Feature Article

GaymerX2: Avoiding the Sophomore Slump

Another year, another chance to make a difference.

by

"Why do gay people need a gaming convention just for them?"

When I wrote on my experience at GaymerX earlier this year, this was one of the more common questions posed in the comments section. GaymerX is a convention open to the public that focuses on games and other geekery from the angle of LGBT culture. I have responded to this question before, but I recently got together with GaymerX founder Matt Conn to talk about his plans for 2014, and asked him how he would answer this question. His passionate reply was possibly more eloquent than any answer I could have offered.

"For gaming to be respected as the art form that we all know it to be," Conn says, "then we need to support all cultures and make sure that everyone who is in the community feels like they're welcomed. There's no harm in having queers and people who support them getting together and having a good time. We're not a 'gay' convention, we're a gaming convention that has panels that focus on queer issues and we pride ourselves in trying really hard to provide a space that makes everyone feel safe and welcome."

"Those who get angry at the idea that we're holding a convention that provides a safe space to queer geeks is something that I have trouble understanding," Conn continues. "Gaming culture can sometimes be exclusionary and mean, but it's a mentality that I think people will move away from as many people of all sexualities, genders, and races are starting to stand up and ask for their voice in the larger dialogue. It's a mentality that I hope people will move away from, but the games culture is in an awkward phase with regards to that subject, in that many people of all genders, sexualities and races are starting to stand up and ask for their voice in the larger dialogue. And I think that whenever something like this happens in a community, there are going to be growing pains, but I think as long as we treat each other with respect and have an open mind, our community can grow and get even stronger together!"

The respect and strength Conn hopes to nurture were on full display at this year's GaymerX. Not only did I wander the modest convention floor, but I attended multiple panels, and even spoke on one. The hallways at San Francisco's Hotel Kabuki were teeming with attendees, and every panel was packed to the gills, with some hopeful spectators turned away because there just wasn't enough room to accommodate everyone who wanted in. These crowds weren't frustrated or cranky, however, but warm and hospitable. We were all there to have a good time, and to enjoy the camaraderie of others so much like ourselves.

I truly believe that if you're in a position of influence, whether in the industry, or as a player, or as press, that we do have a responsibility to be role models.

As for Conn, he was happy to have helped create such a friendly atmosphere. "I think that the biggest thing, and first thing, I want to focus on is a safe space," he says. "Too many people feel uncomfortable and even unsafe at conventions and bigger events, and while that's not necessarily the fault of the organizers (because I've learned all too well how hard it is to run a con), it's a really big deal to me! How is anyone supposed to have fun when they feel unsafe?"

Conn continues: "When you provide an environment that encourages people to be open with who they are in a safe, nonjudgmental space, I think people are more likely to loosen up, relax, enjoy themselves. I like a sort of curious air. I like creating a space where people feel safe to explore and experience and ask new things. It allows people to grow and for people to ask questions and learn things that they may never have experienced if they hadn't stepped outside their comfort zones."

In that respect, then, GaymerX 2013 was a grand success--so successful, in fact, that an attendee gathered the strength to ask actress Ellen McLain, best known as the voice of Portal's GlaDOS, to help him propose to his boyfriend. Since then, the proposal has become the most-talked-about event of the convention--but it wasn't GaymerX's sole defining moment.

"So, as much as we all love the proposal--and I dare anyone to find a dry eye in that video--it's really just one of the fun parts of the convention," says Conn. "Concerts, parties, cosplay, panels: these were all fun, interesting, different. Yeah, the events added to the positive atmosphere but at the end of the day what got to me was the fact that we had amassed a big queer crowd and said 'come, talk about games. Play games.' A woman could sit down and play Smash Bros. without being asked if she had ever played games before. A man could bring up that he was gay without being treated like he'd walked into the wrong industry. It was the fact that people could enjoy themselves in a fun, relaxed environment that told them 'everyone's welcome here' and not 'sorry, this just isn't for your demographic.'

Now, it's time to look to the future. Conn recently announced GaymerX2, which won't take place at the Kabuki, but will rather take advantage of the extra space at the InterContinental San Francisco from July 11 to July 13, 2014. Conn loves the new venue, calling it "gorgeous," but more importantly, it provides plenty of space for attendees. Conn told me the hotel has a good, clean, fun vibe, and that its staff is eager to work with him to make the most out of the convention.

