“I am an otaku.”
Doben Villaruz is on the heavy side, bespectacled, with a round face, curly hair, a demeanor that betrays no emotions at all.
He is hard to read, rarely smiles, always the quiet one.
But his eyes would light up when talking about anime, or manga, and has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of anything that the Japanese drew, and animated.
And he readily admits that he is an otaku.
An otaku, for the uninitiated, is a Japanese term for any young people who has a rather unhealthy obsession for computers, and pop culture that this has taken a toll on their social life.
A classic introvert, Doben thus is more comfortable facing and interacting with digital characters than live ones, and spends a lot of time gaming.
“I’m just a casual gamer,” he says. Simply put, his gaming experience is limited at home, not at gaming competitions like Esports.
For some gamers, gaming affords them the opportunity at role-playing, at being a World War 1 soldier assigned in the trenches in Africa, for instance, or a Paladin beating the hell out of Baal, or a mercenary on a rescue mission.
It’s like inhabiting a life different from the one they are leading now, giving them at least a shot at being somewhere else fighting demons, or building empires, or fighting Russians even if it is, you know, just pretend. Takes the sting out of the reality that you are cooped up in a bedroom, too scared to go out without the mask because of that Gosh-darned virus.
Doben knows the feeling quite well.
“I’m more into gaming because I feel like I can be someone or something that I can’t be in reality,” he says.
He immerses in the narrative. A little too much, sometimes.
Doben admits to playing five or six games a week (that’s at least a game a day), and two to six hours gaming (“I would spend two hours when on duty, and six when off.”)
The hours Doben clocks in for games might not be a fraction of certain anecdotal accounts (a teen-aged gamer in Taiwan, for instance, died after playing Diablo 3 for 40 hours straight).
Still, Doben admits his parents consider his hobby a “waste of time”.
In fact, he says, he always make it a point to set aside a portion of his paycheck for games (around P1,000 to P2,000 per pay day, or about).
That’s hard-earned money going to his passion, a passion nurtured since he was in Grade 3 tinkering with his first-ever gadget, a Game Boy Advance.
“I was really addicted to Pokemon at that time and I would beg my mom to buy me a new Pokemon game every December or sometimes in my birthday so that I can play it all day,” he recalls.
He progressed to a PlayStation Portable afterwards, and discovered the GTA Vice City Stories.
His biggest accomplishment, he says, was buying his own PS4 using his own salary.
And, despite the negative stereotypes against gamers, Doben does not see himself quitting in the foreseeable future.
“Gaming gives you a peace of mind,” he says, adding, ”and also it gives you comfort when you’re feeling down.”