If you’re in urgent need of help, Samaritans of Singapore 1800 221 4444 (Suicide Prevention/Crisis hotline) Hello! This is the first part of a series of evidence-based mental health articles that’ll cover a broad range of topics: free and affordable mental health resources in Singapore, how we can seek psychiatric help, strategies we can use to improve your wellbeing, and stories of people with mental disorders. The next article will cover more on mental health and on seeking help, so stay tuned! This article will cover some general questions on mental health, psychiatry, and psychology. If you have any feedback or questions you’d like to see answered in future articles, click here! Will seeking psychiatric help or having a mental illness affect my job prospects? Will I have to declare my seeing a psychiatrist or having a mental disorder when applying for a job? No. The Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, which the MOM refers to when dealing with employee discrimination, has stated that employers are not allowed to request job applicants to declare mental health issues or discriminate against those with mental health issues. Who will know that I’ve sought psychiatric help? Will my parents know that I sought therapy or counselling? Counsellors and psychotherapists are generally required to keep all the information that you’ve given them confidential. In some cases, such as when a professional believes that you may harm yourself or other people, your confidentiality rights will be waived. For some counselling organisations, like TOUCH Youth Intervention, therapy for minors cannot begin unless they’ve received parental consent. Whereas for some private practices, psychiatrists will see minors without their parents knowing. Even at the Institute of Mental Health, many psychiatrists see minors who request not to involve their parents. Nonetheless, clinicians generally recommend that you inform your parents before seeking help. But if you feel that telling your parents about your mental health issues can worsen your mental health issues, you can always ask whoever you’re seeing their protocols and inform them of your concerns. For school counsellors, the issue is a bit more complicated. School counsellors often have to file reports that’ll be seen by their superiors, like principals and vice-principals, and private therapists and counsellors don’t have to do this. And because these higher-ups don’t receive the same ethics training as counsellors do, they might not know what to do with this information. Do I have a mental disorder? Only a diagnostician (eg. a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist) can determine whether or not you have a mental disorder. Anyone can develop a mental disorder at any stage of life. Some disorders like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders can arise at any age and to any demographic, while other disorders like ASD and ADHD arise and may start to present symptoms at very young ages (APA, 2013). Different mental disorders have different symptoms and can occur as a result of different reasons; if you suspect you have a mental disorder, it’s always best to seek professional help. Should I seek psychiatric help? If you have thoughts of suicide, the intention to commit suicide, or thoughts of hurting other people, you should seek psychiatric help immediately. If you feel that “something is not quite right”, the American Psychiatric Association has the following list of symptoms as warning signs of mental illness: Sleep or appetite changes: Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care Mood changes: Rapid or dramatic shifts in emotions or depressed feelings Withdrawal: Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed Drop in functioning: An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks Problems thinking: Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain Increased sensitivity: Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations Apathy: Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity Feeling disconnected: A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality Illogical thinking: Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult Nervousness: Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling Unusual behavior: Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior The APA recommends that if you notice yourself experiencing several of these symptoms, seeking help may be useful to you. If you notice a person exhibiting these symptoms, it could also indicate that they may need psychiatric intervention. What exactly is a mental disorder/illness anyway? “Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours.” —The Mayo Clinic (Hyperlinks my own.) There are hundreds of types of mental disorders, each of which present with different symptoms. If you feel like you may have a mental illness, or that you display traits of mental illnesses as listed by the APA, it’ll best to see a clinician or mental health professional to receive any treatment, if necessary. One-in-seven Singaporeans have faced a mental disorder, while one-in-three youths in Singapore have self-harmed. Mental illnesses are prevalent among all demographics, and early-intervention can mean the difference between life and death. If you’re looking for online-resources available to you during the current circuit breaker period, this document provides a comprehensive list. (I am not affiliated with the author(s) of the document). Further readings American Psychiatric Association. What is Psychiatry? