For the past ten years, I worked as a graphic artist for several wholesale to the trade companies. Recently, I worked in the Advertising Department of Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, LA. During that time, I was a graphic artist and then the administrative assistant to the advertising director. In addition to my work in graphic art and advertising, I developed myself through two degrees. First, I earned a B.A. in Humanities with a major in Mass Communication from Dillard University in New Orleans, LA. Then, I earned an A.S. in Video Game Design from Full Sail in Orlando, FL. I moved in Massachusetts this year and entered the University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth, MA.
While I support the usage of "gaymer" by the community as an identity that is inclusive of gamers regardless of gender or orientation, I feel the petition by Perkins Coie and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in representation of /r/gaymers to cancel the "gaymer" trademark to not be in the best interest of the relevant public.
Gamer is defined by Merriam Webster as someone who is game or someone who plays games, specifically computer and video games. The definition of "gaymer" according to the petition submitted by Perkins Coie and the Electronic Frontier Foundation is as follows, "is commonly used to refer to a gamer who, in addition to considering him or herself a member of the gamer community, also self-identifies with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community." While the petition continues with this definition of "gaymer," the actual supporting documentation only states that gaymer is "a homosexual gamer." Homosexual being defined as a person having desires for or intercourse with the same sex. The supporting documentation provides an exclusive definition of the word gaymer. Yet, the petition carries on with an assumed definition that includes all LGBTQ community members. This is a bit misleading and is the first example of how the petition to challenge the gaymer trademark does a disservice to all parties involved.
Urban Dictionary is a website started in 1999, and allows users to post definitions of "slang words and phrases," according to the Wikipedia entry. "Submissions are regulated by volunteer editors and rated by site visitors." The highest rated definition of the word "gaymer" was submitted on July 27, 2005. Each of the sentences to show use of the word are in the context of referring to men. Two definitions submitted prior to the highest rated definition imply a pejorative use of the word. Another use of the word explicitly names the website gaymer.org. A date ordered list of definitions follows:
3-2-04:One who believes him/herself to be a gamer, but infact is a homosexual person. Thus making them gay + gamer = gaymer.
4-17-04: one who goes to www.gaymer.org
6-4-05: An immature and innacurate insult of a gamer. Commonly used by lonely, fat virgins who have nothing better to do than insult people who play video games. Anyone found using this word should be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
7-27-05: a gay person who is also a gamer
4-6-06: An individual who is totally obsessed with video games. Almost driven to the point where games are the only thing that matters emotionally, physically, and sexually.
3-16-07: a homosexual who enjoys video games, sometimes casually or sometimes hardcore.
3-30-10: A gamer who pretends to be a girl when he plays games online with real people.
7-23-11: 1) When a gay guy tries to pick up other men. This is his courting style 2) When a HUGE scrub plays an online videogame such as Call of Duty and sucks major ass. He is usually a fag, gets a few kills if any, and wont shut up the whole time. They also tend to have a very high pitched voice and shriek excitedly over stupid things such as almost killing someone or getting an assist.
3-2-12: A gay gamer.
The petition states that public use of the term "gaymer" began in "at least the early 1990s, when a growing group of individuals within the gaming community began to use it to identify themselves." While not included in the petition two sources of the word "gaymer" are referenced in the Wikipedia article. The first is a usenet post in alt.personals. The poster is a 20 year old white male who defines "gaymer" as a gay role-playing enthusiast. While the first role-playing video game, Dungeon, was released in 1975; it might be possible that the use of the word meant games played on table tops. A second example supports this definition as a Yahoo group started in 2000 states enthusiasm for several forms of non-electronic games. Video games are listed last illustrating that this was not the group's primary focus. The group, however, does state the membership includes, "G/L/Bi/Tv/Tr." Transvestite and transexual at the end, presumably.
The petition contends that the prevalence of the word "gaymer" grew as "video gaming culture" grew. There is no definition for video gaming culture in the petition. We can not assume what this means. A few possibilities exist: rise in sales figures, more individuals identifying as gamers, or a societal reliance on electronic entertainment. The prevalence of "gaymer," however, is tied to this implied growth of video game culture. To reference an increase in video game sales, Wikipedia hosts a list of top selling video game consoles including handheld consoles. The two top selling consoles are the Nintendo DS with 153.67 million released in 2004 and the Playstation 2 with 153.6 million released in 2000. With this in mind, it is possible although not explicit in the petition that video game culture grew within the window of 2000 and 2004. But even within that timeframe, there is no causal relationship between growth in "video game culture" and the supposed prevalence of the word "gaymer."
