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Gaming OR Studies – Motivations of an Achiever

Gaming OR Studies - Motivations of an Achiever

It is commonly believed that people get addicted due to the exhilarating nature of games. While video games are certainly arousing, my personal experiences seem to point at the cause of something deeper. Take it from me; after all, I used to be described as a ‘game addict’ by my own parents.

My Gaming World

You see, my growing up life was characterized by excessive amounts of gaming. I often gamed throughout the day and into the wee hours of the night, only catching up on sleep the very next day – in class. Skipping school was a routine tradition, as I often alternated between taking MCs, forging parents’ letters, or straight up without reason.

You may wonder: why doesn’t my parents do anything? Do they not care? The thing is, they were both busy working to make ends meet and had little time to supervise me. The situation further expounded when my father was sent overseas to work, leaving the entire burden on my mother to manage both her career, housework, and myself. She did make some effort, conducting nightly spot checks and implementing security locks – measures that were easy to navigate through with time. In the worst case scenario, I could simply head over to a friend’s house, or a nearby LAN shop to play. Gaming meant everything to me.

My motivation toward games was simple: it was a drive toward achievements. I naturally gravitated toward popular, multiplayer games which were competitive in nature, giving me ample opportunities to triumph over others and prove myself (Modern examples included: Mobile Legends, Overwatch). To me, what solely mattered was the recognition and admiration from my peers that followed these achievements.

To be honest, there simply weren’t many opportunities for me to excel outside of games. I was barely coping with my studies and constantly met disappointment from both my teachers and parents. As a result, gaming was the only outlet. As I started to get better at a certain game, I would tunnel vision toward improving at it, sacrificing my studies and any other commitments in the process.

A Comeback Moment

Things began to change during my Secondary school. Somehow, I was scoring well in my English and Humanities subjects, likely due to a good foundation in English and a natural interest toward History. It started as a series of small wins, in the form of occasional awards, and praises from both my teachers and peers. For instance, I vividly remembered my English teacher reading out my compositions to the class as a form of recognition. Even though these little moments were limited solely toward my class, it ignited a desire to do well in those subjects and compete for top place with my fellow ‘rivals’. 

A critical moment happened during Secondary 4. As we belonged to the Normal Academic stream, we had to complete our ‘N’ levels in order to proceed toward Secondary 5. Back then, the ‘N’ level was assessed based on our best 3 subjects. These 3 subject system meant that I needed to only focus on one subject, as I was already proficient in my best two. ‘N’ levels came and went in a flash, although the results were certainly unexpected: I had scored first place for overall score in my cohort. 

The thing is, I wasn’t considered as the forerunner prior to the examinations, although that has certainly changed since then. The entire experience fuelled a desire to repeat the success for ‘O’ levels, which led me to take drastic measures: unplugging the computer, purchasing assessment books, and even seeking my own tutors. My parents were visibly proud for the first time, and wholly supportive in my decisions. I felt unstoppable. Long story short, I managed to achieve first place again among my Normal Academic cohort, and landed in the polytechnic course of my dreams. It was truly befitting of a comeback. 

Not Your Fairytale Ending

This is usually the part where I end with a ‘happily ever after’. The truth is, my Polytechnic years were a dark period, as I struggled to cope with my studies amidst being surrounded by hardworking and capable classmates. On the other hand, I was constantly being known among my peers for being good at games, thanks to the previous years of grinding. My motivation toward studies gradually dipped as I went back into my old ways of gaming.

Looking back at my life, I realized the existence of a swinging pattern – alternating between the extremes of gaming or studies – which continued to manifest itself over the years. The large swings seemed to depend on whichever I was capable of excelling and being recognized for, at that point of time. At least for myself, my game dependency certainly didn’t occur solely due to the thrilling nature of games. 

As I continued pursuing my education in Psychology, I became acutely aware of the motivational tendencies of different individuals. You see, current psychological research on player personalities have indicated the existence of different player motivations – mine predominantly being the ‘Achiever’. This has been widely observed in a competitive striving toward achievements and higher status among my peers, in both gaming and studies, which was facilitated by an ‘all-in’ mentality toward either.

Although gaming still remains an integral part of my life, I find myself capable of managing my priorities and channeling my drive toward long-term commitments (work, relationships), much with the awareness of my own psychological motivation and supportive role models. Could the change have happened earlier? Perhaps, although I take comfort in my story that it is never too late. All these have led me to be fully invested in the COMEBACK program, as my past experiences and Psychology background has equipped me with the critical lens toward understanding the gamers’ underlying motivations, along with the innate desire and ability to connect.