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-psychiatry American Psychological Association. Understanding psychotherapy and how it works. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-psychotherapy National Health Service. (2018). Antidepressants. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antidepressants/ National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Mental Health Medications. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml WebMD. Guide to Psychiatry and Counselling. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/guide-to-psychiatry-and-counseling References American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Articles tagged under life:
I have a theory. The theory is that no one ever gets “the results they expect”. That is, except the top students who expect straight As and get them. The theory is that you either do better or worse than you thought you would. That when you get your results something actually changes. You say “oh…now I can actually apply for Medicine! Should I?” Or you say “looks like I can’t be a doctor anymore. Hope my parents don’t force me into Business.” The theory is that because we only take A levels once (phew), we can never really “expect” anything. Plunge litmus paper into acid. It turns red. Plunge litmus paper into acid again. It turns red again. We expect the next time we do this the same result follows. But we can’t precisely expect something we’ve never experienced before and will never experience again. So on results day everything changes. Your result slip elevates you into the fabled realm of the elites. Or it vindicates two years of lost youth. Or it opens doors you never would have considered. Or it condemns you into the abyss of normalcy where your dreams vanish into vacuum. I have another theory. The theory is that the first one’s wrong. The theory is that because you can’t even “expect” any results in the first place, it’s impossible to do better or worse than you "expected". The theory is that you simply do as well as you did. In fact you already did that months ago, sitting in a cavernous hall filled with the hopes and dreams of people like you. Scribbling furiously in blue or black ink made up of the blood, sweat and tears of 18 years till now. It’s a historical fact as much as what you ate for breakfast. You tell someone important “these are my grades”. Never that “these should have been my grades”. So on results day nothing changes. Plunge litmus paper into acid. Acid is acid. Plunge litmus paper into acid again. Acid is still acid. On results day someone hands you a red or blue slip of paper. Acid remains acid. People look at the red or blue slip of paper and determine you. Let them. Acids and alkali react differently. If they all reacted the same way we wouldn’t need both as much as we do now. The theory says what matters is not how you did, but how you did it. Not what you did, but what you do. Will you say “This slip of paper declares that I’m not red enough. I will never be red enough.” Or will you say “The slip of paper claims I’m not red enough. I think it’s wrong. I’m going to prove it wrong. Even if it’s right, that only means the same thing – I need to be redder.” We carry this red or blue slip of paper with us for a while. It helps people who don't understand understand. It seems to change where we go. Then, we realise we’ve reacted. We’re not the same. That slip of paper no longer determines us. If it ever did. “So I’ve got my A level results. Now what?” The theory is that you knew the answer even before you could ask that question. Plunge litmus paper into new solution. Let's see what colours emerge and effervesce.
It’s over and you are invincible. Just conquered the hardest test of your life. It all gets better from here, they said. And it does. You’re 18. What’s there to fear. You can drive now. Even get into Zouk after being checked. Now you reclaim those weekends spent with ten year series’. You’ve already planned everything in the painful weeks leading to the exams. This time, it’s having fun with a vengeance. Before you have to go to that other place. Finally, the food you wanted to eat, the movies you wanted to watch, the games you wanted to play, the friends you wanted to meet. Throw in a class chalet, or two, if your secondary school class still exists. But before that, maybe just one, two weeks of rest and letting it sink in. You’ve earned it, definitely, and no one can take it away from you. The sky’s bluer now. A month. Christmas and New Year and parties in between. It’s all been great. Maybe you should learn a new language, or how to play the guitar. It’s fun, but after awhile it’s not. Whatever, now’s the time for fun. Because if not now then it’s never. If you’re fast, you start learning to drive. At 20kph, it’s already thrilling. The power of adulthood taps you on the shoulder and you welcome it like a long-awaited friend. 