Lingering in the main hall of the recent Thailand Game Show 2013 _ a big event for game enthusiasts _ before an interview recently, I saw a huge number of young gamers packing booths with glittering eyes of obsession and interest.
It was a Friday and I couldn't help thinking "What are these kids doing here? Aren't they supposed to be in school? And how do they dare come here in school uniforms?"
Once in a while, I play digital games myself, and in most cases it is just to pass the time. Occasionally, the next thing I know, I become totally hooked on them and spend the next few weeks, or sometimes months, with them.
But I never call myself a "gamer". The truth is I do not want to be seen as a gamer. The perception of gamers, for me, has been a negative one ever since I was young.
When I was in primary school, my aunt sent me and my two younger brothers a Japanese video game console from the US. It was the one that needed video game cassettes and joy sticks to play with. We could spend hours glued to the machine.
But because we spent too much time on those games, we usually heard Mum complaining and saying she would need to throw the game machine away for fear of us paying too little attention to our school homework. Game playing, in my family back then, was branded as unacceptable behaviour.
As a kid, being crazy about something not associated with school lessons seemed wrong. With today's technology, the video-game console just like the one I was addicted to in primary school has been replaced with versions more advanced _ and of course more enjoyable _ such as online games, portable game machines or games that were created for tablet computers.
But many times when we adults see kids these days spending hours playing games, we mark them as being undisciplined, irresponsible or too obsessive. While children might wonder what exactly is wrong with game playing, grown-ups would, on the contrary, think they could have spent their time more wisely and usefully by studying for exams, doing homework or at least helping mums with household chores.
At the Thailand Game Show, I met Danny Choo, famous Tokyo-based Japanese pop-culture promoter who came to Thailand as a guest speaker for the event. Son of one of the world's most successful designers, Jimmy Choo, Danny Choo is the founder of Mirai Inc, a media production company in Japan whose main focus is to promote Japanese pop culture through its works.
I was listening to Choo while he was talking about his life, his career and his obsession with Japanese culture and games. The minute he brought out his portable game machine from his pocket, my perspective towards those students I saw in the main hall changed.
Choo said there is nothing wrong with playing games. Playing games is good. It is creative. More importantly, it helps with learning and development. Games enable players not only to relax, but also to think systematically. Some games allow players to become organised and teach them about step-by-step planning.
Choo told me that in his late teens he accidentally came across a Japanese game machine that changed his life. Without that game machine, he might have ended up an ordinary office employee, a graphic designer or, perhaps, a shoemaker like his dad. But today, Choo is a leading figure when it comes to the world of games, anime and Japanese pop culture. His television programmes have been broadcast across Asia and he has been invited to speak in conferences and seminars in many countries.
Choo emphasised the most important part of playing games is that it must be done in moderation. They might enable one to discover his or her passion, to think more systematically or to be more organised. They can enable one to become something that he or she is really into and finally become successful in.
Obsession is not necessarily bad. Not having enough guts to pursue something is actually a poor thing. And this is what most children (and adults too) are facing. They are forced to live up to what society says is good, or what other people say is the right thing to do.
One of my co-workers just told me about her girl's counting skills, which are far beyond that of other children her age. While her classmates are only able to count into the thousands, the seven-year-old girl can now count into the hundreds of thousands because it's the highest score she made in Line Pop, a popular puzzle game. You go girl! At least she has learned something from the game that almost cost my trigger finger a few months ago.
Arusa Pisuthipan is a feature writer for the Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Arusa Pisuthipan