A year ago, he got so desperate for money to unlock goodies in his computer games that he resorted to stealing a laptop.
The student, who is now 17, was found out and sent to mandatory counselling.
The articulate youth, whom we shall call John, said: "I'm really competitive in everything I do. I play a lot and I try to be the best."
Whenever he lost a virtual fight or made a bad move, he would be unhappy and would keep playing to make up for it.
John added: "I would try to win, so I would keep playing. This means I would spend more money on new characters."
He spent money on both computer and mobile games. Once, he blew $800 in just five minutes on in-app purchases for Valkyrie Crusade, a mobile game where players accumulate character cards.
He admitted that he got bored of the game quickly and regretted spending on it.
When he was playing obsessively, he spent about $5,000 on online multiplayer games like Dota and League of Legends.
In these role-playing strategy games, players can team up with others to fight their enemies. John would spend on unlocking items and buying virtual currency for new characters.
It became an obsession, said John. "I would play for eight straight hours. The only time I would leave was to go to the toilet or to get a drink.
"I became anti-social and my relationship with my family got worse. I wouldn't talk to them and if I did, we would fight."
Where he once averaged Bs, he started scoring 20 points out of 100 on tests.
"It got so bad that I once went to a LAN cafe and played for 72 hours straight," John confessed, adding that he lied to his parents that he was going to a sleepover.
Things came to a head when he ran out of money. He took up a friend's suggestion that he steal an expensive laptop from the friend's school.
"I thought I was a genius and had everything planned perfectly," John said wryly.
But when the school investigated the theft and questioned its students, his friend turned him in.
John is getting his life back on track after he was sent to mandatory counselling eight months ago.
While getting caught for theft was a turning point, he also realised he had to do well in the year-end exams. He worked doubly hard and did well enough to qualify for the Polytechnic Foundation Programme.
"When I look back, I don't even know why I had spent that much money," said John, who still plays mobile games but spends only a maximum of $10 a month out of his own pocket.
"There is nothing wrong with gaming. It is about priorities. You have to know what is important.
"I'm glad I got caught. I wonder what would have happened otherwise."
This article was first published on May 15, 2015.
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