25kph. Another month. You remember you have to go to that other place. You’ll find out more about it soon. Meanwhile, an internship or a job. Working for the first time! Long sleeved shirts, neatly pressed by Dad. The daily commute mixed with the fresh smell of Raffles Place coffee 30 minutes early to work. You look dashing in that new pair of leather shoes. After 18 years, you’re ready to contribute to this society. And it’s good. You don’t actually need to do much besides what you already do in school. How easy can it get? And you’ve learnt how to operate the photocopy machine. Useful stuff. 30kph and third gear. It’s February. Chinese New Year. Relatives you meet once every year. How do you feel about that other place? They ask but you have no idea. It’s impossible to know. Until you’re there. It looks…fine. You’re on a ferry now. How hard can it get? A pledge. With your life. You’ll be out in two weeks, you think. The food’s ok too. The only hard part that day was waving back at them. You remember something you learnt in school. About commas and exclamation marks and Mrs Tilscher and the sky splitting open and eating you up and you wish it really did now as you race up the stairs in a stiff pair of expensive boots you didn’t pay for but actually did. They cut into your feet but you have to run and run or else you have to run even more. The first time you run yourself along the coast you look across the channel between there and here and wonder why it has to be like this although you know the answer and how you just don’t want to accept that it really has to be like this. The view from your bed is the best you ever had because the quiet lights of the jetty and island opposite this island are right there and you tell yourself you will never understand the difference between what you supposedly are now and what you were then and will be in two years’ time. It gets better. The first time you run back home (in your mind, because you force yourself to walk) it seems things are all okay now. Maybe tomorrow when you wake up you will discover it was all just a dream or maybe it’s actually all over and this itself is the bad dream. Or someone comes and tells you it was all a very cruel yet well-executed practical joke and you don’t have to go back there. He doesn’t come. The second time you’re on the ferry was supposed to be easier but it’s the same. The same new feeling for the next two months as you learn how much you have to learn and for the first time learn how to kill someone, with good reason, when necessary, after having taken proportionate steps. One weekend Dad waits for you in the car and you cannot wait to tell him you’ve done exactly the same as he did twenty years ago except it’s probably very different now even though the bomb you used is the same. You don’t say anything but moments of eye contact transmit everything you wanted to say and reassure you you’re really doing this for something even if that something is just earning a right to look Dad in the eye having been through this as well. Sitting behind him on the TPE you can’t recall whether he had this many white hairs before A levels or if you just didn’t notice. Letters on a rainy day in a forest on an island. The first time in a long time you cried (in your mind, a lot more). Then it was finally time and you’ve never seen the park look this beautiful before as each step takes you nearer and deeper into the heart of a country you’ve pledged to defend. You wonder if you will be able to see the city in the same light again as day breaks and you march in with five thousand more yous and the smell of freedom and new uniforms soaked in old sweat fill a stadium already bursting with pride. A week. Then, again. When you go to that new place there’s no ferry ride but everything is new and unfamiliar and you wished you could have just gotten that other posting along with your friend. Should have indicated interest for that long ago. Anyhow it’s a new regime under new management and again you struggle to understand why it can’t just be for two months because two months alone were enough to twist the universe into this. You survive, somehow, although everyone does, somehow. December and life settles. 40kph. You’ve vocated. Then it’s a blur of exercise and exercises and duties and making it for the last bus and dinners with buddies, not friends, and knowing in years to come you’d be happy to see them again. 