As night falls, I ride the subway home. I've traveled over 200 blocks, and I haven't encountered another gamer. Though there are no wireless signals underground, I break out the DS one last time for the day, just for me. My Balm in Gilead.

A crowded subway train is not a gamer-friendly environment. I'm squeezed into my seat, my stylus hand jostled, and I can't hear EBA's beat over the din. All around me people focus diligently on not making eye contact with one another, heavy with the weariness of the day. I'm on the verge of surrendering to their contagious misery.

And then, I hear something. A voice from above me says, "Yo, check it. She's got mad skills." I lift my head, and two guys - rapper types - standing by the door are watching me play.

"You have this game?" I ask breathlessly, unable to restrain my eagerness.

As his friend snickers, the admirer nods. "Sure," he says. "I love that game. I beat it a ton of times."

I light up. I start to babble. I ask him what his favorite level is, and I'm met with blank silence. Then his friend starts to laugh.

"He's lying," he says, shaking his head. "He ain't got no videogames."

As I reassess their expressions, it dawns on me that my cute outfit and my "approachability" strategy might not have been the most constructive game plan.

I laugh it off and go back to my game, but I miss too many beats. The Elite Beat Divas fall on their butts, and I'm more frustrated and discouraged than ever. But then, I look up and around one more time.

A semicircle of commuters has gathered around me, all of them watching the screen in my lap. A middle-aged blue-collar type, a leather jacket girl, an elderly man. I have an audience that spans the style spectrum, and they're smiling.

"That looks cool," says the middle-aged guy.

"It is," I reply, and I return the smile. "You should try it."

So maybe the world just isn't made for us gamers; maybe I didn't see any handhelds in my travels. And, you know, the idea of a private underground empire is kind of cool. But I'm keeping it in mind - half of all the people I saw today, from Harlem to the Brooklyn Bridge, are going home to their consoles tonight. There's hope.

Leigh Alexander is a freelance tech, entertainment and culture writer, who met her boyfriend of eight years in a Final Fantasy VII chat room.She currently writes for an NYC gossip site, reviews games for Paste magazine and maintains her gaming blog. She can be reached at [email protected]

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