Confessions of a 30-Something Mobile Legends Addict
I’m Kevin, 33, Mobile Legends addict. Two years ago, I downloaded the app because my younger friends at the office also played it, and I didn’t want to be left out. Their frequent talk about rankings, KDAs (kills, deaths, assists), rotations (yeah, like basketball rotations), and skillsets made me feel like an outsider during lunch break when they would team up in classic matches.
“Bobo mo pre, ba’t ka nag-flicker?”
“Kita mong cooldown SS ko.”
“May tank naman eh!”
It was the kind of talk that left me out of place. Not anymore: Flicker is a battle spell that teleports you a short distance, usually used to chase an enemy or escape an attack. SS is an acronym for super skill, also called “ult,” short for ultimate, the strongest skill of a hero. Tank is a type of hero designed to withstand heavy damage.
Two years on, my friends no longer play Mobile Legends (ML). I am the only one left. My clan, which I paid 200 diamonds to create, has members who have now dissipated because of inactivity. Diamonds are in-game currency used to buy items and privileges.
I still play, and many younger players accuse me of being a “skinner.” Actually, I am. A skinner is a derogatory term that means someone who owns expensive skins but lacks skills in the game. A skin is an alternate appearance of your heroes. Think of it like a costume.
I am secretly one of the wealthiest skinners in the Philippines: I own more skins than some of the most popular esports streamers in the country. Unlike the crybabies who belittle my gameplay, I can afford to buy expensive skins because I am old and have a job. (That’s an unfair comparison, considering my opponents are 12-year-old children.)
Just how much is “expensive?” A legend skin costs 12,000 diamonds or roughly P12,000. In the game, out of the over 400 skins made by the developers, only six legend skins were ever made. I own five.
As a player, I have never really leveled up my gameplay, which is limited to support roles (healers). I never really want to kill. On average, my deaths are higher than my kills, which is why my rank never goes high. I am the team’s “cancer.” Cancer is a player who plays so bad, the team loses the match.
And since I am a cancer, I once hired pilots to rank me up. A pilot is someone who plays the game for you, usually for a cost. It’s against the game and the industry’s policy to hire pilots because it disrupts the game’s balance. You don’t really want a noob playing alongside mythical glory players. Mythical glory is the highest rank in Mobile Legends.
Off-game, I watch ML streamers on Facebook. I have become friends with some of them, who now have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. Sometimes, during the live streaming of their games, I send stars. Stars are monetized emojis sent to a streamer on Facebook.
On one occasion, I sent 6,000 stars (roughly P5,500) to a streamer just so he can shout out my name. I stopped sending stars after I learned Facebook only gives half of its value to the streamer, who needs to receive at least 10,000 stars before they receive payment a month after.
I am told that during the pandemic, downloads of ML increased exponentially, such that a month ago, it celebrated one billion downloads globally. But as the number of players grow, I find myself still part of a vanishing statistic of gamer: Millennials.
As a tito gamer, I am referred to by younger players as “Ninong” in the group chats formed by ML streamers, where I am the oldest member. Two years on, I now know much of the game and its intricacies. The only irony is I’m once again back feeling like the outsider playing a mobile game I once downloaded to fit in.