During the month of December, players of nine Zynga social games can support Heifer’s work by purchasing items or taking other actions in their favorite games. This has been a truly international effort involving Zynga’s game studios across the globe. We talked with Zynga team members in India and China — both are countries where Heifer works — to learn more about their work, their interest in games and their thoughts about how these virtual communities can help create a better world.
Joseph Ji, a Product Manager in Beijing, has worked for Zynga for 8 months. Before joining Zynga, he ran a start-up that developed mobile games. Rachna Rao is a Senior Product Manager in Zynga’s Bangalore office. She has worked for the company for 17 months, and this is her first time to work in the gaming industry.
What inspired you to get into this line of work?
Joseph: When I play games, I feel that a good game can bring me happiness. I want to be the person to produce this kind of happiness and bring it to others. So I took my first job in a game company, even though my major in university has nothing to do with it.
Rachna: I used to play games like Farmville and Words with Friends regularly and always thought it would be awesome to work on games for a living. The way these games provided entertainment and also incorporated social interactions into game play always intrigued me.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Joseph: I take some time viewing the 3rd party forum about my game every day. This is the advantage of operating an online game; you can get the players' feedback immediately after you change or add something in the game.
Rachna: I enjoy working on features that will be played by millions of players every day. This never fails to excite me. I absolutely love putting myself in the shoes of the end users and coming up with ways to entertain them.
For our readers who may not be familiar with the game you work on, how would you describe it?
Joseph: Ayakashi is a card battle game with a Japanese traditional fantasy background. In Ayakashi, you play a role as ghost agent who tries to come to grips with mysterious events occurring around you. These events are being triggered by legendary creatures with enigmatic power beyond comprehension. You must attempt to gain control of ghosts and bring them under your power, changing them to a daemon and fighting against the dark force with your daemon’s help.
Rachna: Hidden Shadows is a hidden objects game with a slightly darker theme. The player is required to solve crimes by finding evidence in various scenes and thereafter analyzing that evidence. Each scene takes you closer to finding the killer.
Have you been part of other projects for charitable causes through the games you develop?
Joseph: Yes, we did a charitable sale with 'Doctors without Borders' in Ayakashi this August.
Rachna: Yes, I have been a part of other projects for charitable causes in my previous game—Café World. I am currently working on a charity for Typhoon Haiyan relief as well.
What does it mean to you to be able to help a charitable cause through your work?
Joseph: I always think that we should be socially responsible in some way; personally I often donate my strength to others who need help. It's a great thing that my team and I can do something to help through our work.
Rachna: It is immensely satisfying that I am able to contribute to a charitable cause through my work. I was really glad to know that we could participate in this campaign this December and immediately decided to go ahead and plan a charity feature within Hidden Shadows.
Before this campaign, had you heard about Heifer International? If so, how did you know about us? If not, has this project made you want to learn more about our work?
Joseph: I haven't heard about Heifer before. After getting to know more about Heifer International, I think they help in the right way. In China, we believe that it's better to teach people fishing than to give them fish. Heifer International does charity perfectly in this way.
Rachna: I had not heard of Heifer International before this project; however, as soon we started work on it I went to the Heifer International website and read up about the company. I really think what Heifer International is doing is incredibly noble and I would like to continue being a part of upcoming campaigns.
How does it make you feel to know that your work is benefiting an organization that works to end hunger and poverty in your home country?
Joseph: I feel great honor from this, it's what we should do and we surely will keep doing this kind of help if there is any chance.
Rachna: I think the work being done by Heifer International is truly amazing and it makes me proud to know that I am contributing in a small way to their quest for ending hunger and poverty across the world and in my home country.
Why do you think Zynga's players respond so well to the notion of helping charitable causes through the games they play?
Joseph: Our games aim to bring happiness to the ones who play them, and helping others generates even more happiness—players love that!
Rachna: Zynga’s players enjoy social interactions in the games they play. They help out their friends within the games on a daily basis. Working together with friends as a community is one of the primary requirements within most Zynga games. I think the act of actually helping solve poverty and hunger across the world resonates deeply with Zynga players and they get a deep sense of satisfaction by helping out.