Wednesday, July 27, 2016

In praise of gaming

4 years ago, a friend introduced me to the very alien world of computer gaming. Back then, I never counted myself as one of their target audiences. A "proper" girl doesn't game right?

Well, proper girls shouldn't be doing a lot of thing and that's why they have cats.

Which by the way, are furry movable furniture.

(Kidding, I love cats.)

In any case, I have had the fortune to experience first person shooting games like Battlefield and L4D2, to story-line pakour cinematics like Asassins' creed and Tomb Raider, and also multiplayer strategy games such as Dota2 and League of Legends.

Well no doubt they are really fun, I mean like hours-fly-by kind of fun. Which admittedly is longer than any movie.

There is a lot of resistance against gaming, especially women who almost see it as bad as their partners watching porn. I believe that it is lack of understanding that is proliferating this "judgy" attitude.

And no, I don't self-identify as a gamer girl because my reflexes, like my math, is tosh.

So here are 5 reasons why I am in praise of games.

1. Singapore is expensive and boring

It seems like an odd first point, but it lines up. Bear with me and you'll see why.

Singapore is a playground for the rich, extremely rich. We can't afford yachts and MBS-esque lives. But we can afford $12 of 4 hour game time to have a good time with friends. It is almost cheaper than a weekend movie ticket with twice the length of fun.

Popcorn not included. But most places allow food anyway.

Prices are inclusive of GST and service charge. You are welcomed.

2. You learn complex strategies à la the Art of War

Some games like DOTA and League of Legends require complex strategy. You have to decide from the moment have to pick a character with unique abilities, to the actual gameplay, to teamwork synergies. I call it complex chess.

Ultimately the aim of the game is to capture the opponent's team's "flag". Much like chess's aim is to capture the king.

So chess pieces are all inanimate but follow the same strategy. Characters have to work together with their abilities, they need to learn when to give someone the bounty so that their team wins over all, or when to wait for their turn to strike. Teams have to coordinate to focus down an enemy, and/or protect their damage-dealer so they don't give their own bounty away.

And the amazing thing is such decisions are also made in mere split seconds with multiple things happening at once.

So tell me how is this not amazing in and of itself?

3. It tells you what kind of person you are.

So previously, I thought that I was an aggressive decision maker because I'm very proactive. However, playing games (including Civ5) made me reconsider my assumptions.

I'm passive and defensive as hell. From my experience, some players go big and go home, others like me prefer to have all the information before proceeding. From these games, I am starting to realise how my passiveness can sometimes wreck results.

It is also true that you tell a person's true colours when you put them in hot water.

When the game is seemingly hopeless or when the odds are stacked against you, the feeling is eeriely real even though it's just a game. Do you stick through and find an opening? Do you blame others for what may be your mistake? Do you listen to 2nd opinions? Are you defensive?

4. You actually learn stuff

So Ezio and the Assassin's creed series just basically taught me the civil history in an extremely real replica of the cities they depict. It was so real, that when in Florence, I actually really didn't need a map because I've walked those streets in-game before.

Also, you learn about stuff like guns, how they fire, how recoil can affect your aim etc. It's not 100% the real thing, and no I don't feel the urge to go shoot people in case you're wondering. It's useless information, but at least I'm prepared for a zombie apocalypse, are you?

5. Some games, are basically sports.

Unlike doping, e-sports face no such issue. Unless you count red-bull as a drug. Before you scoff at the notion that computer games can be "sports", may I remind you that soccer started out as kids kicking a tin can around in some alley as well.

And like every community, there are crazy ass people who mouth off, as there are silent supporters who watch every game of their favourite (*ahem Puppey ahem*).

It is also not some small obscure community. The last prize pool of Dota2 The International was ~USD6 million, way more than the Wimbledon and mostly pooled through the community. The combined players of World of Warcraft in a city is too large to fit an Olympic stadium.

Like all things, if done in moderation, poses benefits. Phobias are irrational, so is the lack of will to try to understand. Addictions are detrimental, so find out what games do to our brains. Like with all addictions, often the medium (games, drugs, porn) are just stand-ins for something more fundamental.

So go try them out....good luck have fun people!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

So about this thing called a start-up...

We've all got that one friend, who's involved in a start up of some kind. With the proliferation of Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin at the turn of 2010, to the recent hype of Uber and beautiful branding of Airbnb, it is hard not to be tempted to jump into the bandwagon.

I've been to a couple of start up talks, and networking events across the last few years and I'm constantly struck by the kind of questions that some would-be entrepreneurs ask, or the attitude they display.

Don't get me wrong, this post is not to suggest or downplay start-ups as a frivolous pursuit. Neither am I possessing the opinion that it is a waste of time, and that most of them are scams.
However I am of the opinion that the word "start-up" has become a brand in and of itself, and I have observed that some people have bought into the hype and think that being part of a start-up, or somehow being self-employed is desirable.

It is not.

As a loved one told me, the word start-up gives the would-be entrepreneur an excuse to fail, that it is somehow okay to do so because everything is "experimental" or "untested". As a result, incompetence is tolerated because we are all part of the "learning journey".
I find this notion uncomfortable to stomach. Incredibly, would-be entrepreneurs find capital and see it as a be-all and end-all solution to their insolvency, or the high costs of running a company. It is also extremely self-centered, that someone should trust their capital in your hands for a turnover when you have no track record, not even an inkling of what it means to analyse a balance sheet. A good idea is not enough.

