An Overheard Conversation

I’m sitting on the subway in a forward-facing seat. It’s an unusually slow evening, and there aren’t as many passengers in this particular car, which means it’s much quieter and less crowded than normal. Even through my headphones that are quietly playing the background music to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, I can still hear a few voices and even someone else’s music that must be bursting his or her eardrums.

At the next stop, two people sit in the empty seat behind me. They start talking – it sounds like two male voices. I make no mind of it, until I hear one of them say something slightly annoyed about “those stupid video games.” My ears perk up around my earbuds, and I become a little less interested in defense attorneying. Though I can’t see the speakers, their speaking patterns strike me as young. Younger than me, anyway.


Fellow 1: …I just don’t get them. Those video games

Fellow 2: What video games?

F1: Any video games. All video games. All those games. Why do people play them? Don’t they know they’re missing out?

F2: Missing out? Missing out on what? This? [I assume he’s waving dramatically at nothing.]

F1: I don’t know, just…life.

F2: Hey, I play games. You think I’m a loser?

F1: Um…but you don’t play games like some people. They’re the losers.

F2: Man, that’s pretty harsh. [He laughs. Not sure why. He sounds a little nervous.]

F1: Just look around! No one wants to connect anymore. No one wants to talk face-to-face. What ever happened to common courtesy? I can’t stand it when I’m talking to someone and they’d rather look at their phone, instead.

F2: Yeah, well, no one likes that.

F1: It all sucks. It all just sucks.

F2: Maybe you should play video games.

[At this point, F1 guffaws really loudly for a split second and then goes silent for a good few minutes.]

… … …

F1: No thanks. [He sounds superiorly indignant at the mere thought.]

[Another long-ish pause ensues.]

F2: People do connect over video games…you do know that, right?

F1: Yeah…whatever.

[F1 falls completely silent. The conversation goes no further.]

It’s the end of the ride and time for everyone to get off. I wait a moment before moving to see if I can get a visual of the two guys in question, but they head in the opposite direction from me. However, I do catch a glimpse of them walking away, and they are much younger than I thought. Both of them are wearing high school uniforms.

As I head for my destination, I contemplate this oddball conversation from strangers. I momentarily wonder what might have set off the anger buttons of the one fellow. But then I start thinking about his comment on human interaction. Connections are where we find them, whether in person or over a fiber optic cable. And yes, lots of people connect over video games. Over music. Over food. Over architecture. Over science. Over politics. Over one of a million things that make up this life. Maybe that poor guy was just having a bad day. I kinda wish that the conversation had had some sort of resolution.


The preceding “event” was brought to you courtesy of my evening commute. The conversation was regurgitated as best as I could recall, albeit without the extensive cursing, as I couldn’t possibly remember the correct placement of it all. And the two gentlemen were real. I think. I mean, I imagine the two boys were headed home from school, but they could have easily been figments of my tired imagination. Or not. Maybe they represented personal manifestations of some form or another. I do spend an awful lot of my work day either at a computer screen or on the phone making connections. Making lots of connections. Some days I love it, and some days I hate it. But on those days I certainly wouldn’t blame video games.

23 thoughts on “An Overheard Conversation”

  1. I admit getting a little defensive when people insult my hobby, especially when alternatives don’t sound much better. I have friends, family members, and acquaintances that scoff at the idea of playing video games, as well as my own personal run-ins with similarly opinionated strangers. The one example that sticks out to me the most would be one of the middle-aged ladies that works at my local shipping store.

    I remember going into the shop one day to make sure that my copy of Star Wars Battlefront was returned to Amazon as soon as possible. She asked the obligatory “Is it dangerous” questions, to which I joking repliedly “Not unless videogames are considered dangerous”. She then went off on a tirade about how games rot kids’ minds and that they’re just a waste of time. I nodded and passed off the comment because I didn’t want to start an argument in her store, but not before asking her what she does in her free time:

    “I read sometimes, and watch TV”

