Sol Albar stood out among a crowd of cheering youngsters and gaming geeks as the main screen showed Tekken characters slugging it out in the final round.
In the main gaming area, Andreij Albar, Sol’s son whom she tried to dissuade from spending too much time playing with the computer, was trying to win his match. He lost, though, and settled for second place.
The image of a parent visibly supporting her son is a scenario many kids in the gaming community dream of. While Andreij has his mom and dad’s backing, rules still need to be strictly followed at home.
Sol says she limits Andreij’s time in front of the computer, makes sure he doesn’t neglect his studies, and monitors his gaming habits and grades in school.
Compared to her husband, Tony, also a gamer, Sol says: “Ako ’yung mas disciplinarian.” (I’m more of the disciplinarian.)
Andreij, known for his gaming moniker Doujin of Playbook E-Sports, seems to thrive in the conditions his mother has set out, as he’s now one of the top Tekken players in the Philippines.
At first, there was a push and pull between Andreij’s, parents. Tony, the father, is an avid gamer; Sol, the mother, had reservations about her husband and son’s hobby.
When Andreij was a boy, he used to grab the controller from Tony while he played. What his father was doing left an impression on the son, and that’s how they bonded.
“ ’Pag pumupunta kami sa mall, kaagad deretso kami sa arcade,” Tony says. (We go straight to the arcade when we’re at the mall.)
Sol liked that his husband and their son were becoming close, but she couldn’t stop being skeptical over computer games, which she thought could get in the way of Andreij’s studies and her dream of seeing her son get a degree.
“Sinubukan kong i-divert kasi isa ako sa mga parents na nag-aalala sa computer,” Sol recalls. (I tried to divert his attention because I’m one of those parents who were worried about computer games.)
Like many parents, Sol wanted to see if Andreij would be drawn to other activities; she enrolled him once in a swimming class thinking Andreij would take to it. She was only giving him options, Sol says.
“Lagi naman for good and iniisip namin, pero minsan may mali kami ’pag hindi namin tinignan ’yung gusto nila,” she says. (We always think about what’s good for our boy, but sometimes it’s wrong when we don’t consider what he wants.)
Andreij held his end of the deal, prioritizing his studies and focusing on them as required by Sol. He also took on swimming, where he excelled and won a few competitions.
“Pero talagang bumabalik sa Tekken, so ’yun talaga ’yung passion niya,” Sol says. (He just always goes back to Tekken. That’s really his passion.)
What bothers Sol about gaming is a notion that Andreij would be exposed to an unpleasant environment. That thinking started to shift, thanks to Tony and meeting other gamers.
“Nakita ko disente ang mga naglalaro ng Tekken. Matatalino. Magagalang pa ’yung mga bata,” Sol says. (The gamers I saw are decent, intelligent and really good at what they’re doing.)
And a breakthrough happened.
When Andreij won his first tournament and brought home a check (the value of which Andreij didn’t reveal), that’s when Sol understood how serious the industry is.
That didn’t mean Andreij could go out on his own, though. “They always reminded me to focus on academics and studies first,” he says.
The time he spent juggling between Tekken and schoolwork took a toll on his studies, however. Andreij acknowledged that it became “hard.”
The Albars found themselves in a dilemma when Andreij needed to miss school because he had qualified for an international tournament. Sol would’ve been reluctant to throw her support at her son, but joining the tournament meant Andreij would be playing for the Philippines, that he would be the national representative, a source of Filipino pride. After the family spoke with the dean, a compromise was set — Andreij could go overseas but he needed to maintain a specific set of grades.
Andreij didn’t let down his parents, his school and his country — in 2017, he took home first place in the International E-Sports Federation World Championship.
Seeing Andreij carry the national flag was an experience Sol and her family will savor for a long time.
“Forever honored and grateful na naranasan ko ’yun. Nakita ko ’yung anak ko at naging world champion kami,” Sol says.
Adding to the parents’ pride is Andreij finishing his obligations in class.
“Sa awa ng Diyos, nakatapos kami ng ilang taon na rin, 3 na. Matataas din grades niya,” Sol says. (His grades are high, too.)
Gaming coach Jam San Juan says the conservative nature of parenting in the Philippines and social norms in general make it difficult for the older generation to understand the gaming industry.
“Parang ang nangyayari kasi it’s not good for studies and all, pero once you do what Doujin’s (Andreij Albar) parents are doing, full support, there’s really a future basta believe in your kid, give time and understanding that this is something na may makukuha in the end of the day at pinaghirapan,” San Juan says.
(People think gaming isn’t good for your studies, but once you do what Doujin’s parents are doing, supporting your kids, there’s a future down the road for them. If parents give their kids time and understand what they’re doing, they’ll get something out of this in the end.)
Alexandre “AK” Laverez’s parents have a more liberal approach to managing their son’s gaming ambitions. They let him play knowing he understands that his studies take precedence.
Madette Laverez, Alexandre’s mother says: “Hindi naman kasi niya napapabayaan ’yung school.” (He doesn’t slack at school.)
Like Sol Albar, Madette wants Alexandre to be well-rounded. His son plays basketball, dabbles in music, and he swims, too. But like Andreij, Alexandre’s passion is playing Tekken.
His top-notch talent led him to finish in the top 3 at Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Global Championship in South Korea in 2013. Alexandre was 13 years old at the time.
“Sinusuportahan nila ako,” Alexandre says, “Lagi silang andu’n ’pag may tournaments. Sumasama sila sa mga international tournament ko.” (They’re always there in my tournaments. They join me in international tournaments, too.)
Andreij and Alexandre’s success has continued this year. Andreij is in the running to play in the Tekken World Tour finals in the coming months because he ranks 14th as of writing in the Global Ranking Leaderboard (the top 19 qualify). Alexandre, meanwhile, copped 2nd place in the EVO Japan tournament in January.
The two Playbook E-Sports standouts have played against each other often, ranking among the top local players in Tekken 7, which means they have a shot at making history by representing the country when it introduces esports for the first time in Southeast Asian Games history.
With the two boys’ accomplishments, Tony Albar, Andreij’s father who introduced gaming to his son, says parents need to have an open mind about the sport.
“Gusto din namin maging example sa ibang mga parents na gusto pumasok sa esports,” Tony says.
“ ’Yung iba, iba ang tingin nila sa esports. ‘Wala ’yan, masasayang lang ’yung (oras, pera) mo d’yan. Mag-aral ka.’ Pero pwedeng gawin sabay ’yun, pag-aaral mo at saka esports.”
Ronie Laverez, AK’s father, says gaming, like other activities, requires parents setting boundaries and making sure children understand their limitations.
After all, adults have much of a role as their kids in their success — or failure — in any undertaking they choose.
“Hindi naman masama (gaming),” Ronie says. “Unless pinabayaan mo na ’yung anak mon a iniwan mo for the whole day naglalaro. Nasa parents ’yung mali.”
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).