The room, though small, is light and airy. A writing table overlooks a square of lawn with flower borders. On the left side of the table, sharpened pencils have been placed on a past examination paper and other books are open.
It is 5 am, everyone is sound asleep but Penjor, a student, is awake and engrossed with his phone.
He is excited and tense. He is working hard to get three stars in his first and second attack.
The battlefield is “Clash of Clans.” He is the leader in his clan known as “UNDERDOG”. He has five co-leaders, 10 elders and 20 members in his clan.
Penjor and his clan are among the thousands of Bhutanese hooked to the online multiplayer strategy game where you can attack and defend bases and create clans wars. It was released for iPhone OS (iOS) platforms on August 2, 2012, and on Google Play for Android on October 7, 2013.
Also known as COC, a large percentage of the players are actually students. It requires careful thinking, planning and managing of resources to be successful. Players must work hard to plan and build their village, set up the necessary defenses against enemy attacks and create a powerful army. Players enter into alliances with other players and form ‘clans.’ They attack other player’s villages and earn rewards such as gold, elixir and trophies used to advance their position in the game.
Today, children, young people and adults competes in a setting full of giants, kings, wizards, valkyries, archers, barbarians, spells and so on.
“It is a strategy game,” said Penjor. “It improves and develops my thinking and preparation skills”. He added that it is wonderfully designed, attractive, entertaining and addictive. “It helps one develop responsibilities and processes necessary in life,” he said.
An interesting feature of the game is the chat room where members can chat while playing. A lot of strategies are made in the chat room.
“Playing COC is never a waste of time” said Kuenzang Choden, a COC enthusiast. “In this game, it is something we must do for many hours and something we should go on doing to reach the highest level,” she said. “Many people have spent day’s playing cards and dice, but COC is a strategy game that requires many mental processes that are a lot more complex.”
“You can never stop playing COC in one day,” said an office going man. “I was addicted to clash of clans for almost 6 months and I used to wake up and the first thing I’d do is to check my base and till I went to sleep again, I played the game almost all the time.”
Some disagree. Penjor’s father thinks it is a major distraction. “I think this is the work of the devil, instead of going to class they just play the game, one kid even asked me to play for his clan,” he said.
“It could reduce their productivity,” said parent. “It is important to limit the time they spend on the game and agree on certain times or schedules,” said another parent, Ap Tandin.
A random survey of 20 students showed that almost all the students experienced negative feelings playing the game. At least 50 percent admitted having felt rejection, anger and even hatred towards other players and interruption in their studies.
One addicted student player, Pema, said he couldn’t stop because the clash has become so competitive. “I can’t stop myself from looting other bases. I will be able to stop it only if it is banned,” he said. Another student said, “These days I am not able to concentrate on studies and even I failed in mid-term examination”.
Karma Yangzom, 19, said that she stopped after reaching “Town hall” level 10 because she couldn’t concentrate on studies. “I didn’t even have time to help my parents with household chores and time to talk to relatives,” she said.