In 2006, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sociological study focused on the profile of a "gaymer." The word was used in the survey to refer to a class of gaming (video game-centric) enthusiasts. The survey questioned a sample of gamers regarding their feeling on the term gaymer. The word was defined in the survey as "used to describe gay and lesbian video gamers."
Very positive 6.5%
Generally positive 13%
Generally negative 17.6%
Very negative 11.1%
"Among the respondents who had an opinion, the term "gaymer" was generally viewed as slightly negative with the greatest negativity among heterosexuals. With homosexuals the term was viewed only slightly positively. In general, it appears that the term is not popular, regardless of sexual orientation."
The focus of the study established a class of gamers based on sexual orientation. "Tiny Dancer" wrote an article on GayGamer.net with remarks on the survey's reults, "I must admit, I'm pleased to see that - I've never liked "gaymer" because not only does it look kind of hokey to my eye, it's impossible to speak the word aloud without clarification; and any word that only works in print is fundamentally flawed, especially if it's to be the rallying cry or self-identifier for a group of people who might want to, you know, say it out loud." The article is dated February 26, 2007.
Assuming the growth in "video gaming culture" started in the window of 2000-2004, the petition contends that the prevalence of "gaymer" happened concurrently. According to the Univeristy of Illinois survey and following remarks within the relevant media, however, the word did not catch on as a self-identifier for a class of gaming enthusiasts by 2007.
In 2006, several other artcles were published to GayGamer.net using the term "gaymer." One article links to another source of the definition of gaymer as a homosexual gaymer. One article posted in November 2006 referred to Gaymer as a proper noun explicitly for the site gaymer.org. Founder Chris Vizzini was interviewed by the Australian publication, "the Age."
GayGamer does not use "gaymer" in a headline for an article until May 8, 2007. "'Gaymer' Trademarked?" written by "Fruit Brute" describes a spirited internal debate at gaymer.org. The article goes on to say, "Chris Vizzini has applied for a trademark of the word 'gaymer.' It should be stated that Chris is not trademarking the word in a capacity that would make it unusable by anyone, but rather protecting its use from other online entities that might seek to make profit from his hard work and rightfully so. Having started up this site out of my own pocket, I wouldn't want anyone infringing on my property either." The article is supportive of the trademark, but also respects that some people would feel very strongly about the matter. "Gaymer" is not used as a term in a headline for the rest of 2007.
Since 2008, Dr. Adrienne Shaw of Temple University published several works on the subjects of gender and sexuality within video gaming culture. Her work "What is Video Game Culture?" was the most downloaded article of SAGE Journal in 2010. In this article Dr. Shaw states, "Defining gaming culture as something distinct and separate from a constructed mainstream culture encourages us to only study those who identify as gamers, rather than more dispersed gaming. That is, we should look at video games in culture rather than games as culture. Video games permeate education, mobile technologies, museum displays, social functions, family interactions, and workplaces. They are played by many if not all ages, genders, sexualities, races, religions, and nationalities." Dr. Shaw also published works specifically on gaymers or gay gaming.
The petition neither lists the academic research on the community nor recognizes the distinctiveness of the three predominant gay gamer or gaymer sites.
The petition refers to Reddit Inc as an online social news and entertainment website. The User Agreement hosted on reddit.com contradicts by stating that Reddit Inc is the Service Provider and reddit.com is the Website. A blog post entitled, "How reddit works" defines reddit as not a single community but rather an engine for creating communities. A subreddit is then defined as a class of online community. Since 2008, users of reddit.com or redditors are able to create user controlled subreddits. "How reddit works" describes subreddits as a free market. The creator of the subreddit is the first moderator and subscriber. The subreddit's popularity within the meta-community of reddit.com is then based upon the number of subscribers. Any redditor can subscribe to any subreddit regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race or nationality. Currently /r/gaymers has approximately 22,000 readers or subscribers. The number of active users, however, hover around 100 depending on time of day. The creator, first moderator and first subscriber of /r/gaymers is the redditor MisterGhost.
