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Gamed to kill boredom

Ricky was 13 years old when he told this story. He comes from a single parent family. Home was a boring place, so he hung in LAN cafes. He even skipped school to game in the cafes. Ricky’s mother was heartbroken. Was Ricky’s future going down the drain? Fortunately, he was rescued in time.

My friends joked that the LAN cafe was my second home. Sometimes, I did think of it as my home, because it was a place I looked forward to going back to. I almost failed Secondary One English in 2011 because I was spending too much time at the cafe.

I killed two of four hours there every weekday and practically the whole day on weekends. I didn’t have a computer at home, so if I wanted to play games, I had to go to the LAN cafe.

People have asked my why I like to game. I don’t know. My friends gamed, so I did too. My four favourite games were MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Games) and FPS (First Person Shooter), because there is a lot of action in these games. I played Blackshot, DotA, Maple Story.

I wish I could say that I was the top scorer for Blackshot, but it was too much hard work aiming for the top. Why take things so seriously? I just played for fun.

Another reason why I spend so many long hours gaming is that I didn’t like to go home. Well, there was nothing to go home to. Mum was always working. I have three elder brothers, but they are so much older than me and everyone was busy doing their own thing. Don’t even ask about my father. He left when I was young and I haven’t seen him since.

To tell the truth, I event went to the cafe during school hours Yup, I was playing truant! but I’ve stopped now! During that time, I found school too boring. I had to sit still for so many hours, and I didn’t know what the teachers were talking about. The more school I missed, the more I could not understand.

So, finally, I stopped going.

That was when my teacher got concerned. She called my mother. I didn’t feel I gamed too much, I just gamed a lot. But Mum and the teacher said it was too much and I would suffer for it. They said things like, “See, your grades are slipping. You are failing English,” and “You have potential, but you don’t work.”

So, I was shipped to a cyber wellness programme called ‘Time Out’. The programme helps young people who game too much. The activities were very different from what I was used to, so I was curious about what they would do next. But, whenever the counsellor asked for feedback, I’d just say that it was boring.

I remember one session where the six boys in my group were asked to list our strengths. I was stumped. I didn’t have any. Nobody had ever told me if I was good at anything. But the counsellor insisted that I had to fill up the list. So, finally, because he wouldn’t let up, I said the only thing I was good at was gaming. Other adults would usually start nagging at this point. “Gaming is a waste of time, blah blah blah.”

But Anthony, the counsellor, took me seriously. He asked, “What are you good at in gaming? In Blackshot, are you good at strategising? Communicating with your teammates? Visual-spatial coordination?” Nobody had ever asked me such questions before. I didn’t know how to answer him.

But that game me something to think about.

I couldn’t get the conversation out of my head. I thought about it a lot and I figured that I enjoyed chatting online the my team and getting them to work together on one strategy.

When we were tense, I’d crack some jokes to lighten up the mood. I felt a lot of satisfaction when we did well as a unit. Anthony said that we were going to play sports. What?! Luckily, it was raining so we couldn’t go outdoors. He took us bowling instead. I am not good at bowling. I just threw out the ball without aiming, but I managed to score! I think this could be a fun game. Maybe I’ll suggest to my gaming friends to go bowling sometime.

I could see how upset my mother had been about me playing truant. When the teacher was talking to her about my poor performance, she cried. I felt bad. I didn’t want to make her sad, I just hadn’t thought about the consequences of my actions.

So I made an effort and stopped skipping school. I didn’t think it was such a big deal. But my mother was very happy. My teacher was also keeping track and she made a big fuss over it. It was so embarrassing. But I was glad that they were not angry with my anymore.

When I started going to school more often, somehow I could understand the subjects better and I did better in my tests. My English results improved! So I was quite happy.

I still go to the LAN cafe. I mean, I’d go crazy if I have to study all day! But Anthony said it was okay. As long as I don’t skip school, keep up with my homework and take time to do other things like bowling, it is alright to game. The important thing is have a balanced life and not be addicted to gaming. I’m cool with that.