No game, no life.

As fate would have it, the story of my life can be told by chronicling my relationship with games and strategy.

Age 7: My dad bought a book of classic board games, and I played against my family to the point of mastery. I associated games on a regular deck of cards with gambling, which they warned was bad, so I never played them.


Age 10: I was to represent my school in a sci-damath competition, so my dad painted a sci-damath board on my study table and trained me. It was my first time to play competitively, and I remember being fascinated with each strategy I discover.


This was also the age I started designing board games of my own and bringing them to school for my classmates’ enjoyment. I don’t have them anymore, but I remember them being akin to monopoly (which I haven’t even played yet! haha).

Age 11: Every summer since 2005, I’ve been part of an international math competition training pool. The other trainees liked to play cards during breaks, so I ended up learning a few games from them, which I of course brought to my school.


That year, I designed cards for an improved game of UNO, with characters from my comic book universe, which garnered positive feedback from my classmates. πŸ˜€

Age 12:Β  In spite of my busy schedule I was sent to compete in chess. My dad trained me rigorously, to the point of believing I had it all figured out (how naive of me, haha). I was the champion in the district level and won third place in the next level.

That was also the year I was to graduate, so I spent the last few weeks of my grade school life playing cards with my classmates. It was a super fun way to end 7 years of forced companionship. πŸ˜€

Age 14: In high school, I befriended a bunch of geeks who were very passionate about the game Defense of the Ancients. That sparked my interest so I immersed myself in the rules and gameplay. The problem was that I couldn’t practice well due to lack of gaming support so I never considered myself a decent player. But since females interested in gaming were rare at that time, I earned a reputation for being DotA girl, haha.


My favorite hero

Age 15: This was when I encountered the three pieces of literature that changed my life: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (a manual for all types of mass conflict situations), Machiavelli’sΒ The Prince (which inspired me to keep a pragmatic attitude in managing and dealing with people), and Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (which taught me how to live a stress-free life, but the lessons are kinda hard to employ nowadays since I’m aware that I’m more of a dictate-the-flow than a go-with-the-flow type of person). The most enjoyable of the three was The Art of War, and it instilled an even greater love for strategy in me. It taught me that real-life games can be won even before they start. And that once they do, there is always a way to minimize the loss and maximize the gain.


Whenever I think of ancient Chinese wars I am reminded of Mulan, arguably the most badass of the Disney princesses.

And of course, I didn’t miss the chance to design a board game based on The Art of War. With the help of some classmates, a game inspired by the Indian epic Ramayana came to life (but we realized it was a bit too technical to enjoy :-/).

Age 16: First summer after high school, even without gaming support, I started playing League of Legends, a relatively new real-time strategy game that was growing in popularity. I played to the point of addiction, and I spent thousands on game-related stuff, but it gave excitement to my life so it was worth it. It gave me something to bond over with my brothers, and I got to travel to different places to be in competitions. By the time I quit (in 3 years’ time), I had a pretty extensive gaming network, ranging from the people I first played with to the best players in the Philippines.


And of course, I had to express my love for LoL in an artistic way. πŸ™‚

Age 17: By this point I had 3 geeky friends from high school who happen to be in neighboring institutes with me so we got to meet regularly and kinda stuck together. They introduced me to D&D and the Ace Attorney fandom, which I carry to this day. I remember playing as a chaotic good rogue with a dark ISTJ backstory, and finishing an entire game of AA in french. πŸ˜€


Atty. Edgeworth (2nd form the right) is one of my major fictional role models.

Age 18: My circle of gamer geeks grew and a casual bond was fostered by the many games we played together. The one I enjoyed the most was MonoDeal, not for the game itself, but how we constantly sought to improve it as a group. It was where I got close with Chris (one of my best friends) and met Kwez Zurbito, who amazed me by showing the purest love for games that I’ve ever seen. He deliberated over the balance of the rulesets, thought up sound strategies even without much of a mathematical background, but played for the sake of fun. At times when we don’t have any cards or gaming equipment, he would come up with mental games just to save us from boredom. A real MVP.

That was also the year I signed up for chess class and met my first few friends outside of my gaming circle.

I didn’t learn much about the gameplay, but I gained experience playing against high-ELO people and learned that it takes years of practice and a solid and adaptive mindset to win. There were a few unforgettable moments as well, such as the time I won 6 bullet games in a row, and the time I lead my team to victory in a 20-move game against a grandmaster.

