Gaymercon get Kickstarted, and why that’s good for gaming

Another gaming convention? The more the merrier! What's that? Yes, I am aware it's an LGBT-friendly convention. Why should that be a problem?

For all its wondrous diversity gaming can feel like a hostile place to anyone that isn’t a white heterosexual male, especially online. Much of this hostility comes from certain stubborn pockets of the gaming community that objectify women, think casual racism is comedy gold, and fling the word “fag” around with – if you’ll excuse the pun – gay abandon. So I was chuffed to bits to hear the news that GaymerCon, “the first gaming and tech convention with a focus on LGBT geek culture”, hit its Kickstarter funding target of $25,000 in only five days.

It’s important to note that GaymerCon would have happened anyway however. Organiser Matt Conn (now there’s an appropriate surname) and his team had already made arrangements for August of 2013 to create a safe, inclusive space for gaymers to meet up, make new friends and generally have tons of nerdy fun. The Kickstarter was so Matt and his team could give the event a swankier, more central venue, more things to see and do, and other awesome stuff. Having met their original target the team have added stretch goals for a GaymerConcert and a “Celebrity Boss of Honour” to make the event that little bit more fab…er, spectacular.

Sadly GaymerCon hasn’t been without it’s detractors, some of whom laboured under the misconception that GaymerCon was only for card-carrying members of  “The Big Gay Gay Club of Gay People Who Are Gay”. Even though it says right there on the GaymerCon Kickstarter page that GaymerCon “isn’t just for gay white dudes either. We want all genders, races, and sexual identities including our straight friends and allies to come together and have a gay, geeky good time.” Other nay-sayers, head-shakers and tut-tutters questioned why a “separate” event was even needed when we already have PAX, Gamescom, Eurogamer and others. Not forgetting of course the cretins asking “where’s our straight-gamers convention?” in the same way closet racists ask for a “white history month”. Hmm, and to think some of these same people usually complain that gamers are still stereotyped as anti-social, overly-sensitive shut-ins.

In the headline to this post I promised to explain why this was good for gaming, yet now I’ve reached this point I find myself struggling to do so. Part of this is because I simply cannot get my head around the idea it should even need explaining. The very notion some people out there might want to stop other people getting together and having fun just plain fucking boggles my mind, man! I also like to think that everyone who perseveres in reading my stuff has a significant degree of intelligence and social-awareness, not to mention being generally fantastic, awesome and just plain great. People who don’t need me patronising them by explaining something already patently obvious to them.

Secondly, I’m simply not qualified or arrogant enough to try and explain the need for GaymerCon in relation to the LGBT community. My only qualifications are that I have LGBT friends, an above-average knowledge of Queer (used strictly in an academic sense) issues, had a crush on Brian Molko of Placebo when I was a teenager, read a lot of Poppy Z Brite, and that my mum was once the landlady of a popular gay pub in my home town. Oh don’t get me wrong, I could speak at great length about things like providing a safe space for LGBT people to meet others with similar interests, for community building, an important step in breaking down barriers and a multitude of other logically-sound reasons. Destructoid’s Jim Sterling and GayGamer’s Denis Farr have already said all that and more far better than I ever could however, so any contribution I – as one of the aforementioned white male heterosexual demographic – could possibly make would feel disingenuous. It’s all too easy to speak for others from a position of privilege.

I do have an ace up my sleeve, though. You see I like playing games. Do you like playing games? Tell me about the games you play. I enjoy talking to people who also play games. I also like having a laugh. Unless you’re Billy-no-mates, King of Friendlesshire and Defender of the realm of Forever-Alone, then whatever your creed, colour or sexual orientation there’s a good chance you probably share at least two of these things in common with me. If we ever met we could probably have a good old natter into the wee hours about games. Gosh darn it, wouldn’t it be nice if there were more places where people like us could meet and chat to other people who also enjoy playing games?

Wait, what’s this? Oh look, here’s another place for people that play games to meet other people who play games and talk to them about the games they play. I bet we’ll even get to play some new games that haven’t been released yet. Maybe there are some we can play together! Hey look, there’s an original Streetfighter machine! How cool is that? I play a bit of SFIV now and then but I mostly play a load of PC indie games. Yeah I fucking loved Super Meat Boy! Have you tried Spelunky? Oh you really should. Minecraft? I dip into it occasionally but I can’t make anything near as cool as some of the stuff I’ve seen on YouTube. Speaking of which there’s a booth over there selling Minecraft t-shirts. I bought that cool Creeper t-shirt for my girlfriend one year at Eurogamer. No way, your boyfriend has the exact same one? Awesome! Say, do you know where I can buy a stupidly overpriced JD and coke around here?

You see, the only difference between GaymerCon and any other gaming convention is you’re statistically more likely to meet gamers who also happen to be L, G, B or T, in a space where they can feel safe and comfortable. A space where they’re not bombarded by a heterocentric media circus, catering chiefly to the power fantasies of 13yr old boys and 30yr old manchildren, that only serves to make them feel even more isolated than they do already on account of their sexuality. If you don’t like it then you can still always go to PAX or E3. GaymerCon isn’t going to magically turn into a giant Gay Godzilla and blast those conventions off the face of the Earth.

Gay gamers will still go to PAX, Gamescom, E3, Eurogamer and other mainstream conventions too, and if you also regularly attend such conventions then you’ll likely meet a good number of them. You’ll also likely meet a fair few disabled gamers, black gamers, senior citizen gamers, young gamers or Christian gamers, as more and more people discover the joys of gaming we could very well see other niche conventions catering for such groups. A convenient one-size-fits-all convention model may work fine right now but it simply cannot cater to every facet of an expanding, increasingly diverse demographic.

Sometimes you just need your own space, you dig?

Matt McDermott

About Matt McDermott

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com.