50 kph. The phone rings and you remember someone is waiting for an email about something you have to properly arrange else someone really could die. As things start to fall into place piece by piece the parts of you that had to be locked away somewhere you did not know by someone you still don’t know arrange themselves inside you again. They’re the same you you knew you were but put into this different you the parts don’t seem to fit. Fitting or not you’re just relieved they’re back again and you even speak with the same voice you had long ago. Once a sergeant had told you the first two months break you into bits so you can be reconstituted into what your country needed you to be. Maybe now you really are more of what you’re needed to be and that Friday as you leave your bunk you realise soon it will be all over and soon you will close this door for the last time and open another. A shiny crested plaque later all the memorabilia you’ve acquired from the past two years (did it really happen?) are going into a big black bag in the storeroom. Just so you’d remember it did happen the plaque goes into your room instead. Thankfully things are okay now and you can still count how many white hairs he has. In a few months who you were taps who you are on the shoulder and together you look for who you will be. You wake up and everything feels the same. Everything is the same. Except "What Then?" has become "What Now?" Note: This is not at all a factual recount of my own experiences, but an attempt at portraying the possibilities after A's. It was no doubt influenced by and skewed towards my own perspectives. Do take it with a pinch of salt (especially for girls, unless you're signing on).
Remember the last you complained about how you didn’t have time to do all the things you wanted to do? That was about 5 minutes ago, wasn’t it? It’s a sad truth that, no matter who you are, you only have 24 hours in a day. And we all face the one central problem of needing to unlimited things with limited time. But what if I told you that time does not exist. That you can speed it up or slow it down if you want to. That how you look at the time you have and make decisions based on it will affect how many things you can do in a day. What I mean is you might find yourself able to do a thousand more things if you simply stopped thinking about time as a linear concept and started thinking that it was some sort of rubber band. In reality, time is something we define, based on how long it takes for a pendulum to swing to the other side, and for the earth to complete another revolution. Thing is, time, as we experience it, is really a different thing altogether. Most of you would’ve experienced how quickly time passes when you’re doing something really absorbing or fun, like sleeping, gaming, or for those of you so inclined, doing maths. And you probably would’ve felt how slowly and painfully it can pass when you’re doing something less enjoyable, like running a 2.4, attending lectures, or for those of you who are normal, doing maths. It seems as if time, for all its supposedly constant nature, can actually bend and stretch depending on what you are doing. Yes, I’m telling you things that you already know. The point of all this is really to tell you that you already know how to do it, but might not have realized how you can totally take advantage of this to make more time for yourself. What you need to do First you need to get a clear idea what exactly time is. A wise person described the difference between the concept of linear time and elastic time as the difference between analog and digital watches. On an analog watch, the hands tell you the time, and the rest of the day is laid out, set in stone. You can see the past and the future in equally spaced markings, and everything’s fixed. But on a digital watch, all you see is the present time. For all you know, the past may not even have existed. And the future is inexistent too. It is undefined, limitless. Try to think of time as the digital watch tells you. The time you have to spend is not yet defined, and you can determine what you want to do with it. It can also be much faster or slower than you actually think it’ll be. Just because running a 2.4 felt like the most time-consuming thing you’ve done in your life doesn’t change the fact that most people will really spend less than 15 minutes on the actual running. Now that you’ve stomached that revelation, start to plan your day based on what you need to do, rather than the time that you’ll take. Instead of thinking “I don’t have enough time to go running because it’ll take me 5 minutes to put on my gear…another 5 to get to the track….”, try “I need to go running, how much time can I spend on that? Oh geez I’ve only got 30 minutes, better get moving.” Next, find out how much time it really takes for you to do something. Don’t base it on your impressions, because we all know that time as you perceive it is relative. It really only takes about half an hour for you to do most things. The reason why you think it takes longer than that is because most of that time is spent fighting inertia and thinking it can’t be done, because, when you allocated one hour for something like getting a life, you probably split it up into bits of: First 15 minutes – mindless indecision. Next 15 minutes – getting off the sofa. And then – 15 minutes of realizing I don’t have enough time to get a life. And lastly – 15 minutes of ‘rest’ for that strenuous activity I just did. In fact, you can cook a meal for yourself, read a few pages of a book, take a shower, run a mile and even stop mindlessly browsing youtube in the span of 15 minutes. That’s the reason why successful people (and action movie heroes) seem to be able to do about three thousand things in two hours – because they know how to slow time down (by just moving faster