Age 19: Due to unfortunate drama-filled circumstances, I left my gaming circles and had to build a new set of friends starting with Lance (a video game geek outside my circle), Chris, and my chess friends. My pessimistic side knew that I’d be socially-doomed due to my reclusive tendencies and high introversion, but eventually I met a few new people and bonded with them through similar interests, and of course, card games. And as my new immediate social network grew, so did my card game collection.


I also tried my hand at bridge for some time. But who could last in the competitive scene without a constant reliable partner?

Since I quit League of Legends, I feared having less to talk about with my brothers so I invested in a PS3 console and bought several good games. I don’t always get to play with them but I hope that at least made me more likeable as a sister, haha.

Age 20: This year I had enough luck (and possibly skill) to be able to take part in an internship program under the MBPS actuarial division. I had to work alongside 7 other interns, and idle time interaction was a little awkward at first. But since I know fully well the power of games as icebreakers, I brought a MonoDeal deck the first time we had lunch by ourselves. Since then we played every working day after having lunch, and pretty soon I was able to introduce them to my entire card game collection. The awkwardness diminished for sure, but we also kinda built petty enmities, haha. Pretty soon I got attached to them enough to acquire Cards Against Humanity, a card game that is meant to be played with a lot of friends, which I’m pretty sure I won’t have enough to play with after the internship ends. The only time I ever played it was during our teambuilding night, and the funniest experiences and strengthened bond we shared assured me that the purchase was worth it. (I wonder when I’ll have a big enough squad to be able to play it again.)

2015 was also the year I enrolled in an official game theory class and started working on my game theory-related thesis. So far I’ve only read books that tackled the subject intuitively, so a mathematical approach was refreshing. We had many class tournaments, some of which my teams and I dominated. I guess it didn’t show much but I really enjoyed the lectures and game analyses, especially that of poker (this explains the pokerbabe pipe dream, haha). It was the most fun math class I’ve ever had, that’s for sure. πŸ™‚


And of course, since I now fully recognize my passion for game theory, even if I’m done with my undergraduate thesis, I plan to take it to the next level and keep studying for the hell of it, i.e., self-actualization. πŸ™‚

Childhood days

Like most people, albeit at a normal pace, I’ve been forced to grow up and cram so much data in my brain that now that I have the opportunity, I’d like to test myself to recall how I was like before I entered the stage that stressed the life out of meΒ (an overdramatization that will be explained in a later post). And I think it would be fitting to give some background info on myself, so here they are:

I was raised in the province of Tarlac by my parents, a pair of nerds(?). My dad’s an electronics/electric engineer and my mom majored in math and english (and eventually became a HS and college teacher). I think they were to a certain degree obsessed in shaping their firstborn to be a genius. They played classical music, made sure I was breastfed, they kept lots of books all over the house maybe to pique my interest (and they eventually did). I had no playmates before the age of 6 so I spent most of my time watching educational shows and reading simple books. By the age of 7 I had started writing and illustrating my own comic book universe (with simple plots and cutesy drawings, of course) and after a few years constructed another with more complicated plots and dark humor for my classmates’ enjoyment. How I wish I stayed as creative and artistic as I had been. :-/

Anyway, it was my dad who ignited my interest in math. I remember being the fastest one in my district when it came to mental arithmetic, and maybe he took it as a sign. Even if he only had free time on weekends, he took charge of my math education and made me solve practice problems in exchange of coins (25 cents per correct solution, haha). He provided a lot of cool books with optical illusions, brainteasers, board games, trivia, and puzzles. As a result,Β I’ve almost always bagged the top prize in district and division-level math competitions until I graduated. He also let me undergo at least 6 years of advanced math training, through which I got to participate in a lot of international math contests and top conventions.

Actually, it wasn’t just in math. My dad also took it upon himself to take my science education to the next level. It helped that I got really good at memorizing facts and understanding theories so I competed in a lot of science competitions as well and won almost all of them without having to review much. (okay this is starting to sound like a father’s day dedication, but anyway, thanks Pa!)

Maybe that had gotten me used to the competitive environment, but back then it didn’t feel stressful. I just had a lot of fun. The best part was that my school sometimes let me cut class to study on my own and be in charge of handling review sessions for top students from lower batches, with whom I’ve made friends. When I was in third grade, I remember saying to a classmate with confidence that I was going to Philippine Science High School someday to become an engineer like my dad or a mathematician like my mom. Soon enough, I passed the entrance exams (which were actually kind of enjoyable) and took dreaded blood tests just to get in.

In retrospect, what an innocent life that had been.