Computer games entice all kinds of people across different age groups, especially teenagers. I was sixteen, and DotA (Defense of the Ancients) was rather popular at that time. It was my first online computer game, ever, and I played it because my friends asked me to try it. Soon enough, I found the game fun. Too fun, it became an addiction.
Art of Distraction
DotA was a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game. DotA itself had a simple concept. Ten players were divided into two groups of five. Whichever team successfully managed to bring down the other team’s last structure, or tower, would win the game. One game would usually take around thirty-five minutes to an hour to complete. There were many characters in DotA, and each of them brought unique skill sets to the table. Some characters, for instance, had many abilities to heal his ally and few of those to deal damage to their opponents. Others could deal lots of damage with no healing abilities at all. Different still, some did neither, and yet were really good at disabling the opponents. And, there were, if I recall correctly, eighty-ish of those characters in the game!
The reason why I mentioned these painstakingly diverse components of the game is to give you an idea how one such myself could be addicted to one arguably repetitive game. To us, the gamers, each combination of five characters has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each game, not knowing what the other five would choose fueled our insatiable hunger to play one more, and one more, and one more game.
As I became better at gaming, I became worse at studying. I spent less and less time studying. Weekends gone by, I sat down in front of my laptop, theory-crafting what line-ups were superior, while forgetting my Chemistry textbook, which started collecting dust. Grades went down, As to Bs, Bs to Cs. I began ditching classes because I slept through my alarms. I was notorious for doing badly in class.
My dear scholar friends took notice of my indolence. Collectively, some of them began distancing themselves from me, shielding them from a disease called laziness and gaming addiction. Of course, they started small. They asked, “have you done the math homework?” or “are you ready for exam tomorrow?” To which I simply replied,
I simply did not care, and after trying to “fix” me multiple times by encouraging me to study, my friends certainly did not. That was the last straw. Instead of embracing me as their friend, some of them isolated me. Not all of them did, but many did, and as a flock, they did. Only some of my DotA friends engaged me in daily conversations without the look.
Before I proceed, I should tell you that I am sure none of my friends means any harm to me. In fact, they were trying their damnedest to show me the light. And yeah, being a scholar was a hardship. We were pushed to obtain excellency. We were role models to our Singaporean classmates, to our siblings, to our friends back in Indonesia, to each other. For teenagers our age, this competitiveness became our daily fight. We strived for As and A+s not because we wanted to, but because we needed to. Hats off to them for being able to survive while having fun at the same time.
What others think of you does not carry any significance, at all. What you think others think of you is what drives us, motivates us, pushes us. I am sure that to my scholar friends, my welfare is little, if not, none of their business. Perhaps they thought I was hopeless, and they were right, to a certain extent. What they did not know was that the way they treated me affected me deeply.
I still remember the evening as vividly as if it were yesterday.
That evening, I wanted to ask one of my friends about something I am sure of no interest to the purpose of this story. So, I headed to one of my friend’s room which was located on the same floor as mine. I knocked twice, and allowed myself in without waiting for their responses. Such action was permissible because we were, as I mentioned before, very close friends. I heard laughter as I was about open the door. However, as I opened the door, I sensed an overwhelming sense of change in atmosphere. The then laughter was followed by one of the longest one second of silence in my life.
There were six or seven of them in that two-people room. All of them abruptly stopped talking and looked at me. Some looked confused, some looked scared, and others looked upset. I looked around, assessing the situation. One of them suddenly broke the silence and urged me to go out of the room.
“Go out, now! Go and close the door behind you,” he said as he motioned his hand in my direction, pressuring me to go out.
I did so. I then heard a fading sound of laughter again as I closed the door and moved away from that room. A plethora of emotion surged into my chest. Feeling out of breath, I strolled back to my room thinking what that was all about. I was never treated that way before. I was in the inner circle, and that evening, I was no more. It only hit me an hour later they were talking about me. My heart felt like it was ripped open. I knew then I was something I had never been before in my life, an outcast.
A couple of months later, GCE O Level exams came knocking. They were the culmination of four years of study for secondary students (two years for us, scholars). All our hard work would be for naught if we failed our O Level exams. My homeroom teacher took notice of my Cs and Ds way before this moment, and they finally began Saving Michael Budi operation, by monitoring closely what I was doing. Then began the uphill battle.
Stay tune for The Lion City: Uphill Battle in the next post.