Samerson Orias turned to the crypto game Axie Infinity due to his low wages of 4,000 pesos a month (around $80). However, the initial boom he benefited from quickly subsided as the digital economy crashed with Axie becoming a pyramid scheme paying less than the Philippines' minimum wage.
According to a Time report, Filipino players claimed to be making upward of $600 a month through Axie Infinity due to its play-to-earn model, rewarding players with cryptocurrency that could be traded for real pesos. However, the game's economy fluctuated so much that starter monsters became too expensive. For context, Axie Infinity is a lot like Pokemon as you capture creatures you later fight against others to grow stronger, but you need a starter to get things going.
With the starters becoming too expensive, a pyramid scheme began to form. Investors, known as "managers", would hire "scholars" to level up their monsters. The managers would then take a 30 to 50 percent cut of the profits, creating a completely unregulated system. Orias ended up in one such scheme where he was tasked to play for around five to six hours a day while half of his earnings went to his manager.
Orias' manager was actually based in Australia and had, at the time, around 20 scholars under his wing. These would all level up his monsters and handle the grunt work while he would take a huge cut of the profits. To juggle this work, Orias did his day job of cooking takoyaki from 3 pm to midnight then played Axie for the next five to six hours.
But during this time, the real-world value of the in-game currency was falling as Axie grew more and more popular, meaning that scholars began to earn less than the Philippines' minimum wage. According to Time, several scholars reported owing hundreds and even thousands of dollars to friends and families who helped invest in their starter monsters.
In the midst of this loss of value and new culture, many have quit the game, with it becoming clear that it's no longer sustainable.
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