Stomp editor saddened by 'slow death' of HDB void decks

If you grew up before video games destroyed childhood, like I did, the HDB void deck probably holds a special place in your heart. 

As a kid growing up somewhere in Tampines in the early nineties, I can attest to this. 

It was the warm, familiar place I went to, to escape the harsh realities of being a kid, like homework, household chores and my mother's constant nagging because I didn't want to do either of those things. 

The HDB void deck bears scars of the typical adolescent Singaporean that I was. It was where some of my best friendships were forged during football games on weekends and holidays. Back then, you didn't need to know people to play with them. You just joined in the games and became friends later. That was how we rolled.  

The void deck turned 'Mat Rockers' into legends. I remember watching them strumming their cheap guitars and belting out to hits by Axl Rose and Bon Jovi, while sounding nothing like them. 

The void deck was also where we played games like hop-scotch, rounders, 'rumah dayak', and police and thieves -- games that probably sound alien to the strawberry generation. 

And if you were a poor secondary school kid who couldn't even afford to go to McDonald's, the void deck was where you went on dates with your neighbourhood girlfriend or boyfriend. I believe my Tampines void deck still reeks of crushed hearts. 

But the HDB void deck is dying a slow, painful death. 

According to an article in The Straits Times, Queenstown residents were confused when a set of barriers were set up at a HDB block's void deck to stop football from being played there.

Ms Shirley Aloysius, public relations manager from Tanjong Pagar Town Council, clarified that the bars had been installed because they had received complaints regarding 'miscreants' causing noise, dirtying walls and damaging light fittings. 

Other town councils, including Ang Mo Kio, Choa Chu Kang and Pasir Ris-Punggol, have also started using removable barriers to curb the playing of football in multi-purpose halls. 

An Ang Mo Kio Town Council spokesman said: "It is (also) to guard against the ball accidentally hurting pregnant women and toddlers."

Although Ms Aloysius said that residents had requested these barriers, locals have voiced out that they may become a "hindrance".

One Facebook user wrote: "(This) space, originally filled with so much potential for use and creativity, is now effectively transformed into a dead space."

So, to my old friend, the HDB void deck, I am saddened to see you go. You were a significant part of my childhood and without you, I would probably be a different person today. Goodbye, and thanks for the memories.