On the matter of trademarks the reddit User Agreement reads as follows, "You are responsible for ensuring that any graphics, text, photographs, images, video, audio or other material you provide to or post on the Website, including without limitation in bulletin boards, forums, personal ads, chats or elsewhere, does not violate the copyright, trademark, trade secret or any other personal or proprietary rights of any third party or is provided or posted with the permission of the owner(s) of such rights."
The identity of the Petitioner in the petition is /r/gaymers as an unincorporated association. No parties from the association are named in the petition. Petitioner is described as "an association of gaymers who subscribe to the subreddit." Despite the inclusive nature of subscriptions, this description implies exclusion from the class based upon identity as a non-gaymer. The definition of gaymer is repeated in reference to the class, but this definition again is not supported by the attached exhibits.
The details of the registration are a matter of public record. The remark on distinctiveness, however is curious. An entry on Urban Dictionary referencing the registrant's site was made in 2004. The registrant was interviewed for his contribution to the community outside of the geographical market. Membership from gaymer.org interacted with membership from Gamers Experimentations and GayGamer and footage of that interaction was televized during the time of the application. GayGamer.net while acknowledging the internal debate on gaymer.org showed some signs of support for the website and the trademark.
The registrant of the trademark sent a case and desist letter to Reddit Inc as per the procedure prescribed in the reddit User Agreement.
Here is how the petition describes the reaction:
"For Petitionerís members, many of whom have been politically and/or socially marginalized, the term gaymer represents a community based on a common purpose and activity. They are proud to be members of that community, and were surprised that Registrant claimed ownership of the common term that describes it."
Here is the quote from /r/gaymers creator MisterGhost:
"Gaymers could be banned and deleted by tomorrow, please FUCKING READ!
Ladies and gentlemen, this is incredibly important, and quite frankly too important for a TLDR, so please read.
Someone wants to take gaymers from us. A cease and desist letter has been sent to Reddit. It would seem that the owner of gaymer.org is an incredible douchenozzle and has decided that we somehow are infringing upon his right to run a very subpar blog. Though Gaymercon seems to be A-OK. It seems pretty fucked up that they seem to be ok using the same GAYMER name, even though we arenít making money. See what it is, is that this motherfucker from gaymer.org is sending reddit a cease and desist letter that we are using a name that he had trademarked in 2007 though whoever gave him that trademark is clearly not the brightest lightbulb in the box. It is a general term, not really sure how we fucking come into play."
While the language the creator of /r/gaymers uses is strong, this was not the first time he spoke up that year on controversies facing his online community. Here is a quote in reference to an incident involving redditors identifying as trans:
"I have no idea what transphobia, biphobia, cisism, or even racism mean it seems. I see these words thrown around a lot, and clearly I must not know the actual definition, because I thought you were either afraid of something or hated something, by showing that through actions of hatred, malice, or genuine terror rather than social faux-pas or a word. I guess I was wrong."
The argument behind the petition is that the mark is generic or descriptive. The trademark does not refer to a specific class of individual. The trademark does not make mention of sexual orientation or gender. The trademark does describe a specific service, an online community. Black's Law Dictionary defines a generic mark as the following, "A legally unprotected, yet distinguishing mark, in the form of a symbol or a word. This mark definitively categorizes and defines a type of product or service. Some examples are name we all know well: Vaseline, Cellophane, Trampoline and Yoyo. Due to generic usage by consumers and competitors it refers to trademark names of goods and services that lost their trademark protection properties over time." Black's Law Dictionary defines a descriptive name as, "A company name or image that describes the good offered."
Personally, I do not believe the petition best serves the intended party. In fact, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the gaymer community demonstrated in the petition. The petition is also exclusive of /r/gaymers' non-gaymer subcriber base. Generic usage implies that a specific class or goods or services is commonly referred to by a generic or descriptive. I do not agree that "gaymers" qualify as a good or service. I support the usage by the community as an identity, and I support the expansion of definition to be inclusive of lasbian, bisexual, trans and cis gamers. The usage of the term as a community identity, however, is irrelevant to its usage as the identity of a single website.