Homophobia lurks where you least expect it.
I am a human being. I am susceptible to Internet addictions, including fixations on certain pastimes like the new-age vice of computer gaming. Usually I am pretty good at resisting the pull of mindless shoot-'em-ups and such, only occasionally falling victim to a word game that will suck me in for a while, allowing me to feel intellectually superior while I waste away hours and hours and hours.
Recently, when I discovered a game that was not just a word game, but a typing game, I was immediately smitten. Some kids excel at sports in high school; I excelled at typing.
I took two semesters of typing, the first to learn the basics of keyboarding and the second because I was thriving. I'd found a skill. I remember practicing on a typewriter that my mother's boyfriend brought home; I'd put a newspaper or magazine in front of me and just type what was on the page, trying to improve my speed and accuracy.
I became a bit obsessed. I typed letters to my friends and I typed short stories that, luckily, never saw the light of day.
In typing class, the teachers marked our speeds with cute little cut-outs on the wall -- my race car was around 70 words per minute when I finished Typing 1, and my greyhound was jumping over the 90 words per minute hurdle at the end of Typing 2.
I was the fastest in my section, always, but was jealous of the next-fastest typist in school, whose greyhound taunted mine at 120 wpm. (Those of us who cared -- not many people, I assure you -- rationalized this by pointing out that the 120-words-per-minute girl was also a trained pianist. She had an unfair advantage!)
So when I discovered a computer game called Typer Shark on Shockwave, I was intrigued. I started playing, and quickly found my score approaching 5 million. (That was in the beginning; my last score was 12.6 million on level 20, an average of 98 words per minute with 98 percent accuracy. I don't like to boast, but...)
In Typer Shark, the object is to make your little diver dude kill as many sharks as possible by typing the words that appear on their sides before they're able to eat you. There are also hungry piranhas bearing single letters or symbols on their sides. It's incredibly cut-throat.
Imagine my surprise when a shark swam out bearing the word "homos." Not once, but twice. I found myself typing, very quickly and accurately, the word "homos" as I wondered innocently if Typer Shark was created by a sassy gay person.
Later, a shark bearing the word "fags" swam by as a bunch of other sharks ate my little diver dude — it was level 17 or 18, and it's hard to keep up when you get that far along.
Homos? Fags? Typer Shark, please. Such epithets make me question each word that swims out before me -- was "lisp" a jab too, or purely innocent?
Should I really try to compete in such an atmosphere of hatred (and don't think I haven't noticed when the word "hater" swims out and my fingers quickly annihilate the shark that bears it)?
Worse, should I be enticing my friends Shalar, Todd, Becky and Shane to become Typer Shark junkies too? Poor Shalar and Todd, stymied by the anti-Mac sentiment of Typer Shark; they can only play at work, and we know where that ranks on the "good ideas" scale.
Poor Becky, addicted so early -- she e-mailed me the morning after I pointed her toward that lethal URL with a stern "God. Damn. You." Judging from the dark circles under her eyes, I could only guess that Typer Shark had her under its spell.
So maybe it's not homophobia specifically. Maybe Typer Shark is just evil -- anti-Mac, anti-Becky, anti-gay.
But there's more evidence, and it's pretty irrefutable. (Typer Shark might toss "irrefutable" at me as a bonus-round word -- go ahead, try typing it sometime. It's not as easy as it sounds.)
For instance, Typer Shark likes to flash "perversions" in front of my eyes, and sometimes "token." What am I supposed to think of that?
And "propositions" -- we all know the myth that gay people are out to convert straight innocents, and how would such a conversion begin? With propositions, of course.
And there was the time that the word "drama" was quickly followed by a cluster of piranhas sporting the letters G, L, B and T. Typer Shark, what stereotypes are you espousing, exactly?
Typer Shark is sometimes x-rated -- I won't go into details here, except let me just tell you that one time "pink" and "organ" were on my screen simultaneously.
But all is not lost.
There was the round where the red sharks come out -- the ones that take three different successfully typed words to die -- when Typer Shark made me type "lang" immediately followed by "woman." And later, "cats."
Typer Shark is, at least, lesbian-friendly.
Kristina Campbell is the typist who pounds the keyboard to bring Alphabet Soup to this magazine biweekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org -- mind you don't transpose the letters.