Our parents and indeed some people now, would never have self-identified themselves as a start up.

Not-too-long ago, it was called running a business.

It was about feeding their families, about working for a better life - recognising that working for someone else offered limited opportunities because of the current career climate. It could also be that the person earned much more doing freelance outside, that slowly gained traction into a registered business.

I think in our pursuit of the dream of owning your own million dollar company, we forget that it was ultimately either a rich family's son/daughter's interest that grew into something, or one's desperation to get out of poverty at all personal costs. However some individuals see this start-up culture as an event to hand out business cards that says "CEO" or "MANAGING DIRECTOR" behind a wrinkle free face. It is not an avenue to bolster one's ego. Ask any SME and they can tell you that they have endless nights worrying about cashflow, and from mistakes they gain valuable experience.

Because experience is one of two things: age and exposure. Some fortunate individuals have had the opportunity to be exposed while they were in safe environments (schools, family businesses, universities), they grow quicker and therefore are well-poised to seize a new idea and turn it into a new business.

However, observing the small sample size I have, I feel that many would-be entrepreneurs have no idea what they are doing. There is a lot of wastage - time, effort and money - to get the same result. A lot of would-be entrepreneurs also reject the "corporate monolith", often setting it as a dichotomy to their own identities. Either seeing them as bullies or as stuck-in-the-mud institutions. Yet, I share a different perspective.

I see corporations as learning institutions and some have more lessons than most. Unlike the climate our parents face, many companies are rich areas of experience. The exposure in some companies can be better than most start ups. Furthermore, they have failed before and these lessons are passed on. There is received wisdom and modus operandi is a series of trial and error. There is a reason why they are stuck to their ways - it worked. The only failure is a company's lack of agility and vision, which understandably can be lost due to groupthink and set ways.

So ultimately, I've learnt plenty by working for organisations, that I didn't get while working for a start-up. Of course you get the office politics in a office of 500 instead of 15. Of course you have red tape when you have shareholders and authorities to account to. Of course there would be more control because your actions are consequential.

However consider this, control is labour intensive and time consuming. If no authority bats an eye, it may very well be that you're too small to make a significant impact. In that case, what kind of superstar start-up would you be?

Ultimately, I am against ill-experienced, self-important and indulgent start-uppers. Those that can't tell revenue forecasting from market analysis. Those that waste their parents' hard-earned money to bolster their egos.

It's good to have ideas, and above all, it is absolutely crucial to have better execution.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sri Lanka 2016: Three Things

It has been some time since I've blogged - I've been busy recuperating from the topsy-turvy time back at my old job. There's simply nothing better to "cleanse the system" than a holiday.

So when a friend asked me 2 months ago, "would you like to go Sri Lanka?" I dived at the opportunity.  I mean my boyfriend's half Sri Lankan, and I used to work on the Sri Lankan Tourism Board accounts which really made me wonder about the place. It's not a destination that one immediately calls to mind, especially when they tout their beaches and heritage sites as a big draw.

1) Sri Lanka is a workout

I have never exercised as much as I did before going to that place. Even with a private driver to ferry us around this vast hilly land, I find myself walking and climbing more than any other holiday I've taken.

Temples are mostly on top of an endless flight of stairs. Understandably so, since the mostly-Buddhist country has not just beautiful naturally occurring caves and rock outcrops, Buddhists also believe in seclusion for meditation just as Buddha himself did.

The mere mortals like us - it's 200m worth of steps up. For more unfit individuals like myself, it felt more like 1297183788384234m worth of torture.

Trying to get down the boulders was a certifiable challenge at Pidurangala Rock. It felt like a Lara Croft Tom Raider Walkthrough in real-life. #achievementunlocked

The moment where I go "Does my travel insurance cover accidents like this?"

When the number of stairs make you see stars early in the morning.

I've officially reached my climbing quota for the entire trip when we had to climb yet another set of endless stairs to reach the top of the Cave Temple in Dambulla later that afternoon.

2) You can see so far that your eyes hurt

In Singapore, due to high-rises and skyscrapers, you don't really get to see the sky. It's one of my many regrets, especially since I'm a sucker for a fully lit night sky.

But day after day, I had views that take my breath away literally, and was greeted with the sense of immense respect for the vastness of the land that we take for granted. We had to work for the view (muscle aches were part of the package) but at the end of the day, you could say that it was worth every bead of sweat.

Nothing beats a sky filled with stars, a landscape full of trees and a peak bursting with clouds.

The best things come for free.

Winds were so strong, I had to have a model moment at the peak of the Cave Temple

4.5hours drive to the highlands and this place's views can rival that of Europe.

One of the many waterfalls we see in the highlands.

3) The best things in life are shared

From drinking Coconuts, to enjoying dinner, I'm grateful to have gone with 2 awesome companions who are the most easy-going and forgiving folks that I've ever travelled with. I admire their determination for climbing Adam's Peak at 2am in the morning and still make it to work the next day (a round of applause please).

I think without their help, I would have never enjoyed the view on top of Pidurangala Rock, nor awe at the sights near Adam's Peak. I would have never opened my eyes to another side of travelling - that it is okay to compromise comfort (and lay in a night's worth of bedbugs) because some experiences make such a deep impression, they become imprints that you carry for life.

It has truly been magical, and once again, thanks for getting my fat ass up and down the bloody Rock at 5am in the morning. Thanks for the many pictures and fond memories!

You guys rock....and durian.