Gaymercon: Why it’s Important 3

So the gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty just got a lit­tle more open and wel­com­ing. It is with a cau­tious opti­mism that I regard last mon­th’s announce­ment of Gaymercon, the world’s first gam­ing con­ven­tion specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed to LGBT* indi­vid­u­als. it is an impor­tant start, and bodes only good things for us as a cul­ture.

The sta­tus of Gaming (large G, so you know I’m seri­ous) as a strange, fringe hobby is ulti­mate­ly the result of a self-fulfilling per­cep­tion. The Gaming com­mu­ni­ty is com­prised, most­ly, of those who don’t fit com­fort­ably into other typ­i­cal, so-called “main­stream” social groups. The unit­ing inter­est of all of those who band togeth­er into this par­tic­u­lar group is of course Gaming. Consequently, these devo­tees are termed “gamers”, and even­tu­al­ly, in much the same way as alter­na­tive music has man­aged to become a solid, defin­able genre of music, become a sin­gle, unit­ed group.1 These gamers, seen as a minor­i­ty with dif­fer­ent ways and strange cus­toms by the rest of soci­ety, are stig­ma­tized in one way or anoth­er, and “oth­ered”, cast as not quite accept­able and to be regard­ed as dif­fer­ent, which in turn caus­es other dis­en­fran­chised indi­vid­u­als to flock to these mys­te­ri­ous gamers, who must be doing some­thing right if the Man is wary of them. Thus the group known as gamers grows and sus­tains itself and per­pet­u­ates its place out­side the main­stream.

Congrats, kid­dies. You just got your first les­son in queer the­o­ry. Level up.

Now, if with­in the gamer com­mu­ni­ty, as with all minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties, there did not exist a hier­ar­chy that mim­ic­ked the patri­archy (a word which here means the struc­tur­ing of soci­ety around the male, here anal­o­gous to that which soci­ety deems pow­er­ful and most accept­able, and con­se­quen­tial sub­ju­ga­tion of all that does not con­form to this cri­te­ri­on), then Gaymercon would be a nice, hap­penin’ party, but ulti­mate­ly super­flu­ous. And con­se­quen­tial­ly, I would­n’t be writ­ing an arti­cle say­ing how impor­tant it is. But I am, because there is. For you see, in the words of the Gaymercon Kickstarter:

Unfortunately stereo­typ­i­cal bias among gamers does exist and it can make a hos­tile envi­ron­ment for minori­ties in the gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty. Hang around an online game long enough and you’ll start hear­ing homo­pho­bic, racial, and misog­y­nis­tic slurs slung around with­out a sec­ond thought. Gamers, as a whole, have had to make space for them­selves in a soci­ety that, for a long time, treat­ed them as out­siders. They have come togeth­er and cre­at­ed a real com­mu­ni­ty of peo­ple, but one that is not always wel­com­ing if you don’t fit into the mold.

Gaymercon rep­re­sents a refresh­ing, inspir­ing shift from this trend. For the first time, LGBT* gamers have a safe space, a place to be our­selves with­out hav­ing to hide, with no fear of prej­u­dice. LGBT*-centric pan­els and events, instead of being occa­sion­al breaths of fresh air, will be par for the course. The whole affair smells of deli­cious progress.

As with any pro­gres­sion of human­i­ty as a species, this move­ment has its detrac­tors. Some in the larg­er gamer com­mu­ni­ty seem to think that a con­ven­tion specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed at LGBT*s is a super­flu­ous move, say­ing that frac­tur­ing the com­mu­ni­ty in such a way, when LGBT* folks have never been exclud­ed from such spaces before, is harm­ful and divi­sive. What’s so spe­cial about these peo­ple, they ask, who have never been dis­crim­i­nat­ed against by the com­mu­ni­ty?

The prob­lem with the detrac­tors’ argu­ment is that, for a long time, we never have had our own safe space, either with­in games or with­out. In the gamer par­lance, a f****t is any per­son of whom the speak­er cur­rent­ly dis­ap­proves. A play­er who out­per­forms hir oppo­nents is as like­ly to be brand­ed a f****t as one who com­plains that the roman­tic offer­ings for a gay male Shepard are sadly lack­ing (which, let’s face it, they are). Though for the most part in this coun­try, brand­ing an indi­vid­ual thus is either ignored or deemed right­eous con­dem­na­tion, in real­i­ty it is hate-speech. It is also very painful and a use­ful means of oth­er­ing LGBT* peo­ple.

Also, gamers have a bad rep­u­ta­tion as being firm believ­ers in the patri­archy. In a pre­vi­ous arti­cle, I made a pass­ing nod to the com­ments made by Aris Bakhtanians regard­ing the neces­si­ty of sex­ism and oppres­sion in gam­ing cul­ture (specif­i­cal­ly fight­ing game cul­ture). Bakhtanians of course backpedaled when called on his deplorable words, explain­ing he was defend­ing a sys­tem that he felt was under attack, and would, if prop­er­ly dealt with, remove an essen­tial ele­ment, a pecu­liar insti­tu­tion, so to speak, of a cul­ture he loves.

Now, I real­ize that bring­ing Bakhtanians up again might seem a lit­tle off. For one thing, this is now September and the fall­out of his words came and went in March. For anoth­er, he was­n’t in hot water for attack­ing LGBT*s, but women. Also, this arti­cle is a cel­e­bra­tion of our mov­ing for­ward as a cul­ture, not call­ing out those who hold us back. But the impact of Gaymercon is lost if we don’t real­ize how badly we need it. Bakhtanians’ state­ments make it clear he val­ues the patri­archy, with its rigid­i­ty of what is accept­able and what is “Starcraft2. Isn’t the harm­ful use of words such as f****t the exact same thing?

