Gaming for nation-building

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo December 08,2017 - 10:20 PM

I am the last person you will see in an internet café playing computer games.

It is just not my thing.

My husband, Jeff, has a different opinion about computer games. He said when he plays “Orcs Must Die” or “Left 4 Dead,” he temporarily shuts off his brain from serious thinking and just enjoy the mission of completing the game. To him, these games provide momentary respite from long hours of brainstorming with colleagues from all over the world, conceptualizing marketing initiatives and writing/rewriting presentations and speeches.

My head started to hurt when he explained how he played Pong, the first video game he got his hands into back in the mid-80s. To make me understand the game, he made me watch a scene from the 2008 movie WALL-E where the robot played Pong with EVE by his side. It looked to me like a boring game of ping pong on a black-and-white screen.

Boring was the last adjective he would use to describe Pong though. Back then, my husband explained, “it was a surreal experience to have a computer game in the comforts of your home.”

I did spend a fraction of my childhood playing Super Mario. But I never got addicted to computer/video games in the same level as books and encyclopedias. Growing up, there was a constant reminder from my parents and older relatives that playing computer games will make me a dull and disrespectful kid because I will get sucked into the world of hypnosis and alternate reality.

I looked at computer games as a total waste of time and money; the kind that will turn angels to devils. But then in February 2017, I met a young man named Clint Hennesy Porras Cagang, a graduate of Digipen Institute of Technology Singapore, and he passionately explained to me about game development and the potential of Cebu to be a game development hub.

My first reaction was of defiance and boredom. I do not speak the “gaming” language so I instantly spaced out when he started talking about his passion. I was a regular at the PhiloSophia Library Café on Highway Mandaue City and Clint, or Ken-Ken to his family members, has a small office in the same building.

I was first interested by his hair color. It changes frequently. My favorites are the purple and red variations. He reminded me of Son Goku and Vegeta, characters of the Japanese manga series, Dragon Ball Z. What intrigued me the most was his frequent meet ups with other youth his age. They are mostly in their early 20s. The phrase that I often overhear is “game development,” a field that is very much in its infancy stage in Cebu.

I know people in Cebu play video games but are there people here who can actually create games?

I honestly did not see Cebu a part of the game development value chain. But there was Clint explaining to me that game development needs artists, designers and programmers to work together to create a work of art. For more than two decades of looking at computer games from the consumer side, it was a revelation to listen to someone who talked about how games are created or produced.

The amount of creativity and research put together to create a game is nothing short of astounding. I witnessed this unfold before me when Clint and his friends spearheaded the creation of Cebu Game Dev, which they described as a local game development organization in Cebu dedicated to kick start game development in the community.

The group hosted game jams and workshops to encourage, inspire and motivate more people to be part of the game development community.

Make no mistake. I do not get the technical side of this field. I always tell Clint to explain concepts to me in simple terms, like he is talking to a seven-year-old pupil. The details about how they turned plans into realities is too complicated for me. It is beyond me and I have no plans of learning the skill. These are powers left for the masters (and would-be masters) to unleash.

In another language though — one that is spoken in terms of passion and commitment — I understand Clint and Cebu Game Dev. We dedicate time, effort and resources to causes which matter to us. This is why I have been drawn to the group and I am always excited to know what other plans they have in the pipeline.

Computer games are forms of entertainment. Unfortunately, they have earned the reputation of promoting violence and aggressiveness. I have had classmates who spent all their money to play these games. I know parents who complain about their children’s lack of focus in their studies because of addiction to online games. I talked to furious internet café owners who are blamed for children’s game addiction.

Less than a year since it was formed, Cebu Game Dev has proven to be a force to reckon with as they organized events and workshops aimed to enliven the community and create more games. I yet have to witness how its members can utilize their talents to address social issues faced by the youth and the society.

Perhaps a game to encourage or promote self-worth? Or a game where anti-bullying is the central theme?

I would like to see if these possibilities become realities. The question is: will Cebu Game Dev take this challenge?

I have a strong feeling that they will.

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TAGS: building, gaming, nation
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