By Gamer_152 5 Comments
So, you may or may not be aware that a Kickstarter page recently went up for “GaymerCon”, an LGBT-focused gaming convention that needed $25,000 to become a reality and already has the support of the likes of Ellen McLain of Half-Life, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 fame, TF2’s John Lowry, the folks behind one of my favourite web comics, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and over 550 backers. Sadly, there has been a rather major negative reaction to this. Even in the face of what appeared to be a harmless event with harmless promotional material, some went into a blind rage, and even many of the calmer and level-headed people out there seemed to express an utter rejection of what I see as a perfectly reasonable event.
The most common of these arguments seem to be that this convention is “self-segregation”, that it's invalid because sexuality has nothing to do with video games, or that this is just “pointless”, but they’ve also ranged into the insulting notions that this is comparable to organising a straight gaming convention, that it’s some sort of disgusting attention grab, or that this is discrimination against straight people. I understand that not everyone out there questioning the need for this convention is attacking it, I think questioning is good, and “Why is a gay gaming convention important?” is a valid query. But while I can’t display what I’d call an exhaustive knowledge of LGBT culture, there seem to be so many people out there ready to immediately dismiss the idea of this convention for reasons which seem entirely flawed, or making downright ignorant statements regarding the LGBT community or their involvement in video games.
I can’t claim to know exactly how it feels to be in the minority when it comes to gender identity or sexual orientation, but one thing is clear; that many people who are have faced vilification, marginalisation, or have been treated as second class citizens. In large parts of the world they’re told that they’re “wrong” or “sick” for reasons beyond their control, they’re denied rights like marriage and adoption, or outright bullied.
That’s just the situation outside of the gaming community though. Within the gaming community games are aimed overwhelmingly towards the 18-35 heterosexual white male population, and they’re not afraid of showing it. The scantily-dressed, suggestively-posed women that are a common sight in games, and the outpouring of “booth babes” at conventions make it clear who they wish to cater to, and within video games we’re left with a great lack of LGBT characters. You can make whatever excuses you want for it, but none the less it’s there.
Online in general, many people also think nothing of throwing about homophobic slurs, while homophobic jokes and bullying are a sad reality. Even on this site I’ve seen people using slurs, making transphobic statements, and explaining why the use of slurs is entirely justified. When I’ve seen people speak up and say that games should better represent minority groups or that there’s something wrong with the way people often interact online, these ideas have been largely dismissed or been faced with outrage from the gaming community.
So for those saying this is comparable to a heterosexual gaming convention, it’s not, because the place that the LGBT community occupies within gaming and society as a whole is not the same one that heterosexuals do. Heterosexuals, or at least male heterosexuals, don’t require a games convention of their own as they’re already being largely catered to in a way non-heterosexuals are often not, and while I don’t agree that this is a form of segregation, I think the statement that this convention is self-marginalisation is ignoring the fact that people of certain sexual orientations or gender identities are often marginalised to begin with. Personally, I think the people behind GaymerCon have already made it pretty clear why such a convention is important; they want a place where those who enjoy video games can come together without fear of intolerance or discrimination, where people can be happy about who they are, where they can show that there is a strong LGBT element in the gaming community, and where people who may feel isolated can find out they’re not alone.
This is Not Segregation and This is Not "Showing Off"
Why do I not think this is a form of segregation? For a few reasons. Firstly, this is not a gay-only convention, and that’s not some obscure piece of information hidden off in the depths of one of the comments sections on Kickstarter; like other justifications for this event, it’s something they’ve mentioned upfront repeatedly, and yet some people seem to be ignoring it entirely. I quote, “We want to be clear this isn’t just for gay white dudes [...] We want all genders, races, and sexual identities including our straight friends and allies to come together”. There may be a focus on LGBT issues and community here, but look at that quote, in what way is that even close to segregation?
Secondly, even if you still consider this convention somehow separate from the rest of the gaming world, it isn’t as if LGBT gamers attending GaymerCon are setting down a big permanent divide between themselves and the rest of the gaming community. Heterosexual people are going to go to GaymerCon, non-heterosexual people (including those attending GaymerCon) are still going to go to other conventions, both are still going to play and talk about games together within the gaming community as a whole, and what’s more GaymerCon is just one convention.
Thirdly, I think a lot of the talk about “self-segregation” has been based around the false idea that “gaymers” can’t have events like this where they celebrate their own sub-culture and connect with people within their own minority, while still being equal to and included in the community as a whole. Everyone has both the right and the ability to celebrate their own culture, and meet with people of which they have something in common, while still being treated equally. If you wouldn't call gay pride parades self-segregation, then I certainly see no reason to call GaymerCon self-segregation.
Another common misconception seems to be that anyone within the gaming community expressing their identity, or celebrating part of their identity is “attention seeking”. This isn’t the least bit true and when I see this view brought up it’s very worrying. If you think it’s wrong whenever people express statements like the fact that they’re not heterosexual, or you become frustrated from seeing them do so, then it may be a good time to reassess your perspective on things. If we’re really starting to turn against people because they’re expressing or showing that they’re happy with the fact that they’re gay, bisexual, transsexual, or whatever else, then something is deeply wrong.
Being LGBT is Relevant
To those who say “Being LGBT has nothing to do with video games”, I have two answers. First, sexuality and gender identity have an overwhelming relevance to all art and entertainment. Where we fit in society and who we love or lust after are fundamental parts of who we are, and are ideas that have been embraced by just about every creative medium out there, it’s just they’re not something that video games have yet dealt with in much depth or with much variation. However, this sets up GaymerCon to be a great platform for discussing these matters and the organisers have said as much. It serves a greater purpose than just that though.
In some ways, yes, being LGBT really shouldn’t be a big issue, but certain people within the gaming community and the world as a whole have made it so, in a very bad way. I’m not saying every single LGBT person out there feels like they’re the victim of merciless discrimination and isolation, or anything like that, but in a situation where many people who are LGBT may have faced marginalisation and bullying in their lives, and where wanting to do something as simple as talking about and playing video games online can mean being prepared to face degrading language or even direct personal attacks, it seems perfectly reasonable that some LGBT people would want their own space where that wasn’t the case. Besides, what's wrong with wanting to use video games as a tool to bring people together?
In GaymerCon a few people decided that they wanted to organise an event where people, no matter their race, orientation, or other potentially dividing factors, could come together and enjoy video games in an environment where people would act like decent human beings, without needless insults and attacks. To me this doesn’t just seem reasonable, it seems like a noble goal, but a certain portion of the video game community have decided to turn around and tell them that they don’t get to have this, or that their cause is pointless or wrong. I find that sad, and I think ironically, the negative knee-jerk reactions to an event in the video game fandom that tried to reach out to LGBT people are a reflection of exactly why an event like GaymerCon is so important in the first place. Thanks for reading.