By Robbie Imes
Originally published on Advocate.com July 26 2013 5:00 AM ET
The GaymerX event in San Francisco this August caters to gaymers (that's gay gamers) and the "queer geek culture" at large. Although the event was created for and by gay gamers as a safe, fun place for like-minded individuals to gather and play, it is still an all-inclusive, arms-open party for anyone who wants to join.
GaymerX's core value is about uniting gay gamers, not creating a division among other gamers. It's basically a big love fest for geeks with a queer bend. The Advocate recently talked with Matt Conn, GaymerX founder, about games, critics, reality shows, and much more.
The Advocate: When you launched your Kickstarter campaign, what did you hope for?
Matt Conn: We knew that there were a lot of queer gamers out there who desired having a safe place to gather. Prior to the campaign we had a group called SFGaymers and it grew quite large and the people wanted to make it bigger so we felt the need to bring that to a larger audience. When we launched our KickStarter we found out that there were tens of thousands of like-minded individuals who felt the same way. It was revealing to see that our original expectations were not the result of a San Francisco bias.
Did your plans chance when you exceeded your initial pledge?
Because our Kickstarter raised so much more than we originally had asked for, we were able to bring in bigger celebrities than we were planning to, such as Pandora Boxx. We also got the attention of big companies like EA, Xbox Live, and BioWare.
Why an LGBT-themed gaming convention now, in 2013?
Honestly, something like this, it should have happened five to 10 years ago. Gaming is the largest entertainment sector in the world and until now there has not been a single company focused on LGBT advocacy in the gaming world. For an industry that is larger than the film, music, and television industry we felt that that was unacceptable.
Some people criticized a gay-themed convention, calling it exclusive. How do you respond?
Our tagline is #everyonegames because everyone does game, whether that be board games to Candy Crush to League of Legends. That being said, there is nothing wrong with creating a safe space given that the gaming community has not yet evolved to a place where LGBT issues are not controversial. We hope that the conversations and dialogues we have at GaymerX translate over to the mainstream. Our goal is to create an environment that is safe and open for all gamers.
So you were on the Travel Channel’s American’s Worst Driver reality series. That's kind of interesting. Tell us about that.
It was quite an experience! My friend and I wanted to have a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and this turned out to be it. It was really fun just having a camera crew follow us around and tell us to do silly things. Honestly though, a lot of the stuff that happened on that show were a little more staged than they may appear to be, and as a 21-year-old when it was filmed, I was more than happy to act the part of the fool and had a gay ol' time on the show. Plus I got to see Truckasaurus eat my car.
What video game led to your passion for gaming?
Super Mario RPG. I loved games since I was a kid, I played games with my sister on the NES growing up, but Super Mario RPG and Earthbound were two RPGs that showed me just how amazing and immersive that games could be. I would say that I would have been a gamer no matter what, but those games definitely turned me into a hardcore gamer.
Who is your favorite gay video game character?
Honestly there aren't enough gay video game characters to give a real good answer to that. I can think of less than 10 mainstream games that have any gay characters in them at all, and I do this full time. The fact that there are thousands of games and the ones that include gay characters I can count on one, maybe two hands, shows that there is a need for events like GaymerX to get these dialogs out to the mainstream. If pressed, I'd say that Zangief from Street Fighter is a pretty swell bear, and Capcom has pretty much confirmed that he is indeed a man's man.
What are the best gaming companies for the LGBT community?
If any companies are at least stepping in the right direction, it would be companies like EA and Bioware because you can actually at least choose, in some of their games, if you want to date a guy or a girl, or have the ability to make your own decisions when it comes to how your character develops — they don't limit your options. However, the next real step would be writing actual characters that are gay and lesbian and trans* and actually including them with dialogue and meaning in games, and not just being "choices" that aren't a part of the actual storyline.
Finally, tell the audience something about the "gaming" community they may not know.
Gamers are not all the same. They come in all shapes and sizes. Many people think of the word "gamer" and think of white straight teenage males. However, we know that this is totally not true. In actuality people of every gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and creed play games — and that is why we created GaymerX. We want to see all types represented in gaming, and want to help evolve the culture to something that is truly inclusive. We may be coming at this issue form a queer slant but we truly believe that everyone games and gaming culture should be representative of that.
GaymerX is a two-day LGBT-oriented gaming and geek culture convention, scheduled for August 3–4 in San Franscisco. Get tickets now.