and actually getting down to doing something). How is it possible that a guy could wake up at 6am, go to the gym for an hour and be at work by 8, then knock off at 5 and spend an hour travelling, an hour having dinner with his family, and still have two hours read and play Battlefield 3 and do whatever he wants? Well, because he doesn’t spend any time doing nothing. And this stems from realizing that time is up to you to control. How it works It all boils down to one concept that’s been preached to us for years now – time management. But this isn’t the kind of time management whereby you’re expected to just stop doing anything you want and instead do nothing but study all day. It’s the kind of time management that tells you can do still do things you want to do and achieve awesome things like enough sleep, great results and a muscular/slender body. But enough about boring old time management, here’s something else you need to know about time – that it really is elastic (warning: advanced scientific theories imminent. For those of you who are not interested, there’s always the cake at the end.) It’s something called time dilation, the idea that time actually slows down for you depending on how fast you are and how much gravity you experience. And it’s not even a theory, you know, because those people working on it probably realized it was too mind-blowing to be fake. Here are the first few lines of the wiki article on it: “An accurate clock at rest with respect to one observer may be measured to tick at a different rate when compared to a second observer's own equally accurate clocks. This effect arises neither from technical aspects of the clocks nor from the fact that signals need time to propagate, but from the nature of spacetime itself.” Wait, what? Well, basically… “A case of time dilation in action is that astronauts return from missions on the International Space Station (ISS) having aged less than the mission control crew that remained on Earth. Such time dilation has been repeatedly demonstrated...for instance by small disparities in atomic clocks on Earth and in space, even though both clocks work perfectly (it is not a mechanical malfunction). The laws of nature are such that time itself (i.e. spacetime) will bend due to differences in either gravity or velocity—each of which affects time in different ways” To put things simply, the closer you get to the speed of light, compared to someone else, the slower time is for you. This means you could literally travel on a rocket at close to the speed of light and you could come back to earth a year later (in your own time) and realize that about two million years actually passed there. This is probably science’s way of telling us that if you are willing to move faster, time will slow down for you so you get to do more stuff. So if you’re interested in living longer and such, plan your days based on the digital watch. If you start to see time as an elastic concept, that’s when you realize you control time, and time doesn’t control you. You can start to schedule more things into an already tight schedule, and get them done by slowing time down relative to you (read: moving faster). You’ll stop thinking you don’t have time for anything and wasting your life away on youtube and/or facebook. You have more time and can do more things that you think or know you can do. So run along now, and start changing the world. This week’s cake:
You are your own worst enemy. You want to achieve amazing things, go places, lose weight, study more, study less…but everything inside you seems to want the opposite of that. You tell yourself that, this time, it’ll work. It’ll just take a little bit more resolve and self-discipline, that you’ll just…become a better person. But telling yourself to be more of an all-round useful person and hoping that you’ll listen just doesn’t quite work. Remember all those New Year’s resolutions you made? Wait, do you even remember them? Self-discipline is commonly misunderstood as the need to control yourself via sheer willpower. That, however, is only going to work for the few people who have willpowers strong enough to resist a freshly baked cheesecake placed right in front of their mouths. To say no despite its fragrant aroma wafting carelessly into their nostrils and evoking images of cheddary bliss and calorific wonder. Its called self-discipline for a reason. Just as how the discipline master enforces strict rules and punishments on students, disciplining yourself involves setting up rules, rewards and, yes, consequences for breaking the rules. In this series, we explore a few ways you can seek to attain personal mastery and control. Method #1 – Relinquishing Control Wouldn’t it be great if someone could just help you do everything you wanted to do? Technically, that would work, but the problem is there are just some things like studying, sleeping and working out that you really have to do yourself. And, worse, if you get someone else to do everything for you, he might end up getting all the credit! But that doesn’t mean you can’t get help. That’s because when I say help, it means you recruit another person or people to force you to do it. Because it’s way easier for someone else to make you do (or not do) something. Otherwise, we wouldn’t quite need policemen, fitness trainers and teachers. Say, you really, really want to work out and lose weight. Now the traditional way to do it would be to set your mind on it, and then try your best to pull yourself out of the house and hit the gym whenever you’re free, right? 