I’m nervous, not sure if he could tell.
Our gaze momentarily met, and his dark brown eyes peered unto mine.
We were both transfixed as time paused briefly.
For the two of us, it was more than enough to communicate.
His eyes darted away shyly, and reflexively so did mine; only to come back for a second glance.
Admittedly, it took a bit of courage to walk up to him.
It’s afterall, my first time.
Oh geez, that was weird – sorry.
But either way, I’ve returned from my hiatus that lasted for almost a month. I’ve been tying up some loose ends from work, getting ready to head back to University, as well as some other stuff that I’d address fairly soon in another post.
I actually met Mr. Chee at a local gaming convention. I was there as a journalist for Gamers Sphere and was given a media pass that I had to wear for the entire time spent navigating through the exhibition hall. The certification was huge, and you could probably spot any media journalists from a distance with that humongous media pass hanging down their necks. It’s almost the size of a Kindle.
Naturally, people were wary of my presence, doubtless the work of media pass. It’s probably doing its job a little too well – I had hoped that it wouldn’t be so intimidating. It’s also my first time at an official convention as a journalist. Gamers Sphere isn’t a huge site yet, but we’re getting pretty serious – so this is a step forward. The aforementioned man was not alone in his unease.
Half the time I was walking about aimlessly.
It’s more of a festival, really. It’s a celebration of the gamer culture. And although everyone came here to play games, the most rewarding experience is to meet new people, of whom share your passion for gaming. Thanks to the media pass, I had been granted the powers to split the crowd, like Moses does to the red sea.
Or maybe it’s just my face.
But I digress.
Anyway, one of the events that were happening at this annual convention was the National Education Gaming Championships, where students from local academic institutions compete against one another in teams of 10. Their battles took place on a VBS2(Virtual Battlespace 2) mod. 64 teams of 10, accompanied by their teachers, were duking it out in their school uniforms in the midst of summer holidays.
I don’t know much about VBS2 or NEGC itself, although it existed when I was still schooling in the eligible academic institutions 3 years ago. Back then, it wasn’t that big of a thing – everyone presumed it to be a half-baked attempt by our academic committee to reach out to the teenagers. Evidently, not many students came down to support their school mates, nor did their families. And so, I sought out a few teachers that were in charge of their respective teams, hoping to know more about their stand on video gaming.
He looked like he was in his early thirties, clad in a formal casual shirt and pants get-up.
Inplace of a tie, he hung his camera, every so often snapping pictures of the students.
Although his handshake was loose and unimpressive for a man 10 years my senior, it was pretty humbling to meet him. Although he wasn’t the only teacher I spoke to, our conversation stuck with me long after.
“So, what about yourself? Do you play games?”
“No. Not much. I don’t really play video games anymore – it’s come to be that I don’t have the time anymore. I don’t know much about what the kids are playing, either.”
He had 10 kids under his wing, 13 year olds donned in full school uniform and white school shoes. At this point, they were playing in the elimination rounds against another school.
“But… what made you choose to take on the task? To be coming out here during the holidays and having to take care of 10 school kids?”
“I’m not quite sure myself, actually. I guess there was no one else willing to do this… maybe. But I’ll have to say that the job chose me.”
It’s hard to tell at that time – whether his perplexed facial expression was due to my sudden intrusion, or indignation at the situation I’ve reminded him of. I wasn’t sure whether he felt that it was his calling to lead these students into virtual battlespace, or a chore unjustly entrusted to him. My fingers were crossed for the former as he raised his camera to snap another picture.
When asked about he thought the kids had a chance at the championship, Mr. Chee simply looked on to them and told me he wasn’t sure.
We talked a little more, and I learned that he doesn’t have his own children nor is he married. The geography teacher in his young 30s couldn’t have been a stranger to video games, but when prompted, he simply laughed it off. It’s all in the past now, he says.
Then the kids leaped from their seats, invariably accompanied by defiant cries of victory as they hugged and punched their fists into the air.
Mr. Chee beamed at me, pointing at his students.
“But… I think they’re good.”, he says gleefully.
I thanked him for his time and he hastily made his way down to meet his students. Although there were bits and pieces of our conversation that I’ve lost, it’s enough to see why Chee took up the mantle. It’s pretty humbling, really. And he wasn’t the only one.
Though Campus Game Fest was lacking in some ways, I could not have clapped harder that day.
I know this post has been kind of lacking, and I apologise for that – as well as my disappearance.
This time I’ll be returning to a more routine schedule, hopefully by the end of this week. There are things I’d like to address to my readers soon.
Thank you for sticking with me all this while, I really couldn’t ask for more.