"If you have not played video games, your childhood should be called ‘incomplete’."
That’s from Zhan Zaozao, 29, the screenwriter of Play to Grow Up, a 40-minute short movie.
It tells the story of two men growing up fans of video games and how they find happiness in gaming.
Zhan, who based the story on his own childhood, has grown up by “playing” video games.
While people think playing games makes one lazy and is a waste of time, Zhan tries to prove that one can make a living out of it.
"I did lots of things when I was a boy, just to spend more time playing video games,” said Zhan. “I think most boys would know what I’m talking about.”
In the movie, the two heroes, Dunzi and Yanjing, who are in middle school, visit a video games room on the street each day after school.
They steal reinforced concrete from construction sites, and sell it to get money for playing games. They fight with boys their own age over who won a video game. And their parents scold them and even beat them for becoming obsessed with video games.
But why make a short movie about video games, since there are lots to write about childhood, such as puppy love, sports and study?
"Playing games is so important to everyone’s childhood from little kids to teenagers, though it’s a bittersweet experience,” said Zhan. According to him, his teachers and parents didn’t allow video games, but they played games “under their noses” anyway.
In the movie, the two playmates follow different paths after school. Dunzi opens a small store selling gaming products. Yanjing works as a manager in his father’s company.
After years of working and facing various problems in life, they get together again, build a video game machine and play on the street.
Free, simple and happy. They rediscover the sheer fun childhood, which they have lost in the adult world.
Many consider playing games as a bad influence, but it isn’t all true, according to Zhan. “It can change your attitude toward life,” said Zhan. “On the other hand, the movie also tells you that, although the world of video games is fun, you must face real life at the end of the day.”
Zhan now works as the planning and creativity manager in a Chinese company which develops online games. In some way, he is still “playing” at life.
After the movie was premiered online on May 18, Zhan asked for a vacation. He said he needed some time to think about his next movie. It’s about manga. More importantly, he wanted to spend more time with his wife, who is three months’ pregnant.
"Video games have been magical in my life. They used to help me grow up, and now they help me pay the rent and support my family,” said Zhan. “I am satisfied.”