A convention is more than a bunch of hotel meeting rooms, however. What else does Conn have up his sleeved for GaymerX2?

"If you're a Dragon Age fan," he says, "you might go crazy over [Dragon Age lead writer] David Gaider. Portal fan? Ellen McLain's back again with some more surprises. If you're like me and love smart commentary on games, we've got [games writer and designer] Mattie Brice. Like Reddit? Well the co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, will be joining us. We also have musicians like Virt and 2Mello and Internet justice swinger John Scalzi. I mean the list goes on. Sometimes I do a double take and go 'wow, I can't believe this many awesome people support this.' We've got lots of things planned that we can't even talk about yet, but I can tell you one thing: If you loved the proposal, I hope you're ready for a wedding."

If there's a wedding, there must be cake, so I'm down. But there's more to look forward to, besides, like game rooms, an exhibition hall, a dance, a concert, mixers, and so forth. If there's one stereotype LGBT folks enjoy living up to, it's that we know how to party.

Ultimately, however, GaymerX2 isn't about the parties, but the people. Readers occasionally ask me if my sexual orientation is even relevant to the discussion about games, and in the past, I have mused on my responsibility as a gay games journalist to be a positive example to younger readers and viewers that struggle to feel welcome in gaming culture. So I asked Conn about his views on the matter.

It's up to us to speak and change things best we can so that younger gamers or newer gamers can have it better.

"I truly believe that if you're in a position of influence, whether in the industry, or as a player, or as press, that we do have a responsibility to be role models," Conn says. "I can't tell you how alone and awful I felt when I was a teenager, when I thought I was some freak because other gamers wouldn't accept me, and the openly gay kids at my school had no interest in gaming stuff. I felt so alone, and I thought I'd never meet other people like me. I don't want other people to feel that way, and I feel like if you're in a position where you have fans or people who follow you or read your words, then you owe it to the kids reading it so they know there's an entire world out there for them and they're not alone. It's up to us to speak and change things best we can so that younger gamers or newer gamers can have it better."

And so let the change begin.

Discussion

316 comments
djclintonk
djclintonk

I am totally excited for this shit! This will be my first X.....

June-GS
June-GS

Hahahahahah! I gotta admit, that "Gaymer" name is SO clever I couldn't have dreamt of it if I was LGBT.

Crouteru
Crouteru

I'm a homosexual gamer, and I think this convention is a great idea to show that LGBT people can be fans of video games just like everyone else. It's not about marginalising that group, it's about making them feel accepted and part of the larger gaming community. I'm going to try and attend the event next year.

MuggyTadpole
MuggyTadpole

The first paragraph of this piece pretty much nullifies 70% of the comments in here. And thank god we finally have some proper moderation in the comment sections.

bluefox755
bluefox755

Wow, gamespot is going crazy with the comment deleting, I posted a very civil and respectful comment about how I visit game sites for game news rather than social issues and things that are important to the editors, and it gets deleted?  I respectfully express disapproval about an aspect of the site and I'm censored?  Yay for selective censorship.

BlackSquare
BlackSquare

My point is this. Why not have a diversity forum/convention? That way you can discuss the under-representation and misrepresentation of blacks, women, gays and other minorities in gaming. That way it has a purposee. GaymerX although not exclusive of heteros, it does put itself apart by labeling itself GaymerX rather than a "Diversity Gamer Forum". Even if it does not intended to put itself apart.

liftplus5
liftplus5

As a gaymer lol this would be awesome to go to but sadly i live no where near there

DJWicky_wicky_
DJWicky_wicky_

Reading through most of these comments should show even more why this Con was created. 

pcty
pcty

I couldn't possibly be against a place that provides a space where a group can feel safe and have fun but I think that if the LGBT community really wants to be accepted by the game community isolation and more exclusive events are not the answer. 

I know it isn't LGBT exclusive event but the focus towards an specific group just helps to evidence the differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals when in my opinion it should evidence what we have in common, the passion for games.

Dieknochenblume
Dieknochenblume

I'm not LGBT, but I'm so glad for this. Thanks for the awesome article!

The reactions in this forum are precisely what leads vulnerable groups or minorities into creating safe places. Who could stand such dismissive attitude and statements?