    I’ve come to the conclusion that gaming is just something that some people don’t understand, much like how I don’t understand how someone would find anime or sports entertaining. I don’t get it, but that doesn’t mean that I should go around and belittle people who enjoy those things. I guess what I’m saying is that people, including gamers, need to remember that not everyone likes the same stuff. We should all respect the interests of others, to some degree. The Golden Rule and all that jazz, yeah?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s it exactly. I’ll readily admit that there are plenty of hobbies, geeky and otherwise, that I don’t understand, but that hardly gives me the right to hate on anyone because of what they choose to do with their free time. Though, one of the driving points of being human is that while we seek to understand other, we also want others to understand us. Some of us are simply better at that whole routine, I guess, and it’s unfortunately natural for people to dismiss (or fear) what they don’t understand. Video games fall readily into that realm thanks mostly to bad press and stupidity. So when a non-player rants about the evils of video games to a player, the player can’t help but feel attacked and a need to justify his or her choices. But again, this could be applied to *any* hobby. It’s a matter of being smart about the conversation that may follow, and then following that up with understanding and respect. We can all only do our best to take the high road and leave the low road alone.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t expect the ages of the friends talking would be high school kids. Honestly, the friend railing against games is a shock to me. I kinda feel most kids their age love video games. I also don’t agree with what he said. I’ve met plenty of people because of video games and other hobbies. I do agree that technology overall has made us more disconnected and that’s a problem in need of fixing. It’s bizarre walking down the street and seeing how zombified people are when their nose is in their phones and less on the world around them. It’s truly sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was really surprised myself when I saw how young they were. I knew they were younger than me, but not quite *that* young. And it is a little strange to hear someone that young bash video games. But I really think his issues had less to do with games and more with something personal — games were just his scapegoat for being angry.

      But you’re right — you really can’t blame him for what he said about us and our phones. It’s gotta be strange growing up in a world where absolutely everyone seems to be distracted by them. (I can’t even think of an equivalent from my childhood.) I’ve even heard complaints from my own younger family members that us adults are far too consumed by our phones! These are crazy times we’re living in. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. While I obviously don’t agree with his approach (after all, I play a lot of games and some of my best friendships have grown over the hobby), I do think there is some truth to his statements. Technology has made us more connected in many ways but it has also disconnected us from so many things. I was at a concert this past weekend with my wife and instead of watching the concert so many people were trying to grab clips of the performance or photos to share online. And its not just young people either, some of the biggest culprits of this were people 10-15 years my senior. It was a weird experience, disconnected experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Despite the fact that technology is so ubiquitous these days, we’re really in this odd transitional era where the necessity of tech is under question. For years, the tech industry spent billions trying to convince everyone that they needed everything from microwave ovens to smartwatches. And now that tech is so cheap and readily available, we no longer need to be convinced. We KNOW how great technology is! But now, it’s in everything, from you fridge to your phone to your bus pass. It’s tech overload.

      I know that if I was growing up in this age, I’d be a little reluctant to “buy into the hype.” (Could be why the Maker movement is so popular these days.) And tech is just as good as connecting us as it is in isolating us, as you say. It’s really up to each of us individually to decide how to best integrate it in our lives. …some of us seem to do it better than others, of course. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think there’s a slight backlash against technology right now, particularly technology that a person doesn’t “need” to use, like for work. Some people are in this weird middle ground where they like their phones, but they’re beginning to realize that, too often, people are preferring their phones over the people around them. Folks are, they argue, texting across the table from their significant other, playing Candy Crush while their kids play on swings, etc etc., and are “missing” potential real-world interactions. It’s a scientific fact that folks who have strong ties to other people – particularly their family – live longer, happier lives.

    Of course, the response to this shouldn’t be to demonize technology and throw it all away. It has its place, like everything else that can pull you away from normal interactions or “reality,” watching TV and reading included.

    Regardless, I wouldn’t worry about that fellow’s comments too much. They sound like the same uneducated comments I hear not-as-young-people say about video games. Also, if he’s using the “population X are all losers… well except for *you*…” argument, he hasn’t really added much to the conversation, in favor of repeating what he’s probably heard elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my mind, prior to them getting on the subway, I imagine that the two kids were talking about other friends, and that #1 had just been rejected by one who’d rather play games than spend time together. But you’re right — this little snippet of talkings from strangers is hardly anything to balk at. But as to #1’s comments about connections and phones, you and a couple other commenters here have hit the nail on the head. We are in a time where people are starting to really question the absolute necessity of technology in their lives. As much as I love my phone, it can also be the most annoying thing sometimes, so I strive to take a “break” from it when I can. My washing machine can tell me through an app if it’s unbalanced…yippee. My Facebook account is worried that I might be dead since it emails me that “I haven’t posted in awhile.” Really, I can’t blame anyone for being peeved at technology these days. 🙂

      But it’s not like tech is going away (if anything, it’s going e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e), so it’s up to us to find the right balance. And sure, we’re all going to have days where we just want to binge-watch Netflix or jam through a game or spending hours texting with someone. Everyone’s trying to figure how to make connections that are right for them. It’s challenging. But truly, no matter what, tech will never stand in the way of the power of a face-to-face conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well said! We are still trying to find out way in this technological world, so it’s worth talking about – but certainly not getting snarky over, as #1 seemed to!

