Gaming addict hits reset button

Gaming addict hits reset button
Analcle software engineer Jensen Chua, 25, was a computer game addict through his teenage years, but resolved to curb his addiction when he enrolled into polytechnic in 2008.

Former gaming addict Jensen Chua is no stranger to second chances in what he calls his "game of life".

For someone who dropped out of junior college because of his gaming addiction, the 25-year-old has come a long way. He recently graduated from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), where he studied computer science.

As a boy, Mr Chua was never allowed to play games on the computer, despite his father owing a software shop.

But in secondary school, a classmate introduced him to massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) and Mr Chua was soon hooked.

CONSTANT NEED TO PLAY

"There is no 'save' option on such online games, so you cannot stop other players from advancing in levels. There is always a need to compete and advance," he explained.

He used to rush home straight after school, gaming the only thing on his mind. It was also an outlet to release his frustrations.

Mr Chua said: "I vented my anger not on people but by killing monsters in the game. But I ended up building up more anger if my character died in the game."

At the height of his addiction, he was playing up to five games simultaneously, spending up to five hours daily on school days and up to 14 hours a day on weekends.

Despite his addiction, Mr Chua did not spend any money on his games, though it meant he spent more time trying to reach levels other gamers could buy with real money.

It started to affect him socially and he preferred to be alone. He even woke up earlier on school days, just so he could avoid crowds. The first wake-up call he got was when he received his results for his O-level preliminary exams. The special stream student at Chung Cheng High School had done badly.

It was enough for him to put his gaming on hold and study up to 10 hours a day, which paid off. He did well in the O-level exams, earning himself a place at Meridian Junior College.

But while there, his fell back into his old ways and his first-year results were so poor that he could not be promoted to Year 2. Mr Chua decided to enlist early for National Service, where he finally had a breakthrough.

"My peers had all advanced to university and were doing well, while all I had was just my O-level certificate," he said. "My parents were also getting old and I wanted to support them and not be a disgrace."

He enrolled in Temasek Polytechnic's Computer Engineering course. Determined to do well, he found that his ability to keep inventories, honed during his gaming days, helped him in the course.

That was also where he realised that games were just "transient" and could be deleted "anytime" by programmers, which made him feel less compelled to play games.

He topped the course with a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average and won a scholarship to study computer science at NTU.

In March this year, just a few months short of graduating, he received a job offer from clean tech firm, Anacle Systems, where he now works.

On his second chance, he said: "It was like trying again at a game. Only this time, it was the game of life."

I vented my anger not on people but by killing monsters in the game. But I ended up building up more anger..


This article was first published on August 04, 2014.
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