When any news related to women or LGBT community receive a normal response from the forum community, only then could we talk about tolerance and inclusion. In the meantime, expect this sort of events to grow, because the tolerant, open and healthy group of people will always be larger and stronger.

fgjnfgh
fgjnfgh

prolly they should have their own consoles and games, maybe a country too

cheese232323
cheese232323

I made a long comment and then I deleted it. But I shall summarize here:

"Sigh...."

TacticaI
TacticaI

I'm willing to bet this convention is the consequence of god knows how many years of hate speech endured by a particular group of people. A bunch of gays didn't suddenly set their sights on the gaming community at large and go ''Hey, we can really gain some ground in the medium. Let's go buy a couple of Xboxes and see how far we can take this thing." It's a shame that up until now some of you may have actually thought gamers are this huge community of incredibly inclusive, empathetic, or open-minded people. 


jonny_dutch
jonny_dutch

Come to England Mr Conn, there'd easily be enough interest in Manchester, Birmingham or London.

shahdeewasahoe
shahdeewasahoe

Now that we're talking about mutual respect, What about heterosexuals make their own exclusive game events as well? OH WAIT! That would be considered homophobic.

l777l
l777l

@bluefox755 Either the technical deficiencies are extreme, or the moderating is dubious to the point of being itself against the rules. 

I've had at least one comment that was objectively built, based on principles of comparison, disappear. Several failed to be displayed to begin with. All of that refers to the comments section of this one article.

m4a5
m4a5

@bluefox755 I find it depends on the person moderating. Some of these moderators need to grow up...

l777l
l777l

@BlackSquare Gaymer is a catchy term, and clearly it is distinctive. What exactly speaks against having a convention that is designed to be a fun place/event especially for LGBT people? Go ahead and promote that other stuff in addition.

l777l
l777l

@DJWicky_wicky_ Have you actually read them, or are you a broken record that didn't read them?

lucien2
lucien2

@pcty No one is excluded.  There were straight people in attendance last year.  And this convention is not a replacement for the larger conventions such as PAX that many of us do still attend.   What's the issue with having a fun event where we can meet people with common interests who happen to also share a sexuality? 

l777l
l777l

@Dieknochenblume "The reactions in this forum are precisely what leads vulnerable groups or minorities into creating safe places. Who could stand such dismissive attitude and statements?"

So these touching experiences are made possible by unfriendly environments: Unfriendly environments facilitate the creation of especially friendly environments.


"In the meantime, expect this sort of events to grow, because the tolerant, open and healthy group of people will always be larger and stronger."

That's absurd. Apparently you are complaining about a large intolerant group - a majority - oppressing a minority. Yet you insist that tolerant groups will always be larger and stronger. What is it now, larger and stronger, or smaller and oppressed?

bikskit
bikskit

@fgjnfgh to successfully troll, first choose a better username than just lazily typing random keys, which ironically underscores how lazy your opinion is too. hf :)

bikskit
bikskit

@TacticaI I understand your point but optimistically disagree. Circumstance&identity often serve as social starting points. At my college, e.g., people from India form groups that do activities together. This event just looks like a big "like-minded" social with gaming thrown in as a focus. Remember GS CHOSE to cover this; hence you're reading about it now(because of the gaming focus).

p.s. I'm sure there's going to be major hooking up too, since 'gaydar' is mostly a moot point lol.

DJWicky_wicky_
DJWicky_wicky_

@shahdeewasahoe Evidently the point of this article went over your head -or- you're trying to turn this into something more than what it is. I don't know if you play online multi-player games, but the use of homophobic and racial slurs are ridiculous. If you're not a minority in the gaming culture, you probably have no idea how it feels to be the "oddball" or feel like you're being singled out because of who you are. The point to this article, and the convention as a whole is creating a safe, comfortable space for EVERYONE who walked through those doors. LGBT, straight, white, black, whoever. You're treated the same. 

lucien2
lucien2

GaymerX is NOT an exclusive game event, so I'm not sure where this is coming from.  It may cater to GLBT themes in gaming, but straight, tolerant folks are welcome to attend (and did last year). 

pcty
pcty

@shahdeewasahoe Being a heterosexual, do you feel uncomfortable at gamers event? 