3 weeks later…you’re probably right where you started, surfing twitter on your couch and telling yourself that tomorrow will be the day you hit the gym. Yes, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. What you need to do. Once you’ve decided on a goal, you need to relinquish control of yourself to someone else. Now ignore how suggestive that might sound and focus on how it means that you basically need to put the powers of enforcement in the hands of someone else. Wanna lose weight? Tell everyone about it. Declare proudly on facebook that you’ve decided to go on a diet and hit the gym every Wednesday. This imposes a consequence on yourself, because if you don’t, you’re gonna look like a big fat liar in front of everyone. To make it work better, your goal needs to be measurable and achievable. Now I know you’ve probably sat through a boring workshop on goal setting which has already covered this, but I’m only saying this again because it’s important. If you simply declare that you’re gonna “lose weight XD #swag”, then it wouldn’t quite work because no one will be able to fault you if you simply lose about 1 gram. What’s worse is that you’ll forever procrastinate because you didn’t set a time limit for yourself. There just isn’t an effective consequence, and instead you’d be making up excuses like “It was an impossible goal anyway”, or “I am working out, you know, remember that one time two weeks ago…” Instead, try “Hi everyone I hereby declare that I will shed 5 kilos in 2 months or else I owe everyone a drink.” See how that will work? Because not only do you give people a way to measure whether you’ve succeeded, you’ve also given them an incentive to take it out on you if you don’t. For those of you who are a bit more shy, you could simply tell a friend about it, and propose a consequence of failure. For example, you could tell him that you’ll pass the upcoming maths test, otherwise you’ll pay him $10. If you think that’s not enough, then promise $100…whatever you need to make sure you absolutely a hundred thousand percent pass that test. Now the problem with this is that it can sometimes not be credible. If you made that bet with a really good friend, you know that he won’t be as cruel as to expect payment from you. Even if he does, you could just not pay him and he can’t force it upon you. So the trick here is to find someone who will definitely enforce it, someone with both the incentives and means to do so. In the most extreme case, you could literally give something to another person – your LoL account password, your basketball gear, even your phone – for ‘safekeeping’ so that you won’t have any way to access it. That would surely work better than telling yourself ‘alright I’m gonna quit playing and study more…this time’. How it works. Warning: The next few paragraphs involve some amount of geekiness and higher order theoretical thinking skills which may not be for everyone. There aren’t even pictures in this section. If you’re not interested, skip this section because there will be cake at the end. No, really. For those of you interested in the mechanics of how this all works (I shall assume you are because you’re reading this despite the cake at the end), then let me introduce you to game theory. Simply put, game theory is the study of how to make strategic decisions based not only on the possible outcomes of your choices, but how these outcomes will fare given how other people make their choices. Before I confuse you further, let’s examine how this all applies to self-discipline. In game theory, self-discipline is commonly modeled as how you are playing a game with your future self. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call your future self Neo. Now, Neo usually knows what’s best for you. He wants you to go work out, eat healthier, and study harder, so that he’ll be an all-round better person. But you don’t really want to go through all the work for him. What you really want to do is to enjoy the present and live while you’re young. #YOLO, whatever. Knowing this, what you want to do is help Neo win the battle against your current self. You want to force yourself to remember that Neo is actually you, in about a month, year, or even decade, depending on the kind of choice you are facing. By doing that little bit of ‘relinquishing of control’, you do two things which force you to get your act together. Firstly, you modify the game such that not working hard now imposes a consequence on yourself (being known as a liar, losing $100). Secondly, when you give things to other people to ‘safekeep’, you limit the options available to you, taking away the option that you would’ve done and leaving only the option Neo wants to do. In other words, it requires you to admit that you can’t quite control yourself as well as you want to, and let your future self decide… In the next issue, we examine: Method #2 - Thinking about time as an elastic concept Now, as promised: Have an interesting way/method of brainwashing yourself? Share it in the comments! Cover by tw.center.net
