TV SMITH's Dua Sen: Saving Prebet Raja
TV Smith's Dua Sen
TV Smith's Dua Sen. The politically incorrect irregular columnist combines his idiosyncratic observations and tangential commentary into a blog...


by TV Smith

Local satirist TV SMITH of Dua Sen ( dives into the smoky depths of an ‘Internet’ café and discovers no one is visiting his website – they’re all too busy killing each other...

The air was smoky and the constant explosions around me deafening. I made my way through a dark and narrow alley, wary of sniper fire. The soldier nearest to me was gunned down suddenly, his blood splattering onto the shrapnel-filled ground. Cries from the wounded were ignored as surviving combatants continued to exchange machine gun fire. As I nervously surveyed the surroundings with my night-vision scope, a putrid pall of smoke hung over the bodies. Where is Prebet Raja?

No, I am not filing a report from a war zone nor am I doing a review of a copycat local movie. I am describing my search for a young combatant in a dark, noisy and overcrowded Internet cafe. After a recent Hari Raya gathering, I went along with my young friend Ali to look for his missing best friend, Raja.

I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally spotted Raja in a corner. He seemed to be alive as I could detect vital signs in his wrist. Locked in a fierce battle with some hooded terrorists, he didn’t even turn his head by a millimetre as he shouted, “Chill out, Uncle TV!” It was hard to hear above the din and his shoulders, but I got the message.

Chilling out among militants wasn’t exactly my idea of a relaxing Sunday evening, but it was an eye-opener, nevertheless. As at most Malaysian Internet cafes, only a tiny fraction of the customers were engaged in the dying art form known as surfing. A few renegades were seen playing some motor sports games, but, generally, Counter Strike rules (for those who aren’t into games, that’s the reigning “first-person shooter” game).

You might find a few brave e-mail users or a handful of female chatters. To be fair, the environment was never designed for normal web activities. You end up rubbing shoulders with the user next to you, literally. The monitors are about 5cm apart, at most. Not the kind of situation where you get to read or type an intimate personal message unless you choose a font size smaller than a pygmy ant.

If you are actually planning on doing some research or note taking, it might be a good idea to bring your own torchlight. Most of these places are dimmer than the dangdut pubs in KL’s Jalan Raja Laut. Non-smoking rules are slackly enforced and canned beers are even available at some of these outlets.

The subsequent discovery of hundreds of other similar places in the Klang Valley confirmed my suspicion that I am the only one complaining about the furniture. The bigger ones have over 100 PCs with rates as low as RM1 an hour. If you are still using dial-up at home, it’s definitely cheaper to surf outside.

We should call these places “gaming parlours” or something similarly intuitive. Anything but that most misleading misnomer, Internet cafe. Still, they are a good social barometer of our times. Forget about the K-Economy or even the MSC, networked gaming spearheads our IT drive. Oddly, the heightened interest in para-military activities by our youth is not reflected in their response to the recently launched National Service.

What is disturbing is not the fascination with fantasy violence and pixel bloodlust, but the scant interest shown in other programmes like the browser, for instance. I understand nothing beats the thrill of seeing your friend’s reaction as you gun him down. I am staying behind, Prebet Raja!

This article also appeared in the December 28 issue of StarMag (The Sunday Star).

© 2003 TV SMITH
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