Zacary Egea works two jobs as a motorcycle taxi driver and courier in economically crippled Venezuela. In his downtime, the 32-year-old plays an online game to earn extra money by amassing so-called non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Egea is one of many Venezuelans to have turned to NFT gaming to augment their income as the nation confronts its eighth year of recession and fourth of hyperinflation.
NFTs are one-of-a-kind digital collectibles, each with a certificate of authenticity created by the same blockchain technology that underlies cryptocurrency. It cannot be forged or otherwise manipulated.
Egea plays the game Plant vs Undead, in which plants “grown” in an online garden battle zombie-like monsters. Players invest time in “watering” and otherwise caring for their plants — purchased with cryptocurrency.
Each plant is an NFT that can be sold for real-world money.
The former police officer made an initial investment of US$300 that he earned through his more traditional jobs.
“What do I want to achieve with this? To save up for a house for my family,” said Egea, who shares an apartment with his mother in a poor Caracas suburb. “It is a long-term project.”
Before starting, Egea opened a digital wallet with which to transfer his gains into real money.
He spent some money on upgrading his computer, then bought a digital sunflower and some cabbages for US$80.
These he plans to farm until he can sell them to buy a digital tree, which, when mature, would be worth as much as US$2,000.
In a notepad, Egea keeps a meticulous record of his farming activities and NFT price movements.
“At 6am, I get up for the game. During work hours, while waiting [for a client], I water the plants, check that there aren’t any crows” to eat them, he said.
One night, he awoke in a panic that his plants had died.
“I got up and connected [to the gaming site], but everything was fine,” he said.
Plant vs Undead is the 18th-most visited Web site in Venezuela, according to Amazon’s Alexa index. In 35th place is Axie Infinity, another NFT game that works on a similar principle, but requires a higher initial investment of about US$1,000.
“These gaming platforms in which participants can earn money have become, in hyperinflationary countries such as Venezuela, options for generating additional income ... [by] playing for an hour, three, four a day,” Venezuelan economist Aaron Olmos said.
In this alternative economy, NFTs tend to start off at a relatively affordable price that grows at an attractive rate as more and more people get involved, he said, but warned the price can also drop and investments be lost.
One form of gaming that has gained in popularity is an investor paying someone else, often a teenager, to play on their behalf, generating income for a fee.
Axie Infinity, for example, can yield US$400 or US$500 a month for the hired player, enough “to support a family,” said Yerson Rivero, an investor in cryptocurrency and NFT gamer.
In Venezuela, the average salary is about US$50, while a basket of basic groceries for a family of five costs about US$220.
Rivero and a group of friends “farm” out of a tiny office in the back of a mechanical workshop, where they water virtual plants day in, day out.
“Cryptocurrency is the future,” said Jesus Almerida, one of the group. “I’ve decided that as soon as I have enough capital, I will ... create a crypto wallet for each of my children ... to pay for their university.”
Japan’s Mount Aso erupted yesterday, spewing a giant column of ash thousands of meters into the sky as hikers rushed away from the popular tourist spot. No injuries were immediately reported after the late-morning eruption in southwest Japan, which sent rocks flying in a dramatic blast captured by nearby CCTV cameras. People were warned not to approach the volcano as it ejected hot gas and ash as high as 3,500m, and sent stones tumbling down its grassy slopes. Authorities were checking if any hikers had been trapped or injured, officials told local media, as TV footage showed dozens of vehicles and tour buses
‘AVOIDABLE SITUATION’: After being tortured in his home country, a Sri Lankan and his family are at risk of deportation from the UK, despite his academic fellowship A scientist conducting groundbreaking research into renewable energy is facing deportation with his family to Sri Lanka, where he was tortured, after receiving contradictory information about his case from the British Home Office. Nadarajah Muhunthan, 47, his wife, Sharmila, 42, and their three children, aged 13, nine and five, went to the UK in 2018 after Muhunthan, who is working on thin-film photovoltaic devices used to generate solar power, was given a prestigious Commonwealth Rutherford fellowship. The award allowed him to reside to the UK for two years to research and develop the technology. His wife obtained a job caring for
DEMAND-DRIVEN: The report, produced by Greenpeace and TheTreeMap, said law enforcement has allowed palm oil plantations on UNESCO sites, parks and tiger habitats Almost one-fifth of the land used for Indonesian palm oil plantations is located in the country’s forest conservation areas, despite a law banning such activity, a study by Greenpeace has found. The report, produced by Greenpeace and TheTreeMap, describes a catastrophic failure of law enforcement that has permitted swathes of land — including UNESCO sites, national parks and areas mapped as habitats for orangutans and Sumatran tigers — to be cultivated as palm oil plantations. Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, which is used in many everyday products and foods, from shampoo and lipstick to chocolate and frozen pizzas. However,
A top global law firm is no longer representing the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in seeking the removal of a Tiananmen memorial from its campus after it came under heavy criticism in the US for helping China purge dissent, the Washington Post reported. Mayer Brown is the latest international company to face pressure over how its actions in China contradict its more progressive statements in the West. The 8m high Pillar of Shame sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiot has stood on HKU’s campus since 1997, the year the city was handed back to China. It features 50 anguished faces and tortured