2 August 2012


So, today Kotaku posted a pretty good article, providing a signal boost for Gaymercon's Kickstarter page. There was even a video from John Patrick Lowrie, the voice of Team Fortress 2's Sniper, providing his support! (Incidentally, I only just discovered his wife is GLaDOS' voice actor, which is amazing/terrifying). If the post was a stand-alone type deal, everything would have been A-OK.

Unfortunately, it wasn't, because Kotaku allows comments!

A number of commenters appeared asking questions - sometimes sincerely, sometimes facetiously - about the need for a convention that's primarily gay-friendly (Gaymercon doesn't exclude heterosexuals), and, by extension, why "gaymers" should ever be a thing at all. I wanted to answer those questions, but:

  1. My account on Kotaku rarely actually lets me post, and
  2. Commenting on Kotaku makes me feel a little ill because of the sheer amount of vitriol decanting from one comment thread to another.
So I'm doing it here instead. 

Rest of the article is under the cut - and I'm adding a **TRIGGER WARNING** because it also includes mentions of and links to news articles about hate crime.

Why Do We Need A Gaymer Convention?

In short: we don't. But why should we let that stop us?

We didn't need a Minecraft Convention, and one still went ahead and was a roaring success. Heck, we don't even need specific games conventions when we've already got perfectly good all-geeks-allowed conventions. The fact is, we don't need conventions at all. But we have them. And you know why? Because they can be fun! Cons are a great way to meet people and make new friends - and part of making friends is finding common ground.

It can be enormously difficult trying to find people with whom you find common ground unless you're desperately looking for it, however. A lot of gamers will be able to identify with feeling like they were treated badly for being a geek or nerd; many of us were bullied in school for preferring videogames to sports, or everyone thinks they're going to flip out and shoot up a school, because hey, don't videogames cause violence? And these gamers may not have been able to bond with many people because of this oppression. But then, if you're lucky, you find that person who's also mad into videogames - or, better yet, they're into the same weird videogames that you are! You finally have someone you can talk to about Shadow of the Colossus rather than FIFA 09. And it feels awesome.

Non-heterosexuals experience the same thing. As a minority, we don't often get to meet folk who're into the same stuff we are. It can be really difficult talking to a heterosexual person about, say, the fact that you got turned down a hotel room because you tried to book it with your same-sex partner. It can be tiresome trying to get guys to talk about a specific guy-problem you have but the dominant hypermasculine culture requires us to feel ashamed of talking about our junk. It can be literally capital-D depressing to find out that not only does this girl you fancy not fancy you back, but she's also a homophobe and has told your also-homophobic employer about your sexuality, and now you're getting weird looks at the office. Yes, homosexuals can discuss this stuff with heterosexuals with a lot of success, but there's no word for how good it feels when you get to talk to someone who's also been there, who literally knows and has experiences exactly what you're talking about.

That's what it's like being a gay gamer. It's double-jeopardy, because not only do non-heterosexuals have to deal with gamer-stigma, we also have to deal with queer-stigma (and often you can't come out as non-heterosexual because it can ACTUALLY DRIVE PEOPLE TO HATEHURTRAPE OR MURDER YOU.) And worse yet, the gay scene in many cities around the world is predominantly focused on nightclubs, and if you, like me, would much rather be indoors playing Tactics Ogre than being out at a club playing house music, it can be very difficult finding people you click with even WITHIN your own minority - after all, how many times have you experienced something along the lines of: "Hey, that guy at work also plays videogames! Social Link Ra - oh arse, he's only into that one genre I despise". So, when an event like this comes around, focusing on and bringing together two major parts of your life, it's a godsend, pure and simple.

But We're All Just Gamers! You're Segregating Yourself!

It's the other way around. We make these minority-focused events and groups because we've discovered that there ARE things about us that we can't discuss with people who haven't also experienced them. We're not doing it so we can talk about straight people in secret or something - we're doing it because hey, no-one at school wants to discuss the characters you find most attractive, but this one guy has had experience of that and will happily chirp away with you about whether Ethan Mars or Nathan Drake is hotter. Hey, you can't talk about your relationship because almost all of the guys in your guild keep asking for pictures of you and your girlfriend kissing and they're dragging you down because of it, but this one woman has had experience with that and will let you into a more supportful lesbian-only guild. Hey, if you told your friends why you dressed your avatar in clothing designed for the opposite gender, you'd get lynched, but this one transman has had experience with that and can recommend useful coping techniques. And even if these things have never happened to you, you can still show up to the con and know that you'll have a much greater chance of finding something you're really into.

And that's all it is. Conventions are a place for folk to find common ground. There is literally nothing being forcibly taken away from anybody by having a convention for queer gamers - heck, Gaymercon's page even indicates it's not gay-exclusive. That doesn't make it "just another con", nor does it make it "just for gays". It's for everybody who feels they'll be able to find some common ground with the type of folk that will show up there - gays, gamers, and gay gamers alike.

Further Reading:

Denis Farr: "Gotta Keep 'em Segregated?"
Jim Sterling: "The Importance of a Gay Gamer Convention"
Kyle Orland: "Gaymercon Wants to Provide a 'Safe Place' for LGBTQ Gamers"


  1. It's not impossible to discuss the above mentioned issues with people who haven't also experienced them. You don't really have to be homosexual to assess the looks on a character, most of us try to look our best and what better way to accomplish that is there but to look at popular genders and copy their looks?

    The break-down is not about understanding or experience, we all possess those. The real issue is whether we're able to open up and talk about those topics without prejudices.

    1. Sorry about the delay in getting back to you - I honestly didn't realise I'd gotten comments until just now!

      I think you're right that folk don't have to be any particular sexuality to comment on someone's looks or other traits when they're not actually sexually attracted to them - and I think it's great that more people are willing to just go along with it without being really defensive and constantly reaffirming their sexual interests. I'd also agree that it's not impossible to discuss these things with anyone - however, as I mentioned, I think discussion tends to be more favorable - i.e., more open, frank, heart-felt, and understood - when it's between people who have shared very similar experiences regarding the thing they're discussing. Gaymercon just provides a place where that kind of exchange is more likely, as opposed to a general con, where your odds in finding a person diminish significantly because you could also find someone who's staunchly homophobic, to someone who's not homophobic but has literally no interest in gay issues, to someone who's mildly interested and will give some sort of feedback, e.t.c., e.t.c.

  2. This was actually a really good read. I kind of questioned the importance myself, and also why have a convention for a particular group of an already niche thing, but you wrote a really great argument supporting it. I agree wholeheartedly.

    1. Thanks very much, chief; that really does mean a lot to me. :]