        And I can’t blame people for being annoyed at technology, either. Also, I can’t believe there’s an app to tell you if your washer is unbalanced…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve actually not activated the washer app, but boy oh boy, was the guy in the store excited enough to tell us all about it! Since I’m not always at home when my wash is going, I asked if it happened to balance the washer. (P. S. It doesn’t.)

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Usual “anecdote not being the plural of data” caveats apply, but I do sometimes wonder if there’s been a shift in Gaming’s role/perception these days thanks to its more ubiquitous presence. See, back when I was a young ‘ un, Gaming was definitely more “niche” and there was certainly a degree of correlation between it and the more Geeky and/or introspective kids. Thus it often facilitated socialisation – a shared interest that acted as a catalyst for friendships, providing some easily accessible common ground for those who weren’t into Sports, or whatever it was that everybody else was doing/talking about. I had various friendships that started purely because we both had the same equipment (ZX Spectrum in da house, y’all!) or because we’d be reading the same Gaming magazine, or whatever.

    Nowadays though, its rare that kids don’t have at least something they can “game” on, and it’s certainly not a niche thing anymore. If anything, I think Gaming’s a “majority” interest now, and as it’s become decidedly more “alpha”, it’s possible Gaming’s now viewed in the same way, say, Sport once was* – i.e. if, for whatever reason, you’re not into it and everybody else is, it becomes exclusionary and/or symbolic of not fitting in.

    So (if you’re still with me) whereas us (cough, cough) “older” Gamers see it purely as something that’s fostered friendships, connected us with people, and given us a sense of inclusion, it’s possible it’s having the opposite effect now that Gaming’s much, much more common. I always argue against the “Gaming is antisocial” thing, for example (because I don’t think it is necessarily), but I can easily see how Gaming might not now represent what it did when I was a kid.

    *if, in that conversation, you replaced Games/Gaming with Sports/whatever it was that ‘all the cool kids’ were into (and you weren’t) when you were young, it’d start to sound a lot like the conversations some of my gaming friends had whilst we were huddled around the Super Nintendo! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You bring up a really interesting point, because I don’t think that “gaming” has quite the same meaning as it once did. Now, I can’t say that I’m basing this opinion on a pile of personal facts — I don’t much interact with younger kids on a regular basis. But, on the occasions that I have, gaming is usually associated with something that “adults” do (which, coming from the generation where video games were “for kids,” might just be the most hilarious statement ever made). And I think this correlation is made specifically with gaming on consoles or PC, because they seem more than happy to play games on their phones…which is still gaming, but who’s splitting hairs, right? They also seem perfectly content to connect over texting with friends or Instagram or Snapchat or the like. And it’s not that (console and PC) games are for “losers,” it’s just that they aren’t seen as necessary daily activities.

      I’m also with you in the belief that gaming more a part of our culture than it’s ever been. And I like how you say it’s “alpha,” because that’s really true. The gaming community is a passionate one, and those passions can easily flare both positively and negatively. (For some, making fun of a beloved game is akin to making jeers against one’s family — them’s fightin’ words!) But while I think we do have a pretty good thing going in the community these days, it’s not without its cliques and “gangs” and outsiders. The thing of it is, and it’s easy to forget since humanity has drawn such solid lines between different pastimes (don’t you dare get that football into my baseball fandom!), that whether you like Call of Duty or Little Big Planet or Candy Crush, it is the Video Game that connects us. And that’s pretty damn cool no matter what.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Gaming connects many people, and for various reasons – beit a shared love of a particular game, platform, genre, whatever. And I still think it has an impressive role in connecting the more introspective/geeky kids too – which is always a good thing, because shared interests can be an antidote to all manner of things, and a much needed refuge in the hell that late childhood/adolescence can be.

