Miniature Rant on Games

This morning, something absolutely incredible happened and a whole lot of people would dismiss it and never understand why.

The International 6 is currently ongoing. It is a 20 million USD tournament where the best dota teams all over the world compete to fight for the world championship title. This morning, underdog team TNC from the Philippines, upset two time world champion and favourites to win the entire tournament OG, in a best of 3 series with a score of 2-0. The second game in particular was a hell of a game with where there was no clear winner right till the very end of the game. With that, OG has been eliminated from the tournament.

This will go down as one of the game's most memorable moments ever. And you know what, it's cool if you don't understand it.

I think it's not cool though, if you tell me 'uh so what, it's just a video game, stop wasting your time'.

When Leicester City won EPL earlier this year, soccer fans worldwide understandably went crazy. I don't watch soccer, I don't fully understand the hype, but I understand that yes an underdog has just won it all and that is a pretty amazing story regardless of whether you watch soccer or not.

I don't see people telling soccer fans 'uh so what, it's just a game'.

Alot of it comes down to the misunderstanding of what videos games are, especially in Singapore society. From young we are told that video games are a waste of time by well meaning parents and teachers. I get that. Students sometimes spend way more time than they should and ignore their studies.

However, I propose that we are blaming the wrong thing. Just like how money isn't the root of all evil but rather the love of money, so video games aren't the cause of underperforming students as it is the addiction to games.

And as an adult who manages my time properly, sets my priorities right and get things done, please stop looking down on me for my love for certain video games.

It's okay. I know many of us grew up thinking this way. So let me help us think more critically about what games really are.

Here's a crash course on what I perceive are three main categories of video games.

1) Interactive Media

Some games tell stories. These are essentially like your movies, animes and korean dramas, except they are interactive. Every form of media has it's advantages in their use for storytelling. For games, they are excellent for their immersive experience. No other form of media can match that level of immersion that a game is able to bring due to your own interaction with the characters, the environment and the world that the game is built in.

Portal 2 is to me one of my favourite stories ever told. Don't dismiss it because it's 'just a video game', it is an incredible work of art, no lesser than Inception, FMAB and Descendants of the Sun. I think it's absolutely foolish to dismiss it because of the platform through which the story is told.

2) Electronic Sports

Not every game is an interactive media. Dota doesn't claim to be. There's no real story in it. What is is, is an arena for the world's top talent to compete to see who is the very best.

Sometimes people think of it as a silly thing. It's just a video game what competition are you talking about. Yes it's a new thing, and yes you might take some time to get used to it. Perhaps it's time you be aware though, this is the new reality.

The International 6 currently has a prize pool of 20 million USD dollars. How many sports can claim to have that? Many traditional sports organisations have come to recognise that this is not a fad that will go away. Traditional sports teams are starting to pick up their e-sports divisions. Top sport media companies are beginning to feature e-sports as part of their content.

Some people think it's pretentious to call dota a 'sport'. Their argument is that it doesn't help you keep fit, it doesn't make you sweat, doesn't make you grow muscles. So it isn't a sport. To which I have a couple of responses.

Firstly, go ahead and ask every single NBA player whether they play basketball because they want to keep fit, or they keep fit in order to play basketball. People don't play competitive sports (which are games by the way) in order to be healthy. Heck, they break their bodies all the time playing competitive sports. People play them to compete to be the best. Keeping fit is merely a positive side effect but it is not the essence of what it means for it to be a sport.

Secondly, dota is a game with an extremely high skill ceiling and intricate strategies. I watch dota over traditional sports in part because many traditional sports bore me. I'm not as interested in watching 22 men chase after a polka dotted ball as I am in watching the execution of tactics and strategies on a battlefield. If you think it's simple, you just don't know e-sports.

Thirdly, by that definition, many other sports such as bowling, golf, shooting and many other olympics recognised sports should not be considered sports either. Be consistent with your definitions.

It may not be a sport you appreciate, that I understand. It's fine. I don't really appreciate soccer either. Just stop kidding yourself that it's not a sport. It is, and that doesn't change no matter what you think. I know it's new and something only made possible because of advancements in technology the past 10 years, but e-sports have arrived and they are here to stay.

3) Casual Games

Then there are casual games. The ones mostly on your mobile phone that quite frankly when you take a step back and look at it, can be quite silly. Candy crush, brave frontier, angry birds, you know them.

I think those games can seem meaningless. To some they seem a waste of time. I don't disagree entirely. Personally I don't spend time on those games because I think they add minimal value to my life.

I think it's incredibly hypocritical though, to declare these things a waste of time and yet be fine with certain other activities. Playing mahjong or tai ti or bridge for example is equally meaningless and adds no real value to your life. It's just something you do to relax a little, to pass time and to hang out with friends.

You might then say, but hey at least for those I am spending quality time playing those things with friends. You know what, you are right.

So stop hating on PokemonGo.

PokemonGo is simply something to have a little fun with friends with. In fact, PokemonGo heavily incentivises social interaction. More than the amount you would probably find in mahjong.

PokemonGo also brings in this cool new augmented reality concept which has led to many people changing their social behaviour in order to play the game. Instead of hating on that, perhaps we should ponder about how cool that is. What augmented reality means for the future of humankind.

I get it. Some people hate it that their friends are always catching pokemon. That's looking at it from one side. It's the same when friends play mahjong and you don't know how to play it isn't it? Do you rage at your friends and tell them to stop playing mahjong because you don't get it?

How about looking at it from the other side, many people are bonding and relationships are actually being strengthened because friends are going out to catch pokemon together.

Just because you aren't interested in catching pokemon with friends doesn't give you a right to judge people who do.

For me, I'm having a little fun with it. I don't see myself playing it for long (I'll probably quit by the end of the month), but I think it's something that is really cool.

Sometimes in our lives, certain big things hit our culture and causes people to behave a certain way. PokemonGo is one of the rare clear moments where we get to see live how the creation by a game company can shape culture.

It just feels a little off because the changes were so sudden. Some people are afraid of the changes. Some people find it an annoyance. Me? I find it exciting and amusing.

How should we react to it? If you ask me, I think it's extremely important that we stay relevant to culture and understand it lest we lose touch with what is on the ground.


This rant became longer than I thought it would be, but yes. It's annoying. Video games have come very far and they are nothing like the days of super mario any longer. Please stop hating on them.

Other societies have already begun to embrace this. It's just Singapore really. Singapore and it's focus on academics first, followed by sports, and then giving a little bit of minimal attention to the arts. Of course video games would see no love if the arts already faces such resistance from pragmatic Singapore.

I don't request that you understand it. It's fine if you don't. I just request that you respect it a little, respect the people who love it a little, and not treat it with contempt and look down on people who are quite frankly more ahead of the times than you are.

It will shape society. It already has. I'll be honest, if you still think otherwise, you're the one who is out of touch with reality.