I am in the check-out line at the co-op this week. I often enjoy this time as I get to interact with all kinds of people; many of whom are twenty-somethings, and I love to hear what they are into. Some days it truly inspires me. Some days it truly breaks my heart.
On this day, when I ask the young woman how it’s going, she responds by saying, “Tired.” She then cheerfully adds, “But that’s OK-I’m always tired.” Even though I know that social etiquette would say that now it’s my turn to say something, I pause. She then picks the conversation back up by saying, “Well, it’s my own fault. My hobby keeps me up all night.” Hmm. At first I am wondering if it’s something like reading, knitting, cooking, or art. But because it somehow doesn’t seem to fit in with being up all night, I ask, “What’s your hobby?” She smiles a big, wide grin at me and says, “Gaming.” Pause. Pause. Pause.
Truly, I do not know how to respond. Where would I even begin? Since when has spending time in front of a screen been given the lofty designation of a hobby in the life of a human being? Since when did we collectively agree that depriving your body of one of its most basic and health-promoting needs is something to be proud of? And since when did women start jumping into a pathologically imbalanced male-dominated arena, leaving us now just as vulnerable as the men in making the wrong thing essential? It is so eerily reminiscent of women trying to be like men in the work force; ultimately putting us on the same level as them when it comes to rates of stress and heart disease.
Because the woman part hits me the hardest, I decide to wade into the pool on this one.
“Oh,” I say, “I haven’t run into many female gamers.” She tells me that’s because up until a few years ago it was really hard to break into the gaming circles if you were a woman, but that now it’s gotten way easier. “Why’s that?” I ask. Because, she tells me, the companies have figured out that they are losing money by not including women, so now they are much better at monitoring these sites and squelching bad and exclusive behavior on the part of male gamers.
“As a matter of fact,” she tells me, “there was a recent study that proves that the number of female gamers is the largest growing group. Even bigger than teenage boys!” She is absolutely glowing with pride as she tells me this. Pause. Pause. Pause. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. “Now they’ve got the women,” is all that I can think. This is truly terrifying.
This precious young woman has not even begun to consider what this “hobby” of hers is doing to her physical health, and her ability to be in her real life in any kind of a meaningful way. She has not stopped to consider that the open access that the companies have created for her and other women like her is being done at the expense of not only her body, but her very heart and soul sensibilities as a woman. She has not stopped to consider that this league of which she is now a part is a littered graveyard full of wasted human potential.
The irony of it all? Her favorite game is Monster Hunter. What she loves most of all is the skill set she has developed. The one that allows her to identify where the demons are and, even getting good enough to be one step ahead of their clever, demonic, and dark adaptations at eluding extermination. Would that she turn these skills on the very real monsters that haunt and elude her in the real world, she might just have a chance of getting out with her very own life.