City Weekend

Game enough to try something new: e-sports give Hong Kong retirees fresh take on life and connection with young

  • Senior Citizen Home Safety Association helps members take up unlikely hobby which can keep their minds active
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 January, 2019, 11:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 January, 2019, 11:03am

At an e-sports tournament in Hong Kong’s D2 Place mall in Lai Chi Kok, players are locked in on the action on their computer screens, as they signal teammates decked out in headsets in a strategy to survive the “Battlegrounds”.

Amid the sound of gunfire and roaring explosions, it is easy to overlook the nature of some of the gamers as their hands blaze across mouse controls and keyboards – they are retirees in their 50s to 70s.

The eight unlikely players – fighting alongside younger peers – are members of Senior Citizen Home Safety Association, a charitable organisation. They have discovered a new hobby giving them a fresh take on life and a way to keep their minds active while connecting with young people.

“I’ve always thought gaming was only for boys, but now I know I can do it too,” says Ho Yuk-ling, an enthusiast who admits she is actually better at cheering on her teammates than playing on the field.

Ho, 56, is one of 15 members who have joined the association’s electronic sports programme, which started in June last year. Under the guidance of staff, the members have got familiar with two multiplayer online video games: Heroes of the Storm and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.

Kelvin Chan Che-wing, 55, who had no previous gaming experience, says he encountered a steep learning curve.

E-sports fanatic who dropped out of high school eyes pro career in gaming

“When I started training for my first tournament, I realised that using the mouse for gaming wasn’t quite the same as using the mouse for office work,” the retired marketing professional says.

“I really doubted myself at first.”

Meanwhile, his peer Kwok Yuen-ling, 62, says she is always up for something new.

“We just had to get used to the pace. It was discouraging at first: one moment you’re trying to figure out which keys to use, and the next moment, you’re dead.”

It was discouraging at first: one moment you’re trying to figure out which keys to use, and the next moment, you’re dead
Kwok Yuen-ling, 62

For one month, she played three hours a day to get better at her new hobby.

“I did wonder if I was addicted. Then I realised I didn’t fit the description of a true video game addict – I still knew when to step away from the computer, and when it was time to stop and cook for my family.”

But Kwok was not always adventurous. She admits she was, in fact, rather reserved. The former sales associate worked long hours to put her two daughters through university, and spent less time than she would have liked with her elderly parents.

“I was hoping to spend more time with my dad after my daughters graduated, but he passed away unexpectedly. His death inspired me to seize the day and do what my heart desires, because you never know when it’s your time to go,” Kwok says.

“My legs still ache from standing for prolonged periods at my retail job, but that won’t stop me from staying active.”

Chan stresses it is important for retirees and senior citizens to continue making plans and to stay busy.

“I believe staying active and curious has helped me stay young. It’s important for older people like us to keep exercising, connecting with others and developing our own hobbies.”

I believe staying active and curious has helped me stay young
Kelvin Chan, 55

“There are many free or affordable activities around. You just need to make a bit of effort to find them,” he adds.

Ho, who has always enjoyed chatting with young people, believes staying active is one way senior citizens can show younger generations that they can be relevant and relatable.

“We all have unique abilities and we mustn’t let them go to waste,” says Ho, who used to work at a Chinese medicine clinic.

“If we’re all willing to step out of our comfort zones, we can show people that we can still actively contribute to society.”

The trio say the best part of gaming is teamwork, and the opportunity to chat with young people despite the generation gap.

“When we discuss gaming strategies with younger people, they don’t talk to us like they would talk to their parents or grandparents – they talk to us like we’re their peers,” Chan says.

While they admit that gaming could just be a phase for them, they agree it has given them a fresh take on life.

Chan says he has accepted the fact that he may not be the strongest player, and Kwok says she has come to terms with being slower.

“We’re definitely not going to be as nimble as the kids, but if we’re happy playing at our own pace, why not?”