinguishing feature of successful privacy projects is not just clever technology but also a viable starting point, so we’re fortunate to have onchain games and autonomous worlds as our privacy playground.

The story so far

We spent much of 2023 using onchain games as a lightning rod for practical cryptographic research. This has given us a particularly high-definition view of the future operating system that will be used by next-generation privacy-enabled dapps.

  • “Snarky Monsters”, our first minigame based on Pokémon, imbued onchain NPCs with secret psychology.
  • We then looked to generalise the battle server prototype for Snarky Monsters into a gaming-specific ZKVM capable of holding secrets that players could trustlessly interact with. This morphed into…
  • “Dappicom”, the first and only attempt to emulate the NES in ZK. Sponsored by grants, the Dappicom project stretches Noir and nerdsnipes gamers and cryptographers alike, and was covered by various outlets.
  • Our second prototype minigame - a social deduction mechanic with secret role allocation, based on Among Us - required an MPC scheme, so Goblin extended Polygon’s ZKVM with ElGamal encryption alongside Wei Jie from Geometry. We won a Gitcoin grant to take this practical cryptographic experiment further and published some early discoveries on deniability here.
  • To make life easier for onchain game designers, we produced the “Privacy Playgrounds Wiki”. The wiki bridges the conceptual gap between the privacy tooling that spun out of DeFi and the live hidden information needs in onchain games.
  • We were grateful to be invited to Devconnect to run a workshop on hidden information mechanics at the Autonomous Worlds Assembly.
  • More recently we've been playtesting our experimental hidden information game, Tonk Attack, built in Playmint's Downstream.
  • More that we'll be able to share soon.

We also write about new applications of cryptography, avantgarde game design and talk about it too.

It’s dangerous to go alone! Thankfully we are joined by a formidable crew of companions in our journey. Plenty witches and wizards are articulating similar ideas under a range of monikers pointing in the same direction - whether you call it self-sovereignty, web3, network states, hyperstructures, onchain realities, autonomous worlds, moving castles or the infinite garden.

The vibe

As a collective we live in the dynamic, ambiguous space between code and critical theory. Between stints as dancers, poets and graphic novellists, we have completed sidequests at Epic Games, Yahoo, Airbnb and the University of Cambridge.

At various times we have enjoyed collaborations with Aztec, Scroll, Polygon and the Ethereum Foundation. We are backed by Electric Capital, Bankless Ventures, Entrepreneur First and a community of angels with representation from leaders at Eigenlayer, Axelar, Ledger, Gensyn, Voltz & many more amazing projects.