Theo channels his inner gamer in Philippine FarmVille

I’m not a gamer. I don’t play any video console or online games.

But at a few points in my life, I did engage in the different gaming technologies that were popular at that moment.

Atari, video arcades, online poker, sports betting, social media games; all were temporary ‘addictions’ at various points in my life.

Thankfully, all were pretty quickly determined to be complete wastes of time and money and thus cast off in favor of more gainful pursuits.

But yesterday, I had a kind of flashback moment — a few seconds where I was transported back to my days of gaming.

Oddly, it happened when I was standing on a hilltop in Malay, Aklan, Philippines – where my wife and I have paused our early-retired, global wandering to wait out the coronavirus crisis.

Suddenly, I felt like I was part of the FarmVille game; an exercise in agricultural simulation that was all the rage on Facebook back in the late 2000s.

The visuals were indeed similar. But in reality, I was looking out over lands belonging to the indigenous Ati tribe of the Philippines — a disadvantaged and impoverished group that we have been assisting since COVID-19 first upended the world.

In my view, I could see Ati working the terraced vegetable plots, using the piped/pumped drinking water, kids enjoying the playground, electric lines overhead, the community shelter and chicken coop in the distance too.

In that moment, it felt like my own personal FarmVille. Indeed, with the help of generous overseas donors we had a direct hand in everything I was looking at.

FarmVille still exists in some form – although the original Facebook version is no more. Developed and published by Zynga, the game combined virtual farm management with various social media aspects. For a few weeks, when I first ‘got into’ Facebook, playing was fun.

As I recall, the game revolved around planting, tending, and harvesting crops and animals, growing and improving your community, sharing and helping others.

Bizarrely, the game now feels like some kind of practice for my current life. It’s exactly what we’ve done here over the past year.

Of course, our work with the Ati is no game. In fact, it is startlingly real.

I might feel like some kind of puppeteer, but these are human beings (and friends) struggling mightily to survive in a world that was stacked against them even before the coronavirus.

Further, it is the Ati themselves who have done the actual work we have sponsored. And in the end, it is their lives and families and children and community. If we were not here, the Ati would find a way – as they have for hundreds and thousands of years.

Still, it does feel good to see the improvements and witness the common effort of the tribe. A few recent visitors to the hilltop Ati village have told me how amazed they were to see the many changes.

In fact, the photos taken yesterday below, show a group of local Filipinos making the trek up the mountain with me to donate school supplies and clothes and other helpful items. Seeing the wider community get involved in Ati FarmVille is truly heartwarming.

After all, we won’t be here forever. As the world slowly reopens and normalizes we will start traveling again. The Ati will have to persevere and prosper without us.

In the meantime, there is always more to do. The current vegetable crops should be fertilized, a cracked water pipe needs mending, the chicken coop requires some cleaning; all these tasks and more to be completed in the coming week in the Ati version of FarmVille.

As always, be thankful and generous (like our sponsors), happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!

Full disclosure: We own Zynga stock and stock options. Please keep playing anything they make. 🙂

Thanks for reading “Theo channels his inner gamer in Philippine FarmVille.”

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