Monthly Archives: November 2017

Online games

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.

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Cute professor :(

Today I had a great seminar for the Global Environmental Change module. It was basically about microplastics, macroplastics, the scale of the problem, how we can assess the scale of the problem, and the best solutions to overcome these problems… that was the general gist of the seminar. The professor, let’s refer to him as NR, made a drawing of beaches, rivers, sewage treatment works… it was quite nicely done which would have meant that he put quite a lot of thought into it – the drawing was effectively a mind map summarising all the possible inputs and outputs of plastic waste. He handed these around for us to scribble on it – our notes and our ideas. At the end of the seminar it seemed that no one intended to keep these drawings anyway, so one girl went around collecting all of them. I thought she was going to pass it back to him for the next seminar, and was thinking to myself how kind she was for preparing the class for the next seminar. No, on the way out, she folded it and… THREW IT AWAY IN FRONT OF HIM.

WTF????????????????????????????????????

How is NR going to feel when he realises that his field drawings/notes simply become garbage? How did he feel at that point in time when he saw her throwing it away? I felt so so so so bad for my professor who led the seminar at that point in time. He was patiently trying to make this whole topic of plastics more engaging and interesting to a bunch of young adults in their 20s who cannot care less about the world, yet this is what happens to his hard work. It becomes waste immediately after the seminar?! I felt so terrible at that point in time, I should have been the one collecting them, and I should at least pass it back to him so that it can be reused as teaching material.

Time to study, had to get this off my chest because I felt so bad. 😦

Altruism

All of a sudden, I found myself thinking about the days on the Koh Rumdual Island and Kolap 4 in Cambodia yesterday. I remembered feeling out of place in ironed T-shirts and school skirts, and realising how trivial my everyday worries were as a secondary school kid. Not having enough money to eat out, being stressed out having to study for tests after tests, hating the feeling of dragging my ass to go to school in the morning. I told HT about it and asked if he had any similar volunteering experiences, he said he has not. My thoughts about Cambodia ended there.

Coincidentally, I had a lecture today morning on urban poverty and sanitation as part of my module on Water and Development in Africa, and revisited this whole topic of toilets, slums and urban poverty once again. It honestly feels so unbelievable that in one area of the world we live in, women are prostituting themselves to earn money for sanitary pads, women are subjected to sexual abuse when going to public restrooms and women are making slum dwellings their safe space. I got really distracted during the lecture and thought about the personal statement that I wrote for UCAS many years back, that I had wished to help the less privileged in these undesirable living conditions one day. I obviously stopped focusing on the lecture and thought about how I did not bat an eyelid when I booked my air tickets home this Christmas for £1000, how I booked my birthday venue and buffet dinner for another huge amount, thinking to myself that it would be the only birthday celebration I plan for myself in this lifetime. I thought about my spending habits, and how I would cart out expensive items as long as I was keeping my expenses within my monthly budget. I also thought about how I am going to Japan after Christmas, another big ticket expense that I readily splurged on. I thought about how I probably would not have much chances to travel together with HT anymore in the future, since it is difficult for us both to take overseas leave at the same time, and these thoughts seemed to immediately justify my vacation expenses. I suddenly felt extremely guilty for earning a paycheck, that seemed to benefit no one except for myself. What happened to the desire to help the underprivileged that I once spoke about?

I still think well of voluntourism despite the debates ongoing in academia, because the awareness/empathy of an extra person to the living conditions of the underprivileged is never a bad thing. So today, I committed to my thoughts and decided to make a small donation to Harvest Care Centre, the centre which guided me on my first overseas learning trip as a student. I hope that it will go a long way, and I hope to have greater financial capacity to help many more people in the future.

Seminar group

I would like to document this before I forget.

I think most people underestimate the step that we, as Asians, have to take out of our comfort zones to simply enjoy a meal with other people who are not similar to us – and by that, I mean people who aren’t Asians. I am comfortable sharing a meal with Koreans, like my Korean tutors from the UCL Korean Culture Society. I am also more than glad to have meals regularly with Joey, Tz Ching and Darren, because there is just an inexplicable similarity among all of us that smooths the interactions. Maybe it’s the fact that we look similar, maybe it’s because we sound similar given that most of us are acquainted with the Chinese language, maybe it’s the fact that we think similarly because we have common roots. I cannot pinpoint it myself.

Most of my discomfort comes from the knowledge that most people do not understand what I say in the initiation of a conversation, because of the varying intonations and how we drop all our letters in conversation habitually (s, d, t, th, the list goes on). For this very reason, I understand the desire for people to adopt accents, because I truly think that it makes a difference in the depths of conversations you can have with locals if you sound similar to “them”. I do not think that this is any form of reinforcing Western superiority, because they have to do the same in your country, like how they have to understand a bit of Singlish to fully experience and understand the local life in Singapore. I quote Anpu as an example (a friend in my Geography course), who was trying to imitate Singlish with an inevitable mix of his British accent, much to my laughter. I do not think of them as “try hards”, which are labels and criticisms that we readily lay on people who attempt to fake an American or British accent. I think it is all about code-switching in the appropriate circumstances. I do acknowledge that this is an unpopular opinion among people in my social circle, but I say this having outcasted implicitly in an international environment because of my “very strong” accent. I am often concerned that people would not understand my point because they just nod and smile anyway, like what I do when I am lost in translation. This really makes me speak up less in class compared to when I was attending school in Singapore, even if I had any heart-burning queries about certain themes in the lecture.

After my seminar today, the exchange student in my group asked if we wanted to have lunch together and I readily agreed, before regretting right after I agreed. I am sorry. Thankfully, another girl in my group, who is an exchange student at Germany, came along as well. It reminded me of my first few weeks at UCL as a fresher when I readily agreed to lunch and dinner meetings because I felt the need to socialise. I contemplated a bit and decided to go along in the end because it is my final year here in UCL, and I would not have those opportunities very much anymore.

Moments and conversations:

1. How the guy who came from Catalonia (not Spanish!) was actually pro-independence given that he came from a small town. There are fundamental differences in their language, and this also causes them to develop differently in their mindsets, with political ideology as one example. I think (third) language learning has literally opened my mind to another world out there, and I am thankful for the sudden/random decision I made to learn Korean when I was travelling with Aloysius last Christmas.
2. and therefore, I remember how they were astonished when I told them English is my first language. I think most Europeans still do not know this. I was thankful because when he first asked where I was from, he immediately expressed doubt that I was Chinese because he said my accent sounded very different “you are not from China, right?”.
3. How the girl was really thankful for her free university education.

While transient, I think these are moments that I will remember in the future about schooling in a totally international environment in a foreign country. The only thing I regret is getting that second cup of coffee because I already had lunch. Oh my god, enough caffeine for the day.