Ahead of Valentine’s Day, we bring you a series about love stories of people living in Singapore.
By Niki Bruce, Contributor
Since 2013, private tutor Ashley Wong has, by night, retreated into the world of the Defense of the Ancients – or Dota 2.
In the online game, “heroes” – characters controlled by the players – work together to destroy a structure in the enemy team’s base.
“I was playing Dota 2 every night with a group of guys whom I had never met in real life. I didn’t know what they looked like, what they did for a living, or even their real names,” says Ashley, 24.
While the Miss Universe Singapore 2017 finalist was battling it out on the catwalk by day in September last year, it was how she blew off steam.
One day, she launched into an online rant about the competition, and ‘Eugene’, a player she’d had random conversations with for about a year, was “polite enough” to let her keep going.
“Eventually we exchanged real names,” the 24-year-old recalls. ‘Eugene’ was Eugene Peter, 26, a private equity product manager, and they arranged to meet up IRL – that’s In Real Life – to celebrate the end of the competition.
For Eugene, it was curiosity that led to that first meeting. “She seemed very interesting,” he says. “I did not have any expectations that anything would happen.”
Ashley concedes that she did have some reservations because “it’s very easy to lie online”. Yet, she resisted trying to hunt him down on social media. In fact, all she had before their first date was his licence plate number.
While waiting to spot him, she was kept mildly entertained by a “forest green BMW doing an awkward three-point turn”.
“I was laughing inside because I knew the driver was now caught in the most awkward spot between a car park entrance and two lanes of oncoming cars.”
As it turns out, it was her “hero” getting their date off to a slightly awkward start, especially when she pointed out his “six-point turn”.
“He gave me the most perfect down-turned pout, exactly like the frowning emoji, complete with sad puppy eyes, and said: ‘Oh, you saw that?'”
Three-point turn skills aside, it turned out to be an enjoyable date.
“We had rojak, beef noodles, ice cream and Thai food to celebrate the end of my dieting regime for Miss Universe Singapore… and he was a great conversationalist, genuinely funny and true to his online persona,” says Ashley.
On Eugene’s part, he had “never met a woman so obsessed about online games and yet, so personable and sociable. The conversation flowed seamlessly…it was not as awkward as I had anticipated for a first date,” he says.
Eugene’s pout remains one of Ashley’s favourite expressions, soliciting a laugh however tired, stressed or angry she is. And what she loves most about their relationship is being able to “slip right out of dating in real life, and heading back home to meet again online.
“This continuity in our relationship is definitely one of my favourite parts.”
“Right now, he’s my partner-in-crime and playing Dota 2 has become even better than it was before. Our friends think it’s hilarious [that we’re together] because it’s the ultimate nerd union.”
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