        But, given Gaming’s become a) more mainstream (read less “geeky”) and b) more common, it’s just possible that it’s not quite the same thing to young ‘uns now as it perhaps was to us. I used sport as an example, because when I was in school, the only (quote-unquote) “organised” activity at recess was chasing some form of ball around, and if – for whatever reason – you weren’t interested in that, given that 90% of the kids *were*, it would necessarily be exclusionary to *not* like sport. Likewise, if 90% of kids are mainly talking about sport the rest of the time too, that’s also going to be isolating to the 10% who aren’t, or can’t.

        I was reasonably into sport as a kid, for example (and – let the record show – not that terrible at it, either), but I was also into Gaming, so in many ways I was Fellow 2 in that conversation, and indeed, I did have that type of conversation with my Gaming buddies about sport. It wasn’t necessarily that they were rational in their hatred of Sport either, it’s just that it had become a symbol of exclusion; the bête noire in their own personal childhood drama.

        Now, if you take those two things together (and add in the fact that it might now be the popular, alpha kids who are Gamers), I can easily see how kids that aren’t into (or aren’t able to be into) Gaming might come to see it as a symbol of exclusion, and/or even the reason they’re ridiculed for not fitting in. If a big chunk of the conversation/activity of your peers revolves around something you’re not into at all, I could certainly see why Fellow 1 would be belittling and criticising it in the way he did. It doesn’t mean he’s right, or that he had a point even, but from how I read the conversation, I do wonder if his language and exasperation could be explained (at least partially) by the above.

        And lastly, like I said, it’d be quite weird if it was, because for most of us here (particularly those of us who like Gaming enough to write about it, etc) it’s highly likely Gaming played the opposite role in our lives, but under conditions that quite possibly don’t exist anymore. That’s interesting for a few reasons, not least because it’d mean Gaming’s rise in popularity and reach might’ve come with some unpleasant side effects, and it might mean our perception of Gaming is perhaps a little bit rose-tinted and/or romanticised.

        TL: DR – it’s possible we’ve become our parents/grandparents in a “that can’t possibly be true because it wasn’t like that in my day” kind of way! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As F1 pointed out, it’s not games… The real problem is phones!

    But in all seriousness, it’s not gaming or phones specifically that does this, it’s technology in general I think. I mean what’s the difference between someone who doesn’t leave their house all day and plays games vs someone who doesn’t leave their house all day but watches TV shows all day. As great as technology is, it can be highly abused and very detrimental to ones social life no matter what medium it is. There can be a great balance between technology and life. Just some choose one over the other and that’s fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s kinda funny how often it happens that people will go on and on about their TV binge-watching sessions, and yet, when someone mentions that they binged on gaming (say, over a weekend), that person is immediately branded as inferior in some manner. It’s utterly ridiculous. But, unfortunately, there’s still a negative stigma associated with gaming. And it probably comes from the fact that nearly everyone can relate to watching TV or movies, but not everyone can (or wants to) relate to playing video games.

      You’re right, though — entertainment is still entertainment, no matter if involves a controller or a TV remote. We each gravitate towards that which makes us happy, and that which provides us with the most meaningful connections in our lives. It doesn’t make one form of entertainment superior to any others.

      Like

    1. Haha, yes! This snippet was probably just that. A moment of anger released and then done. I’d like to think that they started arguing about the merits of Chaucer after they got off the train…or maybe cute girls and fast cars.

      I’ve really no idea what young people talk about these days. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wait, so Fellow 1 wrote a certain subset of enthusiasts off as losers, yet gets mad that no one has any courtesy? There seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance in Fellow 1’s statement.

    Anyway, doubtlessly are some gaming fans sociophobes, but at the same time, I wonder if it’s really as big of a problem as people make it out to be. They’re loud, but if they were the majority, the gaming community would’ve collapsed in on itself long ago. Connecting through games is just as valid as connecting through books, films, or music, I’d say.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s what I get for being nosy — only part of a conversation that was likely more than the sum of what I heard. I suspect that he wasn’t angry at “video games,” but rather at some scenario that had involved him and them.

      I agree that the gaming community casts a wide net over humanity and its infinite personalities. And the “angry” ones are always the loudest in any situation, but that doesn’t mean they make up the majority. The community now is probably stronger in bringing people together than it’s ever been, and it’ll likely keep getting stronger despite a few bad apples.

      Liked by 1 person

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