Pokemon GO

Ten strangers meet at midnight in a small triangular park in central Austin barely big enough to house a small mosaic and a patch of grass. The strangers were attracted by a Lure module that was placed at a Pokestop.

This is hardly a rare sight as I’ve come to discover. Adults all over Austin, and the country, are playing Pokemon Go late at night. I do it because I can’t stand the over 100 degree weather of Austin’s summer and because I happen to be awake late at night.

Pokemon Go initially felt like a real life Pokemon Safari Zone. You walk around and run into pokemon that you can only catch by throwing Pokeballs and fruit to. But once you discover good locations the game becomes something different.

It’s a unique social experience – playing Pokemon Go. Walking down N. Lamar we realized that the best place to go was wherever there was lots of Pokestops, and because our neighborhood was a deadzone, we started searching the city. We found new stops and new gyms and explored parts of the city we never would have before. I caught my first Magikarp and Psyduck on a small walking bridge above the Colorado River.

We were on foot but we saw other Pokemon Go players in cars. You can tell because there is almost always someone in the passenger seat holding a phone and they stop or slow down at every Pokestop to collect pokeballs and other goodies. N Lamar had no fewer than a dozen people walking around visiting pokestops and fighting gyms.

It’s not rare for a person on bike to stop and talk to you about where his friend said he spotted a Charmander. Or a car to stop by and ask if you’ve caught anything good, and then drive off after you’ve directed him to where you found your first Pikachu.

Pokemon Go is a wonderful Adventure. Millions of people trying to catch digital monsters, again, after 20 years.

A hundred students gather around a field at midnight. Recently added Pokestops and the 4 lures that were placed in the Quad attracted all the late night goers. Groups discuss Pokemon and complain about the number of Magikarp this area has. Except the few that desperately want that Gyarados. I am one of those few. It’s fairly quiet save for that light chatter until a figure in the dark yells out, “Valor”. Many yell “Yeah!” in response.

“Mystic!” another counters.

“Instinct!” yells the last group.

The commotion dies down and everyone continues to sit relatively quiet around the field. I sit on a bench watching the people go by and listening to the discussion when the final outburst of the night happens. “Dratini!” one yells. Other’s repeat. Everyone is now looking at their phones trying to catch their first Dragon type. Swipe. Snap… Catch.

Dorm Life and Video Games

Personal Stuff:

It almost feels like a completely different life. It’s not very different but it does feel it. It’s a different kind of lonely. I’m not falling asleep on a cramped couch because beds are too empty anymore. Now I sleep in a small-ish bed. Sometimes someone else sleeps in the bed three feet away. I still sit at my computer and hide away only now sometimes there’s people around to talk to.  But I still end up crying with no one noticing.

University itself is a little different. In art I sit at a table with a guy and a girl who I talk to. No one else does that. We just like to talk while we work. It’s nice. Unfortunately the girl is the only one that calls me ‘she’ in the whole class. I found out that she didn’t realize I was transgender right away. I think it was until I mentioned it  which is nice that I passed for that long even working in the same class as someone.

I also met a guy while I was wearing a skirt and then talked about being transgender in response to a question about why I was living in the dorm instead of at home. And then he asked me what pronouns I like. Not in those exact words, but that was the general question. No one had ever done that before. It was really nice of him. Most people just assume I am a guy but he got it, and asked.

It’s weird having a roommate that I’m not super close to. The last two roommates I had I shared a bed with, and etc.  But my new roommie isn’t that kind of roommate and it’s weird. We do talk. And I really really like him. I don’t know the odds but I got really lucky with roommate selection. I could have been in a room with someone who was mean or unaccepting or messy, but instead I got the opposite. He’s nice, and friendly, and he’s accepting of pretty much everything. I wish we could be closer than we are.

But of course I don’t have any close friends. I have classroom acquaintances. And even one girl I met up with for a movie once (and only once). But no close friends. No one to hold me when I’m sad. Or even talk to when I’m upset. Out of 4 people sharing my kitchen/living room, I’m the only one without anything to do on a Friday night.

Video Games:

Unfortunately, I’ve got no money for new video games so my Pokemon obsession intensifies. I really like X. I haven’t enjoyed a Pokemon game this much since Red. I’ve found so many new Pokemon that I like and have never heard of. Like Gardevoir and Honedge/Doublade/Aegislash.

I tried Breeding Pokemon but I discovered that breeding for competitive play is definitely not for me. I was breeding Ralts so I could try to get a shiny Gardevoir (Yes, I know the odds). But then in my third batch of eggs I discovered a Ralts with the Nature ‘Lonely’. I felt so bad that I stopped breeding. I could not release that many Ralts like they were unwanted. I gave that Lonely Ralts a Pokedoll so he won’t be as lonely and I trained him and evolved him into a Gallade. He’s going to help me catch Legendaries. I trained him along side a Jigglypuff (also for catching Legendaries) and his brother who evolved into a Gardevoir.

If any of my readers have been playing Pokemon X/Y, please tell me about your experiences. Or your team or something. I want to know if anyone is still listening.

Video Games as Transgender Escapism

      “It’s nice to be able to enter into an expansive world where I’m treated as female,” she said to me. I knew exactly what she was talking about, too. I was guilty of the same type of escapism as well as others.

     I had used games to escape before. When my classmates dropped the T-word and listed all the possible ways to spot a trans woman I came home and played Spiral Knights to distract myself. It kind of worked if you don’t count the rest of the time that evening that I was crying and angry. When a sneeze resulted in persistent headaches and dizziness and the worry wart side of me was worried it was something serious, I played puzzle games to keep my nerves calm.

     This type of escapism is very different. A couple months before my friend brought up the subject, I had been playing any game that let me make a female avatar. It feels really good to be treated as a woman even if it is through a virtual self.

     I relied heavily on escaping through games this way. At the time my girlfriend wasn’t being very accepting and my transition was progressing so slowly. I was trying to take steps but accomplishing nothing. So, I’d play games where I got to be a girl and no one told me I wasn’t. I even played some pretty awful games just because I could be a girl.

     It won’t come as a surprise that most of my WoW characters are female. I made a few males because people started getting suspicious. “Why are all your characters female?” one friend asked.

     “They’re not all female. Look, that one is male and that one,” I said, making random excuses to hide the real reason which is, for years, I wanted to be a girl but couldn’t admit it out loud.

     One time I entered a dungeon and someone said, “Oh, another girl tank.”

     “There’s nothing wrong with girl tanks,” I said, feeling proud of my gender and obligated to defend our honor.

     “She’s pro,” one of them said by the end of the dungeon as I was out-DPSing (damage per second) some of them.

     In that case, it was the players that treated me like a woman, even though not all female characters are played by women. It felt great. I loved it. But it wasn’t just in WoW. I enjoyed when NPCs treated me like a woman or even just running around with a female avatar.

     “Don’t really know,” another friend started as I asked him about this type of escapism, “though my Pokemon characters are boys. Even something small like that is kinda relieving.”

     As conversation continued I asked him, “Do you pick guys in all games if given an option?”

     “I tend to,” he answers, “hell, I did even as a kid.”

     Playing games to be treated as our true gender is a good way to relieve the anxiety of not being accepted that often comes with being trans, but it can feel like a trap too. Sometimes I think I relied too much on these games to get the acceptance I wanted. I’m glad I was able to stop it and enjoy games in a more pure way.

     It’s also an important step to go out and find acceptance away from virtual characters. It felt like I was hiding from my problems, but now I have found more acceptance. My girlfriend is trying her best to accept that I am a woman and I have found friends who are kind and caring and when I need a little extra, I can always play a game.