Somewhere at the back of your mind you register an authoritative voice. That voice belongs to the lecturer. She's trying to tell you something about private and public goods. But the only goods you’re currently concerned with are the colourful, shiny, and oh-so-touchable bits of candy in front of you. The ones you need to combine and crush. That’s right, you’re not paying attention. But it doesn’t mean you’re not learning anything either, because some of life’s greatest lessons are hidden in games like these. That is, if you actually are insane/bored enough to actually think about the metagame and the mechanics of how they work. So that you don’t have to go crazy examining the construction of candy crush and the philosophy of plants versus zombies, we’ve done it for you, and here are a few popular games that are more than meets the iPhone. #1 – Temple Run II: Move Ahead, Or Move Aside You’ve probably played this one. If you haven’t, you’re missing out on the amazing metaphors and rich subliminal messages they’ve built into the game. But before that, let me congratulate you on being part of the special minority who haven’t yet succumbed to this game’s right-angle running coin collecting screen tilting fun. In this beautifully designed game, you play one of four characters whose job, dreams, and purpose in life is to run, collect as many coins and amass as high a score as possible – before you inevitably die when things get so fast you can’t handle it anymore. You do so by swiping your fingers across the screen to jump, duck, turn, and dodge left and right. You also need to tilt your phone sometimes to lean towards the side where the coins are. There are also many, many ways to perish in this game. You could get washed away by a river, run into a wall, fall into the neverending abyss, and, most interestingly, if you stumble too often, the temple guardian, which looks like a cross between a monitor lizard and a gorilla, will not only catch and eat you, but leave you with a taunt even after you’re gone, saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” So, what is this all really about? In life, you play one character you choose, whose job, dreams, and purpose is really to run, earn as much value, do as many things, help as many people, and devour as much sashimi as you can before the inevitable death. To do this, you need to keep going, keep moving ahead, because you don’t have a choice anyway. Stop, and the big, scary monitor-gorilla (a.k.a. time-and-other-people) is going to catch up on you. Sometimes you stumble, and it really does get closer to you, but you don’t stop, you keep going. You try, try again. And you need to know where the coins are. They’re not just money, but the valuable things in your life – family, sashimi, love, meaning, work, sashimi – that you constantly need to go out of your way to collect. Sometimes you even have to risk your life to get some of them - but they're usually worth it. And in the end, no matter how much you do, how far you’ve run, how many life points you’ve accumulated, it will all end. Not because you’ll actually reach the sacred 'temple', but because time will overtake you. Thing is, you don’t care. You’re playing temple run for the high scores, to get coins to buy upgrades so the next person to run the course will get it a little better than you did. That’s what remains. That’s a legacy that endures. There is no destination, but we run anyway. Because the journey itself is really the reward… And next up, of course, everyone's favourite... #2 – Candy Crush Saga: Choose Your Moves Wisely If you’re reading this, it means you have internet access. And if you have internet access, you’ve played this marvel of a glycogenic game. Even if you don’t, I’m guessing you’d know a little bit about how friend-dependent this game is, via the nine thousand requests that other people have sent you for lives. Candy Crush Saga is built upon an age-old game formula, where you combine three or more similar objects in a pattern to clear them. Making it a little more challenging, King Games implemented a set of objectives to meet at each level, and created an entire world of sugarrific splendor complete with an overarching storyline to introduce some epic meaning into the game. Its virality is also enhanced by social mechanisms built into the system, which require you to either get other people to send you lives to play each time you run out, or buy your way through with facebook credits. Many people play this game due to its social elements too, because they want reach higher levels than their friends and brag about it. Also, the appeal of this game shines through not only from its well rendered graphics and smart game mechanics, but from how it subliminally rewards you with praises of ‘Sweet’ and ‘Divine’ each time you make a great move. Now ask yourself, “How different is this sugar-coated world from the cold, cruel, and relatively less diabetic world we