I am in the library, attempting to churn out a post for my academic blog but am very very distracted. Especially since I had lunch with my batchboys earlier… I just feel like taking a good long nap now.
Anyway I have been watching 微微一笑很倾城 (Love O2O) and it is once again another drama I feel very strongly for! I am going through this drama at a much slower pace than usual because I have been spending more time than usual in school, but I do like it a lot even though the storyline has dramatically slowed down and there is no villain to piss me off at present. Basically, the drama revolves around the love story of two Computer Science undergraduates in a beautiful university campus (!!! reinforcing my desires to go to China), except that what makes it stands out from other dramas is the fact that they met through an online game. Of course, their aspirations after university are automatically to create an online game that has a global reach… and for this purpose they also pursue internships at game firms.
This was not what I found particularly interesting, in fact I think I could do without good-looking casts and a happily ever after in a drama (even though they are bonuses). I liked a particular part where the lead, Weiwei, was the tuition teacher for a rich and privileged but unfortunately wheelchair-bound child. Since he was disabled, he always found it difficult to leave the house as he was extremely vulnerable to kidnappers or scammers. It was equally difficult for people to even enter his house, because he was instructed not to let strangers in, unless they knew the morse code to communicate with him through knocks on the door. He was an intelligent child who wanted to learn many things, and the only way was through tuition teachers who were headed to his home. Weiwei was one of them. Weiwei then mentioned in the drama that it was this child that led her into online gaming. This child, who was deprived of his opportunity to see the world, did not allow his physical disability to limit him. He chose to explore the world through online games, where he adopted a virtual character that allowed him to go wherever he wanted without his limitations in reality. He could fight (PK) with people, he could run around, and he could teleport! Literally, he lived in a virtual world detached from reality, and to him it was a pleasant detachment because he could do in an online game whatever he could not do in real life, like socialising with other players and fulfilling his adventurous side. It was truly a new way of thinking about online games for me, and I wonder why it took me so long to outline my thoughts about why I never regretted spending so much time and money on online games.
I used to be pretty addicted to MU Online, Monster and Me, MapleStory, ROSE Online, Trickster Online, … the list goes on at different phases of my childhood life, they are mostly MMORPGs. Out of all of them I spent the most time on MapleStory, and it was always cited as a waste of time. I was one of the ‘lucky’ kids at school who got unlimited access to the computer and Internet because my parents weren’t home most of the time, unlike my other peers who had their computer usage heavily controlled. Most of them could only use their computer on weekends, and were only allowed an hour at most. I remember an English Oral practice in Primary 3 when I engaged in the “Conversation” aspect of the oral, and my teacher asked me what I did at home in my free time. I expressed that I liked to play online games, but I felt abashed by that statement and quickly went on to say that I only did so during weekends. I also quickly added on that I only play games after I study, but I am not quite sure whether my teacher bought that lie. Of course, people used to be surprised that I could spend so so so much time on the computer. People were surprised that my parents were even willing to tolerate my expenditure on online game cash (SGD$10.50 per 10k virtual cash, later $10.70 after GST increase), and even supported me so by buying them as birthday gifts for me or a form of reward for doing well in my examinations. It may also be because of the fact that I found myself in a rather good class ever since Primary 3, where most parents continued to reign over their children’s lives (and timetables). I used to be embarrassed about it because I was spending every single waking hour on the computer after school – immediately after reaching home, skipping dinner for it, until the hours right before I sleep. I even continue playing at the same time I watched my daily TVB dramas, by installing MapleStory on the laptop outside in the living room.
While the addiction was definitely unhealthy, it meant that I spent a large part of my childhood in an alternative virtual world. Even until today, people would see playing around in the playgrounds, going to the park catching spiders, and running around in beaches as examples of having a superior childhood. Gaming for hours in front of computers is often viewed with large disdain, and it is made worse by the fact that some people die from gaming for long hours, and when grades take a large slip because of poor time management. Although I would not disagree completely, my personal opinion is that it boils down to what you truly enjoy as a child, and for me I enjoyed sitting in front of my computer jumping over haystacks and killing snails much more. Perhaps it may be because I had not been fully developed in other extra-curricular activities such as learning an instrument or picking up a sport, but we never really know. It may also be because of how I was not really allowed to leave the house on my own when I was younger, and therefore my only way of exploring the world and expanding my mental map was through an online game where I could go on and on without limits. As a child, I very much enjoyed the satisfaction from seeing my character grow stronger, fight better, and enjoyed the privileges and quests that were unlocked as we got higher. At a younger age especially, as I was not disciplined enough to even train my character well, I spent most of my time in the virtual world walking through different maps – from Perion to Henesys, from Ellinia to Sleepywood, killing monsters and alternating between the quests. At a point, I did it so much that I knew all the maps by heart. I knew which maps were perfect for training at particular levels, I knew which skills were preferable to boost earlier, and I knew how to increase my stats such that I best improved my character. I enjoyed my understanding of this alternative world, and felt superior to the many other beginners as I continued trawling through this virtual world I created for myself.
MapleStory was the place where I learnt what a “cape” was, was where I understood the concept of “dexterity” and “haste”, where I was influenced to surf through and post on SG Forums and Asiasoft Forums daily, and where I learnt how to write English paragraphs much better (you can refer to evidence of my cringe-worthy posts in 2006 – although the content is shit, my grammar was pretty decent for a primary 4 child). Other than that, it was where I learnt how to transact with virtual money, was where I learnt the concept of negotiating and bargaining through free market trade, where I learnt how best you can save money, and where I made many friends with whom I connected with as a young child. It also holds many special memories for me, like how I would happily spend the whole of my Christmas day at Happyville (a Maple event map) creating my own Christmas tree and listening to the Christmas audio. The background music always makes me nostalgic, and I wish I realised back then that those memories on Maple were what I would value very strongly in the future.
Technology has been said to retard your brain development, and there have been evidences of studies validating such claims, but online games may not necessarily be consumed/thought of in a bad way. There are always negative things about online gaming, like how I picked up vulgarities extremely early in life, or how I may have been subjected to online scams that may be traumatising for a young child, or how my grades may have truly took a slip to affect me for my entire life subsequently. However at this point in life after nearly a decade since then, all I have left are good memories, visual imagery of the places I loved the most online and the knowledge that I will restart that whole virtual life again because it made me really happy as a kid. It was a memorable childhood for me, and I do not consider it any less than any of my peers who spent most of theirs playing soccer in the court or going for many extra-curricular activities to improve themselves from a young age.