I live in a major city. Since I neither have a car (nor wish to ever own one), nor have I acquired a bicycle and the courage to become one of those bikers with nifty fashions you’ll see about the city (just remember your helmet, please), this leaves me with public transportation. The CTA. The Chicago Transit Authority. While the organization leaves much to be desired, so do many of the passengers.

Today had a curious interaction.

Since my commute is semi-lengthy, my time is spent either reading (currently finishing The Beauty Myth) or gaming (currently Final Fantasy V). The latter produces many more onlookers: people watching over my shoulder, but looking away quickly when I remove my eyes from the screen. It’s as if they do not wish to admit a fascination or interest in ‘that.’ I’ve had one chap engage me in conversation about whether Final Fantasy V or VI was the better. I knew the answer immediately–he agreed.
Today, a woman sat next to me. She was my age with a thick accent. White. I wanted to peg her as Eastern European. Pausing me for a moment, she asked permission to ask a question. I agreed to hear it, and then she proceeded, “What about this gives you satisfaction?”
I didn’t know where to begin. Prattling off a few short sentences seemed the best response. I made mention of a new form of narrative, the level of interactivity, the sense of progression (this is a Final Fantasy–one has to love some form of grind to get through the pre-XIII titles), and quite simply entertainment.
She paused again. “Progression? Do you garden?”
Do you mean in games or in real life?
With a sneer, “In real life!”
“Maybe you should try. Is physical progress.” It was said with a triumphant grin, as if she had put me in my place–put one over on me.
I looked at her for a few seconds, before rather innocently-sounding, but snarkily-meaning, and plenty of theatrical aplomb, “On the L? You wish me to garden on the L? I’m afraid I know of no garden as portable as this game–can you suggest one? (beat) What you’ve done is just make an assumption based on what you think you know about gamers and that I do not enrich myself outside of this–that this in itself has no redeeming qualities. You are making far too many assumptions and value judgments. Think harder.”
She seemed confused.
Perhaps I should have remained silent?
For the most part, when Ebert goes on his trolling sprees, I feel no particular need to prove that my gaming is worth my time or that it is art. I choose how to spend my time every day like so many people. Years ago I gave up television to be able to balance both school and being able to game–that was my choice. I do not necessarily look down on people who watch TV–they are seeking to entertain and engage themselves in another way. Nor people who read. We all choose our forms of entertainment and art, believing it will enrich us, or keep us engaged and entertained.
Perhaps I could have pointed out other activities in which I engage. Going to the theater, cooking meals, trying vegan and vegetarian recipes, engaging in off-kilter sports (late-night dodgeball, urban golf, et cetera), volunteering for HIV/AIDS intervention and funding, having lengthy discussions with friends, making clothing, and any of a myriad of activities. Except that would be making a judgment that gaming is not worth my time, which is not what I wished to communicate either.
No, I felt my response conveyed what I wished. I had no hope nor inclination that I would convert her–she was judging me from the moment she asked the question. To people such as those? I have no desire to prove my gaming worthy.
My gaming is worthy of my time; it does not have to be of yours.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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5 Responses to Gardening

  1. ken says:

    I can’t help but picture a person tending to a potted plant on the train now!

  2. Anna says:

    There is also a value in pleasure. Gaming because it is an activity you find pleasurable is itself a reason to do the activity. Not everything we do in life must be of value of society as a whole. It is important that we do try not cause harm in the world but since you playing a portable gaming system on the bus does her no harm, why protest to the activity?

  3. Remember folks, physical progress is clearly far superior to mental progress.

    The next time I’m in public I’ll emit and long, sarcastic sigh in your honor.

  4. “Think Harder.” Well done. I wouldn’t have been nearly as succinct.

    Gaming in a public space is always such an interesting beast… I wind up feeling like an ambassador whether I want to or not. And like, how am I going to explain to someone why Chrono Trigger is such a great thing to do on my commute? Instead I am reduced to writing poetry after the fact.

  5. Vin St. John says:

    One time while playing Chrono Trigger DS and Phantom Hourglass on an hour-long train ride, a guy maybe three years older than me sat next to me on the train. He smirked and almost laughed when he saw my screen and my intent gaze. My gut reaction was to look up and give some defensive sarcasm, but before I could say anything – I realized why he was laughing.

    He pulled out his DS and we talked about video games for a good hour. Point is, one day you’ll have a really positive experience to negate this one!

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