live in?” Take away the chocolate mountains and tinseltown decorations. Unwrap the candy wrappers and detonate the colour bombs. What you have left is, in its essence, a world in which you have a limited number of chances and a limited number of moves to achieve your goals. Sometimes you even have a limited amount of time to get something done. Sound familiar? What about the fact that, when you (inevitably) fail, you need to rely on your friends to pick you back up, or you have to wait for a full half an hour before that opportunity comes along again. Or, for those who are slightly more fortunate and possibly less patient, the option to buy your way through failure? The option to spend on a variety of powerups to enhance your performance in life? And, once in a while, you meet an obstacle that you can’t cross yourself. And you’ll need three magical coupons from three friends to help you out. Think about who regularly sends you these coupons when you need them the most. These might just be the people who would really rush to your aid when you’re down in real life. We’re all trying to move ahead here, trying to get to the next level to beat others and feel proud of ourselves, and Candy Crush reminds us that we’ll need to choose each move we make wisely, and also have a group of friends, family and other people here to help us when we inevitably need them. That is, of course, unless you have too many facebook credits. In which case you could be giving some to me. And besides money and credits, there’re other things you could give too, as shown by… #3 – Angry Birds: Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death! Between you and me, I never followed the storyline of Angry Birds beyond the part where they’re kinda ticked off by the pigs. All I was bothered about was getting those three superbly shiny and satisfying stars. But the success of this game and its popularity with children sort of obscures the central mechanism behind this avian war – one of self-sacrifice, absolute commitment, and death sudden disappearance from the playing field in a puff of smoke. In this fun and easy-to-play game, you get a limited arsenal of various types of birds and a slingshot from which to launch them. The objective is to eliminate the pigs housed in a nearby set-up, whilst trying to destroy as much as of it as possible. The more you destroy and the less ammunition you use, the more points you score. It’s a simple catapult game, really. Except live birds are used as ammunition. What really motivates them to place themselves on a massive sling shot, and fling themselves mercilessly towards badly constructed fortresses? What really angered them so much as to inspire an entire armada of birds, red, blue, black, yellow, white and more, to dedicate the rest of their lives to eliminating the pig menace? WHY ARE ANGRY BIRDS ANGRY? These birds have something to prove – that there are just some things worth dying for. In the first episode that was released, we learn that the pigs stole some of their eggs. Put it into context, and you realise these birds are actually sacrificing themselves for their offspring. And this game is slightly different from the previous two, because I’m not saying the game world’s similar to ours. I’m not saying that in the real world there are many people who believe in something so deeply that they become martyrs for their cause, flinging themselves without second thought onto establishments of authority they are unhappy with. That there are angry revolutionaries in the world named after certain animals or called The Angry Birds. Ok, I am saying that, sorta, but what’s more important here is the realization that there exist things in this world that are as great as massacring green pigs and stolen eggs – things that people actually are willing to give up their lives for. “Give me liberty, or give me death,” were the words famously attributed to Patrick Henry, in the speech he made to the Virginia Convention. This exclamation of extreme and absolute belief was reputedly what convinced them to begin the American Revolutionary War - a war which was probably responsible for us being able to play Angry Birds on our Apple products now. In this day and age, maybe we’re a little bit caught up with first world problems to the extent that we’re forgetting what the greatest and most important values are – the ones which men and women before us fought and died to protect. Angry Birds is here to remind us of what’s really important, because you don't want to lose your eggs...I mean the crucial things in life, to make things clear. Presently the lecturer notices that you’re not paying attention. She calls your name out loud, in front of the entire lecture theatre. You’re embarrassed, and you put your phone away, closing the doors to the universe of thinking too much. But you’re smiling on the inside, full with the understanding that, in the end, there’re things to be learnt and revelations to be shocked by in many things, and amongst them are the games and images you’re actually familiar with. Quietly you make a resolution to go back to ‘learning’ as soon as the lecture’s over... What other games are equally 'educational'?