Gaymercon, by cre­at­ing a space where LGBT* gamers can be them­selves with­out fear of dis­crim­i­na­tion, is an impor­tant sign that not every­one who reveres the con­troller or wor­ships the WASD has only recent­ly dis­cov­ered fire. It rec­og­nizes and address­es a need that the com­mu­ni­ty has had for a long time. In a com­mu­ni­ty that val­ues indi­vid­u­al­i­ty (we are far and away the lead­ing pur­chasers of hats for our TF2 char­ac­ters, after all), inclu­sive­ness and cel­e­bra­tion of dif­fer­ences is a nec­es­sary, healthy step for­ward.

The advent of safe spaces like Gaymercon isn’t divi­sive. It is instead a sign that we, as a sub­cul­ture, are matur­ing. Gaymercon does­n’t seek to exclude, but to make us grow stronger and more unit­ed as a whole. Leading voic­es in gam­ing (the voic­es of GLaDOS and Team Fortress 2’s Sniper in par­tic­u­lar) have endorsed the con and praised the growth of the com­mu­ni­ty. The fact that Gaymercon’s Kickstarter has beat its fundrais­ing goal to pieces ($91,389 out of a required $25,000) shows that there is a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of us out there, and we are excit­ed. I know I sound like a bro­ken record, but I can­not stress enough how impor­tant a step for­ward this is for the gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty as a whole. The con’s motto says it all: Everybody Games.

I hope to see you there next August!

  1. I sup­pose we as gamers can con­sid­er our­selves to be a cer­ti­fied demo­graph­ic at this point, con­sid­er­ing that we have snack prod­ucts specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed at us. []
  2. A word which here is syn­ony­mous with weak­ness and play-niceness that comes with com­pet­i­tive league play, as opposed to the badass Neanderthal ways of fight­ing gamers who think that to ask female oppo­nents their bra sizes is a nec­es­sary, revered part of the cul­ture []

Chelsea L. Shephard

About Chelsea L. Shephard

Chelsea L. Shepard (formerly Hannah DuVoix) doesn't write for the Ontological Geek anymore, but she used to be our Editor-in-Chief! She is currently earning her MFA in Game Design from NYU and is probably also thinking about Fallout: New Vegas.

3 thoughts on “Gaymercon: Why it’s Important

  • Jim Ralph
    Jim Ralph

    Hi Hannah. Interesting read, thanks for the queer the­o­ry 101! I think there’s no rea­son­able argu­ment against gam­ing, like the wider cul­ture it is sub­or­di­nate to, being rather unin­clu­sive (not a word, accord­ing to Chrome, but I’m going to roll with it). I do, how­ev­er, kind of see an argu­ment against some­thing like GaymerCon only in so far that it could (arguably, I’m not sure whether I think this would be the case or not) facil­i­tate those divides widen­ing. What I would not like to see is the the­o­ret­i­cal prospect of an LGBT gamer avoid­ing the larg­er and more main­stream cons because GaymerCon offers a more com­fort­able prospect. Of course, I’m not blam­ing that (the­o­ret­i­cal) indi­vid­ual for that deci­sion, but hop­ing that the more unrea­son­able aspects of our com­mu­ni­ty will con­tin­ue to be chal­lenged and even­tu­al­ly erad­i­cat­ed.

    Like you, I’m opti­mistic about GaymerCon. What I hope it achieves is a more com­fort­able and inclu­sive atmos­phere all round. What i think would be a big (and awe­some) step would be to find a large cis male (am I using that term cor­rect­ly?) pres­ence at GaymerCon, not as an inva­sion but rather as a state­ment of mutu­al wel­come. Now all we need to do is con­vince Bill to pay for us to cover it from our dif­fer­ing per­spec­tives!

    • Chelsea L. Shephard
      Hannah DuVoix Post author

      Thanks, Jim. I see your point about poten­tial­ly widen­ing gulfs, but I would posit that it would­n’t be any more divi­sive than, say, an LGBT* group on a col­lege cam­pus (run prop­er­ly, of course). Also, con­sid­er­ing that it is an open con, they’re not actu­al­ly exclud­ing any­body. It’s just that this time we know whose party it is, if you will.

      The fact is, Gaymercon does indeed offer a more com­fort­able prospect; while the gamer com­mu­ni­ty as a whole has­n’t (to my knowl­edge) come out against LGBT*s, indi­vid­ual gamers have not been so restrained. Further, such an indi­vid­ual may have had bad expe­ri­ences with bul­ly­ing out­side of the gam­ing sphere, and such expe­ri­ences have a way of col­or­ing every­thing else. Safe spaces like Gaymercon exist for that same hypo­thet­i­cal gamer, because every­one should get to enjoy such a wide­spread hobby with­out fear.

      I hope for sim­i­lar results, although I don’t think one sin­gle con will change every­thing. This is a first step. An impor­tant step, yes, but a first one all the same. (Yes, cor­rect use of the term) Such a dis­play would cer­tain­ly be an inspir­ing, pos­i­tive ges­ture, one which I’m sure would be wel­come. Sounds great to me! I was plan­ning on going any­way, but if I could do it on the Geek’s dime, all the bet­ter!

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