‘I like games because I don’t need to think,’ he said openly.
She nods and doesn’t break eye contact with him. It’s a moment of surprising honesty; one you don’t expect to take place in the middle of a waiting room at CentreLink.
‘When I play games, it’s just type, type, type. I can switch off and just chat to people the whole day. I like that.’
Part of me feels guilty about listening in on a private conversation, even if it’s being spoken aloud in a public space. But the rest of me is just fascinated with this scene. So far all I know about this person is that they don’t have a job and that they are collecting CentreLink payments.
She asks him, ‘what would be your dream job?’ A silence follows, before he asks, ‘what do you mean?’
‘Like if someone said I’ll pay you money to do anything you want, what would it be?’ Still no answer, so she persists. ‘You like games? Would you like to work in games?’
He shakes his head. “It’s not that easy. Just because I play games doesn’t mean I have the skills to be in game development. That’s a completely different beast.”
By now I’ve stopped reading the book that’s still resting in my lap so I can pretend I’m not the kind of person who eavesdrops on a conversation so that they can later post about it on the internet. I learn that this person is too poor to own their own computer – so they attend their local internet cafe religiously. It’s a regular cycle of gaming and sleeping; one that he admits leans more towards gaming than sleeping.
“Do you think you could not play games for one day a week?” Another shake of the head. “I can’t. You get rewards for logging in each day. They stack up – but if you miss a day, it all resets. It doesn’t take much time, but you need to log in.” He has just enough motivation to log in and game for hours to keep his reward streak going – but when it comes to everything else, he admits he’s a pessimist. He leans back in his chair and proclaims quietly, “I’m boring.”
“You’re boring or you’re bored?”
I look down at the book that I’m idly flipping the pages of to keep up appearances. Dude, you’re definitely not boring. From what I can tell you seem to be well-spoken, self aware and smart. These are all excellent qualities. Not to mention this person has someone looking out for them. I don’t even think she is a friend per se. Maybe a family friend? They obviously care about this person – but there’s a mentor-like quality about the way she speaks and chooses her words. She’s prompting him just enough to open up.
He plays games, he explains, because he has nothing else to do. They have a handful of local friends – but it costs money to go out. “What about the library?, she suggests. “You could read in there for free.” He turns down that idea. He turns down a lot of ideas actually. Several times he admits he’s just lazy. He wants to save money, but all his money goes into the daily fees at the internet cafe.
“If you can help me find a job I’d be grateful.” Now he’s the one making unbroken eye contact. “Really I would. Even as a waiter or something would be good.” He sounds like he’s speaking in earnest, but when she digs into this we both learn he hasn’t gone around to the local restaurants to find out if they’re hiring. He probably won’t anytime soon. “I’m lazy,” he repeats.
“You keep expecting money to fall from the sky, right?” He laughs and agrees while she face palms. “You make me do that a lot, you know?”
Her phone rings and she excuses herself to go answer it. When she returns, she smiles and asks, “now where were we?” Looking away, he claims he’s forgotten. It’s obvious that he hasn’t – he just wants the conversation to end. He’s had enough introspection for the day.
He looks up at the green MediCare poster hanging on the wall, sighs and says to himself: “I’m here for GameCare.”
This is true story with the identifying features about the two people removed to preserve their anonymity. I still think there’s dubious ethics about sharing this conversation, but I get the feeling this person isn’t alone in their situation. For that reason I thought this story was worth sharing and I wish this person well.