Gays love to play games too. (Not a surprising statement for some gents.) But if truth be told, games are more than playthings to Gamers in general. A great game can mean a fully realized, uncharted, yet fleshed-out world that can challenge our sense of reality – that can blow our minds and expose that ape-like brain to a kind of heightened interactive experience inconceivable in other mediums.
In the last 50 years, video games have become more than exciting quickie with which you can score some points. For a Gamer, a game can be as expressive as a painting, musically intimate as a living soundtrack, cinematic as a film, leave as much to the imagination as literature, be as challenging as the most mentally taxing puzzle and as magical as childhood make-believe. .
…But for “Gaymers”, from Gaming also emerges another LGBTQ community.
It was only this last December when the city of San Jose saw the size of the Gaymer community at the 2,400-strong 3rd annual GaymerX convention; blowing the closet doors off another Kickstarter goal after their convention 2014 was thought to be the last one. Every convention since entirely funded by the public.
GaymerX is a sight to behold. Until Australia’s very own GaymerX convention happened in February of 2017, San Jose has become the only place in the world where you may see gay Gamers dressed up as their favorite eye-candies. GaymerX has become the place for LGBTQ gamers and developers to talk about fandom, identity and diversity – most notably when WWE’s out-and-proud Darren Young showed his support as a special guest during 2016’s convention.
Indeed, for sure it’s certainly the only place you’ll get to witness touching moments like when one gamer proposed to his lover with a Portal gun strapped to his arm. “When I first met you and I learned you were from Belgium I said we were [someday] going to meet halfway and… [probably] drown in the Atlantic Ocean! [But] two years later, here we are… and I have this gun! (crowd laughs)”
But like any good game (or community), there has to be a satisfying end goal they’re working towards? Well, for starters, the answer may lie in a documentary on the very subject, Gaming in Color (2014). “Visibility is the way in which an industry says, ‘We recognize you exist.’ When you get acknowledgment that you are the intended audience for something, it makes you feel like you’re a part of it.” one gamer expressed. “The next step is to actually write well written, fully fleshed-out characters that are queer, and there are very few games that actually have that.” another said.
So for sure the discussion is all about representation, but as the mission statement of GaymerX also claims, it’s also about “making the gaming world safer and more inclusive to marginalized people, especially those in the gender and sexuality spectrum.” Gaymers want a fully realized and safe world they can call their own.
So to make it clear, Gaymers don’t feel represented in their favorite medium nor do they feel fully embraced by their non-queer fellow Gamers. In fact, according to the University of Illinois in 2006: “Gay Gamers experience a double-edged sword of prejudice… The mainstream gay culture and a media that is not supportive of video games. Then you have the video game culture that is not supportive of gay culture… So you have these people stuck in the middle.” In the same study, a very clear divide was found between Gamers that identified as LGBTQ and those that identified as heterosexual. It’s a potentially alienating world for gay Gamers – especially for those hoping for safe and welcoming online spaces with other players.
Indeed, it’s still hard for LGBTQ players to feel comfortable being themselves within the Gaming community. But it’s hard not to notice the progress. It was only a few years ago when Gaming purely consisted of over-the-top, stereotypical queer characters, straight-only user-creation options and legions of homophobic players. But today, they have a presence in the industry thanks to the advent and success of conventions like GaymerX. And the industry is now seeing titles with moving LGBTQ protagonists sweeping Game of the Year nominations across every major voice in gaming journalism.
So, it’s because of these achievements that games could well be on their way to maturing into a medium made for everyone – in a community that captures spirit of inclusion and wonder that’s wonderfully put into words with a certain quote from 1999’s Human Traffic:
We are in the clouds now, wide open. We are spacemen, orbiting the Earth. We embrace an overwhelming feeling of love. We flow in unison. We are together. We want a universal level of togetherness, where we are comfortable with everyone. We are in rhythm, part of a movement. A movement to escape.
The very soul of a Gamer… framed perfectly.
So as far Gaymers are concerned, there’s reason to be optimistic. “I think that we’re at an exciting moment in games and we should be asking [ourselves] ‘What could games do?” said another Gaymer from Gaming in Color. And that’s what games have always been about. Whether you game with artists like PlayStation, crazy toy-makers like Nintendo or hardcore enthusiasts like Xbox, Gaming has always been about making the impossible possible, in the palm of our hands. So let’s make it all possible. Game on Gaymers for playing is believing!
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