Do you think that that straight game community will benefit from such event?

Do you feel unsafe for being heterosexual at games conventions?

If that is the case then I think you should gather people that share the same convictions and organize a convention.

Dieknochenblume
Dieknochenblume

@shahdeewasahoe The same kind of fearful, simple, repetitive response from male gamers all over the forum. It's a rule, if you're part of the group in power then you're likely blind to all the sh*t minorities and vulnerable groups have to go through everyday.

Grow up.

l777l
l777l

@bluefox755 Another comment, which I just posted, has disappeared. Is it possible to have some neutral moderator review the changes made to this comments section by moderators? Is there a change log?

pcty
pcty

@lucien2 @pcty "No one is excluded." 

I know that is why I wrote  "I know it isn't LGBT exclusive event".

"...this convention is not a replacement for the larger conventions such as PAX..."

 I never said it was.

"What's the issue with having a fun event where we can meet people with common interests who happen to also share a sexuality? "

As I said before "I couldn't possibly be against a place that provides a space where a group can feel safe and have fun..." 

I don't really understand your reply, What is your point?

l777l
l777l

@lucien2 @pcty What'd speak against having E3 be a heterosexual male convention (that allows others entrance)?

TacticaI
TacticaI

@bikskit @TacticaI Oh I was just being dramatic, and trying to play on those that believe this is politically motivated. I actually agree with you. 

BlackSquare
BlackSquare

@pcty If you were a women at a gaming convention the answer is to your second question, is no, heterosexual women (women in general) do not feel safe at conventions.

l777l
l777l

@Dieknochenblume @shahdeewasahoe "It's a rule, if you're part of the group in power then you're likely blind to all the sh*t minorities and vulnerable groups have to go through everyday."

Yes, heterosexual grass is greener. Anyway, are you aware of what "the powerful group" has to go through?

l777l
l777l

@greenmz @shahdeewasahoe Compare: (1) Heterosexuals can join homosexual conventions just as homosexuals cans. Thus there is nothing wrong with homosexual conventions.

(2) Homosexuals can buy games just as heterosexuals can. Thus there is nothing wrong with games.

lucien2
lucien2

@pcty @lucien2 Just seems like you still have a beef against the convention, despite your caveats, and I don't really understand why.  If you don't think having events like GaymerX is the answer, what do you think is? 

l777l
l777l

@lucien2 @l777l @pcty The E3 argument is a theoretical one. You could answer, but you don't have to, of course.

I'm for Gaymer.

lucien2
lucien2

@l777l @lucien2 @pcty I've never attended E3, so I can't really speak to that, but I do follow the coverage.  But I don't have a problem specifically with any other game convention -- I just enjoy having an alternative/bonus one catered to LGBT gaming interests.

l777l
l777l

@lucien2 @l777l @pcty The convention - E3 - seems to exist to cater to those who traditionally attended it. These people are predominantly heterosexual and male. Assuming that E3 has been and is shaped around the interests of them, is that (morally) wrong?

lucien2
lucien2

@l777l @lucien2 @pcty Because E3 doesn't exist to talk about heterosexuality in games.  If you want to create an event to talk -specifically- about the existence and prevalence of heterosexuality in games and among gamers, and how awesome it is, go for it.  Good luck with that.  E3 is more general, and it's about games and gaming in general.  GaymerX is about something specific within games/gaming.

l777l
l777l

@bluefox755 @l777l @Dieknochenblume It'd be smarter to have one group present a coherent conception of "way 1", and another group to present a coherent conception of "way 2". Two strategically separated groups working towards the same ultimate goal. Feminism has that, too. They aren't stupid; they are powerful and have refined their approach over decades. If anything in this grand conflict qualifies as a "conspiracy" it would probably be this and not (only) "Patriarchy".

pcty
pcty

@BlackSquare @pctyYou mentioned my second question but answered the third one I will just assume that you meant the third one.

So according to you, women do feel unsafe at games conventions in that case the answer should be yes since my question was "Do you feel unsafe for being heterosexual at games conventions?".

l777l
l777l

@greenmz @l777l @shahdeewasahoe With games, according to members of the LGBT community (and historically disadvantaged women). The offering is deemed too exclusive. And not the good kind of exclusive. Surprising that there still is a good kind.