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My PSLE and O Levels Regrets

My PSLE and O Levels Regrets

My PSLE and O Levels Regrets

I had two regrets growing up. The first was missing out on one question in my Mathematics paper during PSLE. This question cost me 8 marks. The second was missing the last page of my A Mathematics paper for O Levels, this time costing me 28 marks. The regrets were not only about my grades. It was painful not to be able to do my best. These two incidences were not coincidences. They were consequences of my behaviour that escalated because I did not consider it a problem until it was too late.

My School Days

I had problem fitting in during Primary School. I was ostracised by my classmates and video games became my escape. My parents only allowed me to play video games during the June or December holidays. During school term, I found other ways to play video games secretly. Without my parents knowledge, I played a lot of video games to the extent that I slept five hours or less a day. Due to prolonged lack of sleep, I could not focus during my PSLE. This resulted in my first regret. There were no big consequences and I moved on to secondary school.

To be accepted by schoolmates in secondary school, I joined a CCA to fit the image of a holistic student. Behind all these, I was still playing a lot video games. Gaming was on top of the busy school schedule. I never talked about my video gaming to my schoolmates as gaming was not a cool or acceptable activity. By then, I played about 200 game titles. I thought everything was fine and I was managing. My accumulated sleep deprivation seriously affected my ability to focus. The end result was my second regret.

Gaining Control Over Games

Even though the relationship with my parents were good, they could not understand why I was playing so much. Most of the conversations we had were about playing less games and studying more. I found it hard to share with them my problems, especially about being ostracised and having problems fitting in. At that point in time, I did not understand that games were my escape. All I knew was that I felt good playing games and I loved it. Games made me forget the problems and I was happy when I was gaming. When I was not gaming, I did not feel good. The negative feelings when I was not gaming increased over time. I needed to game more to make myself feel better and thus I ended up unable to control my gaming even when my exams were affected. I cried for my exams but I loved gaming too much to give it up.

My goal of going to a junior college was no longer possible after O Levels. Even at that point, I could not give up gaming. Instead, I went to Polytechnic to study game development, wanting to create the game of all games. In the game development course, I met many like-minded friends who love games. The lecturers were very understanding and genuinely care about us. As I learnt more about games, I understood myself as a gamer better. The community within the course also helped me build good gaming habits through friendships. When I understood how games are designed, the mysterious attraction of games began to fade away. I started to play less and eventually regained control.

In Retrospect

When I look back at these two regrets, if there is someone older who understands games and me as a gamer to walk alongside me, things might be a little different now. Perhaps I would have done better for my O levels. A gamer role model will be helpful for me as I felt isolated and alone.

I believe in COMEBACK because it does not end with just helping us gamers to overcome games. COMEBACK brings us to a community where we have a sense of belonging. I was able to gain control when I found my “tribe” at the game development course. I was able to connect to a community where I belong. On top of this, COMEBACK is about walking the journey together so that we discover each of our life purpose with a hope for the future.


About Ruth Lim

Ruth is on staff with SOOS OIO as an Esports Coach and co-developed TeleTrip, an offline gaming community event. She conducts DOTA 2 foundational classes and workshops for Esports Academy under SCOGA and also teaches the module “Team Management” in Informatics Diploma for Esports and Game Design. Ruth is also involved in the development of COMEBACK program.

Ruth Lim coached a competitive DOTA 2 team TenTwenty in 2017 that won CPL Championship DOTA 2 Edition 2017, came in 1st in Dew Challenge 2017 and represented Singapore in Asia Pacific Predator League in 2018. Ruth managed Team Impunity FIFA Online 3 who got 3rd in EA Champions Cup (EACC) Winter Cup 2016 representing Singapore. In 2017, she coached Team Impunity FIFA Online 3.

Ruth graduated from Temasek Polytechnic with Diploma in Games & Entertainment Technology and SIT-University of Glasgow in Bachelors of Science with Honours in Computing Science. She also holds a CoachSG coaching certificate.

Well recognized in the DOTA 2 community, Ruth attended numerous international gaming tournaments, got to know and learnt from many of the top players worldwide. Ruth hopes to share her knowledge and experience to gamers in Singapore and beyond.