Debate in the office yesterday: playing a video game on an iPad on the subway feels wrong because it is a) too big b) too obnoxious c) too dangerous.

I'd been playing a tower defense game on an iPad in order to squeeze in some playing time to finish a game in time for a review deadline. (And, hooray I made it!) Playing games in the office never works. Not enough time. Playing at home did work, but there were distractions.


To the subway I went, hoping that my 40 minute commute to and from work each day this week would help me get through the game.

I've played many DS and PSP games on the subway. Several iPhone ones too. I am at ease doing that.

But when I took out my iPad on the F train (where gaming is not accepted by all), things felt different.


The Anxiety Of Gaming In Public

There I was, ignoring clearly marked safety warnings in my subway car by leaning against the doors as the train trundled to its next stop. I was holding the comic book-sized iPad sideways under one arm, as a painter would wield his palette. I dabbed my finger at it to issue commands in my game. It was a slow-paced game. Not much tapping. Lots of pondering. I must have looked so thoughtful leaning there. Or pretentious.


I had seen people on the same F train using Amazon Kindles. Everyone has and uses an iPhone or iPod. But I had never seen anyone on the subway wield something as big as the former and as fancy as the latter. Except for the people who crack open laptops on the subway, those people being ridiculous.

I felt conspicuous with my iPad in my arm. I've been self-conscious about gaming in public before. But, long ago I got over my silly anxieties about playing a Game Boy on the subway. Small games were fine, I realized. I would not mind who was watching me play a Nintendo DS, because, I realized, I was having fun. And if they were going to see what I was doing on some portable screen that would mean they were staring, spying and… so shame on them.


Playing an iPad on the subway, however, feels like flaunting.

The Three Questions

So we had this debate in the office here in New York, me and some other bloggers. Was it too big? Yeah, the iPad feels unwieldy to have out in public, especially in the sometimes-cramped confines of the F-train. It feels as if it uses more than one's deserved personal space in a subway. Then again, so does The New York Times, so the size of the iPad is something I could get used to handling in public.


Was it too obnoxious? Too gauche? The iPad is expensive. I might as well have been counting gems, letting each clink loudly while the panhandler in our car asked for money. But if other people start whipping out their iPads I can get over this too.

Was it to dangerous? I have a strong grip and, well, not an intimidating presence. No one snatched it though.


One of the questions when the iPad was announced was: Where is it for? It's kind of portable, but kind of too nice to leave behind on a park bench. I am not sure if iPad gaming is right for public spaces, at least not cramped ones.

I'll report back after more field-testing, but if you see anyone playing an iPad in public, let me know how awesome or absurd you think they look.

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