We spent this Sunday afternoon fervently battling on the Warcraft III mod, Day of Judgement. Ever since our friend Hieu admitted to once gaming obsessively, we’ve been anxiously awaiting a chance to step back into that timeless, spaceless dimension that is playing video games. Hieu took us to a cyber cafe in District 1 – supposedly one of the best cafes around, complete with 80 computer stations, air conditioning, and a reliable LAN. The cab dropped us off on some inconspicuous street, where Hieu led us into the belly of long wooden building. The game room looked like some caricature of a gaming basement under grandma’s house. Old wooden desks segmented into a row of gaming stations, muted yellow light, all quiet but for keystrokes and the whir of working computers, but the air crackling with the diffusion of furious gaming activity. A menu decorated the faded walls – coffee and soda basically on demand. Screens glowing with strategy games, RPGs, and even an odd puzzle game. If I sat down to imagine a hyperbole of a cyber gaming cafe, I’m not sure it would have been as ridiculous as this place was.
Well, Hieu set us up on the computers, started the first game, and proceeded for next 4 hours to annihilate us. He realized the incredible gulf in ability levels almost instantly, and he spent the bulk of the first game wandering around and giving us advice. We played 3 games in total, shuffling around the teams to find something that at least resembled fairness. Well, basically, Hieu won…every time…by a lot. We’re definitely not pro-gamers, but we can hold our own when necessary. Today, we could barely hold it together, much less hold off Hieu. Brian – who I think of us all most appreciated an afternoon of responsibility-free hero clashes – killed him twice…and that was it.
But regardless, it was immense fun. We left to lick our wounds and study in secret the tricks of the game until we can maybe kill him 3 times. It was exactly the sort of experience I’ve never even heard of anyone having while traveling. The place was packed with Vietnamese teenagers, getting their weekend gaming fix. No one really spoke English and as a group of foreigners, we definitely turned some heads. But at the end of the day, we were there to connect our friends over video games, and that’s exactly why they were there too. It was a brief thrilling moment of bridging 2 cultures.