When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Philippines, the people of Cabanatuan, north of Manila, found a unique way to alleviate the difficulties caused by lockdowns – playing video games.

The gameplay isn’t just for fun, however. Axie Infinity, developed by SkyMavis, allows gamers to generate income through non-fungible tokens (NFTS) and cryptocurrencies by breeding, fighting and trading digital pets called Axies.

A new mini-documentary released on YouTube by crypto advisory firm Emfarsis on Thursday Called “Play-to-Earn,” follows several Filipino people who play the game – a mother, three young entrepreneurs, a recent college graduate, a pedicab driver, an elderly couple, and one of the first people in Cabanatuan City to the Axie have discovered infinity.

The phenomenon, which first started last summer, exploded after an article by Coindesk published in August, according to the documentary, significantly increased the player base. Almost 60,000 people are now playing Axie Infinity, Axie’s growth leader Jeffrey Zirlin told CNBC.

While digital gaming knows no boundaries, it has really picked up speed in the Philippines, which have been hard hit by the pandemic. GDP fell by 9.6% in 2020. This is the largest annual decline since data collection began in 1946, according to IHS Markit. Cases rose in several cities in late March, leading to new mandatory lockdowns. The same research found that around 26 million people – almost a quarter of the population – were affected by these recent lockdowns.

“At first I’m not convinced that this game actually makes money by playing, but I’ve tried,” said one gamer in the documentary Art Art spread here in Cabanatuan. “

An elderly couple of shopkeepers also play while they work. “While I’m in the store, I play,” said 75-year-old husband Lolo. “Even if I lose, I just play.”

Axie Infinity uses NFTs for the rights to every pet purchased. To breed these pets, buy or breed SLPs, or small love potions. You can sell these pets or SLPs for cryptocurrency and then switch to your respective currency.

“When you’re in the game, it’s like playing chess. It’s a strategic game,” said the youngest college graduate Howard in the documentary.

Axie Infinity was inspired by Pokémon and CryptoKitties. The latter was one of the first games that popularized crypto video games.

“As long as you have phone and internet access, you can play,” Zirlin told CNBC.

A common criticism of the game is the volatility of cryptocurrencies. Since players “synchronize and swap” their money via Ethereum, the price action scares some players. Ethereum is up nearly 65% ​​in the last month, but up 7% on Thursday’s trading day. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, appeared on Saturday Night Live, which caused a 30% drop in the retail price of Dogecoin.

“Axie is an economy of its own. Like any emerging market, it may be volatile due to macro factors, but over the long term we believe our digital nation will experience high GDP growth that will fuel our in-game economy,” said Zirlin.

Zirlin predicts that more games will be added along with Axie Infinity, creating a kind of metaverse and expanding computer access rather than just cell phones.

“What matters is having money so we can eat, avoid debt, and get through each day. It [Axie Infinity] We supported our daily needs, paid our bills and debts, “said a mother of three in the documentation.” I was grateful to Axie for somehow helping us. “

The Tagalog, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese versions of this documentary can be found here.