Friendship on the Playing Field

“Meeting someone where they are” isn’t just a buzzphrase

Yi Shun Lai

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Courtney and I have delivered diversity and inclusion workshops together to organizations ranging from higher education institutions to major video-game studios. I know a lot about Courtney. We text at least four days a week, about everything from dogs to whatever our lives are throwing at us. Courtney knows a lot of my weak points and has helped me to confront some pretty strong areas of ignorance.

We also play video games together. Through them, we have been to foreign-to-us lands together. We’ve confronted some really hostile folks there, and met some fantastic people together, too, and bitched at annoying NPCs. (CL4P-TP, I hate you.)

We’ve never met in person. And this is one of our only three selfies.

Video-game avatars of Courtney and Yi Shun standing in front of a futuristic-looking machine in a field of grass with a road behind them. There is a grey lurking building in the far background and the sky is threatening.
Screencap from Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

This could be an exercise in counterfactual thinking, which I’ve previously written about. (That’s where you think about all the things it took you to arrive at this place in your life, or at this job you have, or at this friendship you’re treasuring, or really anything.)

But really, I think, for me, it’s about meeting someone where they are.

I know, I hate this phrase: it’s catchy, but it’s notoriously slippery — it ignores all of the work needed around getting to know where someone is, exactly.

Actually, I think that’s what Courtney’s been doing for me, up until very recently.

Me and Courtney’s avatars in the “Overworld” portion of Tiny Tina’s Wonderland.
My avatar’s name is “Tuna” in this game; shut up, I like it.

They’re endlessly patient, answering all my questions about the demographic markers I don’t share with them. They never get angry or frustrated. They never say things like, “Why don’t you know that already?” or “You should know that.” If we disagree, it’s usually because one or the other of us needs a little more information, and we each give of that information, genuinely, assuming good intentions on both our sides.

Even so, with all that trust, it was some time before finally got my shit together enough to meet Courtney where they are, in their beloved world of video games.

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Yi Shun Lai

Author: A SUFFRAGISTS’S GUIDE TO THE ANTARCTIC (2024), Pin Ups (2020). Columnist, The Writer. theGooddirt.org; @gooddirt. Psst: Say “yeeshun.” You can do it!