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GaymerX 2014: #everyonegames

GaymerX is a convention for LGBT gamers and allies with the aim of making everyone in the community feel welcome and accepted. Like any other gaming convention, GaymerX is full of panels, parties, devs and publishers showing off their games. How it differs to other cons is in its focus on inclusion; things like gender neutral bathrooms and preferred gender pronouns on name badges. The convention also has a strict zero harassment and discrimination policy. Attendees who have offended someone else were expected to listen to what was being said, apologise and learn how to make sure they don’t do it again.

In sharp contrast to the Ubisoft debacle at E3, GaymerX saw the attendance of big budget studios pledging themselves to diversity. Gearbox Software (the company behind Borderlands) discussed the changes they are implementing in their company culture, making it a more accommodating workplace for LGBTQ employees. Half of the playable characters in their soon-to-be-released Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will be women, and the group also discussed how the company will be looking into incorporating more LGBTQ characters whilst avoiding the usual stereotypical tropes that plague such characters.

BioWare had representatives that contributed to two panels: ‘Building a Better Romance’, which looks at how romance came to be included in BioWare’s titles, and ‘Freaking out the Neighbours’, which talks about what exactly constitutes good representation in games and the negative responses that discussing this topic can provoke. Both talks are available to listen to on YouTube. BioWare’s upcoming title Dragon Age: Inquisition will contain the series’ first exclusively homosexual romance option (previous titles have included exclusively heterosexual or bisexual options).

The company’s decision to make all the romance-able character’s in 2011s Dragon Age 2 bisexual caused some outcry among the fanbase, a member on the BioWare forum complaining that the company were making the focus on the ‘straight male gamer a secondary concern’. Their response: games aren’t for the straight male gamer; they’re for everyone. It really is great to see a company like BioWare really sticking to its guns and committing to making their games more inclusive. Sadly too many other large studios are only too happy to take the easier option.

But it wasn’t just about the games. There were panels looking at a variety of issues: exploring queer identity in games, coming out in the gaming industry, gaming and mental health in the queer community to name a few. One panel ‘Internetting While Female’ involved Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency, Katherine Cross of Nuclear Unicorn and Carolyn Petit of GameSpot. If you are at all familiar with the work of these women, you can probably guess that the focus of their panel was discussing the treatment of women in the gaming community, particularly women who critique games through a feminist lens. All three women have been in the crosshairs of aggressive misogynistic harassment for daring to express dissatisfaction with the portrayal of minorities in video games.

Petit’s review of GTA:V for GameSpot, which dared to note the rampant misogyny that is present on the series while still giving the title a 9/10 resulted in petitions to get her fired. She notes that comment sections on any article she writes now see an influx of commenters accusing her of feminist rants, even when she has not touched on feminism at all. Sarkeesian talks about the responses to her Feminist Frequency videos and how they typically ignore the work she puts into her research, the care she takes in how she words things and the time she puts into thinking through counter-arguments that could potentially be levelled at her in favour of attacking her personally. Even though the talk had the potential to be depressing and disheartening (and at times it can be) it still ends on an optimistic note. As Petit notes games are for everyone and they are worth fighting for.

Sadly the future of GaymerX is currently looking a bit uncertain. CEO Matt Conn has announced that this year’s convention would be the last. In the initial stages they were unable to secure any corporate sponsorship so the convention was starting to get very pricey. Since that announcement was made, however, there were several corporations who sponsored the event, allowing the company to break even. Conn says: ‘I don’t want to say, “yeah, we’re done”, because the goal was to break even, and we did’.

He notes that the con is currently organised and run by a group of dedicated volunteers.

‘We’ve spent the last few years doing this without paying ourselves, just really killing ourselves to make it happen. We want to keep doing it, but we also want to make sure that we don’t rush into doing a third event or something else. We want to do it in a way that’s sustainable.’

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