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I am a single child raised by the computer. I am part of the first generation of “online” gamers. My parents deleted my social life. This is my story.
I need to set the scene, so you can understand why those games were so important to me. I was the so-called “smart kid.” I was skipped from Standard 4, straight to Standard 6. It meant that when I started high school, everyone else was 11 or 12 or in a few rare cases 13. I was the youngest. The Baby. I was TEN years old.
I did not fit it. I did not have friends. I got bullied. I got picked on. I came home with bruises regularly from getting knocked around. But my parents? They only cared that my grades were at “B” or higher. Kids don’t hang out with the kid that gets bullied. They don’t want to be targeted. That left me, without friends, without a social life. With nothing.
Then I picked up a computer game. I remember it like it was yesterday when I installed StarCraft in 1998. From singleplayer, I rapidly moved in to multiplayer. And for the first time, started to talk to people. It was about the game. It was strategy and tactics. Then it moved to personal stuff. We played. We talked. We got to know each other: Our lives, our dreams, our successes, our failures, our celebrity crushes, and songs and movies we loved and hated. Suddenly, I had friends, in game, on MSN Messenger, on ICQ.
I think, my parents were worried that I had no traditional social life. I didn’t seem to have friends my own age. I didn’t do normal teenage things. I wasn’t “lepaking” at the mamak. I wasn’t interested in girls…or boys. My parents pushed me to “be normal,” to “get a life.” I refused. I had one. I was not happy, but I was content. Then my parents listened to advice from their extended family: My aunts and uncles weighed in. They made comparisons to their “successful children” who did not play “computer games.” My family believed this was tough love. Believed this was the best thing to do. My family wanted “normal,” and “well-adjusted,” and “social.”
I came home from school and found my Game CDs, snapped in half on the dining table. That moment was heartbreaking. My first heartbreak. My first experience of betrayal.
Then I went to my room. And stared. There was an empty space on the table, in my room. My computer. I had saved and upgraded on my own time and money. I thought it was just confiscated. I asked for my computer back, and was told it was “donated” to someone who needed it for “work.” I suffered a bit of a meltdown because my own parents had hurt me like this.
My parents forgot that garbage is collected every two days. You can guess what, and where I found the remains of my desktop computer, irrevocably shattered as my social life. I broke. I went numb. I stopped talking. I went through several months in a permanent state of dazedness. I could react, but could not act. My parents had destroyed my life.
If you think this is about the computer and the games, then you have totally missed the point. The computer, the games, were what connected me to my friends, my social circle and my social life. They had taken something I loved, something I was passionate about and broken it. What they took from me was my self-confidence. They tainted happy memories of good times with friends. I lost those friends and have never spoken to them again. I still miss them. They destroyed their relationship with me.
I was in a state of numb and daze for weeks afterward. I don’t know how I did it, but I got through my exams and managed to scrape a partial instead of a full scholarship to study overseas. Europe opened my eyes and helped me realize that something was wrong with me because I didn’t feel anything. Psychotherapy was available from the campus counselor. I saw her twice a week for four years.
I never went home during the holidays. I didn’t want to see those people and I didn’t care what they think. There is no relationship. They came for the graduation ceremony, and I posed for the pictures but didn’t smile. I returned to Malaysia and moved out of their house immediately.
My parents ripped apart my social life when I was seventeen years old. That was about 10 years ago. I know they are family. But “family” is just a word. It has no meaning to me. They are just people. I skip every birthday, reunion, holiday, Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, and Christmas. Therapy helped me heal so I don’t feel hate or anger anymore. Therapy has not helped me forgive or forget. I live my own life, and have nothing to do with them.
All this sounds extreme? Let me put it another way: – Remember Disney’s “The Little Mermaid?” King Triton destroyed Ariel’s collection of human-related things? Disney gave her the happy ending, but think about that happy ending: – She gave up her way of life, her friends, her family, and everything associated with life under the sea to live ON LAND. For a mermaid, that’s as far away as one could get.
For those of you wondering why your gaming friends suddenly stopped coming online, what happened to me, may have happened to them.
To the parents who are reading this, wondering why their child is cold, distant and aloof after destroying their games, computer or console? Good luck. Maybe your child will one day view you as more than just “people.”