No, my issues aren't about corn. I am definitely pro corn.
If I have learned one thing this week, it's that gamers issues matter; there are now a lot of us. Too many to properly pigeonhole or categorize, from all different walks of life. And while I'm not someone who ever saw myself becoming a part of a community, I find myself in a situation where I am. Being constantly dismissive is no longer something I feel would be responsible of me for that reason alone. And while yes, in my ideal world, I would be Emperor of the Known Universe and mankind would be my personal cat herders, I understand that reality isn't like that. I feel like it's necessary to take some sort of action.
Whenever I try to make the argument to people that "Games are just cheap entertainment", I know in my heart of hearts that I probably sound like a total hypocrite. I do this with the best of intentions, however; if only life could be so simple, right? If only it were still about renting the new Sonic from the video store, collecting coins in Mario, and passing the second Nintendo controller (because you want to be first player, obviously) over to your friend. There is a wishful part of me that wants things to be that way, that wants to be able to say, "Games are just games. They aren't a major part of my life, and I could do without them." but that just isn't true anymore.
Games stopped being simple entertainment when I needed them as an escape from reality; when they were my only friends in a world that seemed completely against me, my only outlet of real escape. I questioned the utility of a gay gamer convention myself when it was first brought up, citing the fact that it would only lead to further segregation. But then I started to think about things a little further, and started to reflect on my own life.
I'll never know what it is like to be gay, or black, or female, or a part of any other well known group that has faced similar prejudice; I have no guilt about this. I was born white, privileged, and between the ages of 18-35. Yes, that's right; I skipped childhood by completely somehow, but there is no use getting into the science behind it. You can just call me The Magic Manchild from now on. At any rate, I am the primary demographic for just about everything under the sun. So as much as I can try to understand what it's like to be a transsexual female African, it's something I will likely never experience in my life. I'm not saying it isn't possible, but for the sake of simplicity, let's just assume that is the case.
What I do understand though, is what it is like to be ostracized from the people around you, singled out, and assaulted both physically and mentally. Although I was made in God's truly racist bigoted image, unlike he who I expect would look something like Bruce Campbell with a Santa beard, I happened to be quite overweight throughout my childhood. Add being somewhat socially awkward and moving to a small town from a big city into the mix, and you are looking at what amounted to several years of constant abuse on a daily basis.
Let's not mince words here; kids are little dickheads. It is the parents who train them to act otherwise, but I have a feeling that wasn't priority for most of the denizens of the town where I lived, who glorified the hunting of animals for sport, beat their kids when they failed at sports, and spent most of the time at the local motel bar. I don't want to remember half of the names I was called, but they were more creative and cutting than anything I could come up with today. Have you ever heard a ten year old call another ten year old a "fuckfaced cum guzzler?" I remember that was in particular because I had no idea what that even meant at the time. Mostly, it was fat jokes, titty twisters, being insulted all through lunch hour for eating too much even if I only had a sandwich. A good day was one where I was only abused some
of the time. On one of the worst days, I went home with a broken arm. The only place for people like myself with interests in computers, video games, and science fiction such as myself was the local library, where every single one of them flocked. And most of them went through similar abuses, for similar reasons.
"Every single one" meaning about five or six of us. The rest were far too afraid to leave their houses because they knew if they did, someone would harass them on the way down there. It was really that bad at times.
My own escape became these people. Because it was such a small group, the ages ranged anywhere between ten and twenty five. We would have games of Dungeons and Dragons, play things like SimCity 2000 on the computers (yep, that was big at the time) or just hang out and nerd it up. These get-togethers were pretty infrequent, but when they didn't happen, we would all find our little groups and enjoy our hobbies that way. There was even a pair of brothers who would sell Magic cards and comic books out of their basement, across the street from me. It was like a strangely disconnected community of the geeky, although I was admittedly too young to be fully accepted among them most of the time. The older ones would frequently attend LARP sessions out of town as time went on, and were obviously quite close knit.
As soon as you went back to school, it was different. The kids you were hanging out with were too sparse in number, and disconnected. If you tried to hang out, a bigger group would come and shut you down. You only painted yourself as a target for abuse, and there were never enough of you to really fight back. I remember hanging out with one boy in the high school library a couple of years into my stay there; he was the one who turned me on to the existence of IGN, which was called IGN64 at that time. We spent a few days hanging out, until somebody noticed. On our way out of the library one day, they tripped us, kicked our books away, and hit him until he cried. The next day, I went back after telling the principal (who did absolutely nothing to punish the perpetrators) and the boy wasn't there. I saw him wandering the halls now and then, but he didn't want to risk hanging out in the oasis of the library; there were lions prowling the entrance gates, ready and waiting to pounce at the slightest scent of nerdflesh.
There were too many more similar experiences, all of them ending rather tragically and always resulting in the end of these brief alliances with other kids like me. We moved on eventually and to a bigger city, and as I grew up, thing started to change. My weight never really did, but I started to be able to at least co-exist with people. Then, assaults became a rare, unexpected thing. It instilled in me a serious distrust of people, which took a long time to recover. Even now, I still hold a natural distrust for people. But my worldview is healthier, if at times perhaps a little too cautious.
But for homosexuals, it doesn't change. It only gets worse.
For them the abuse continues into adulthood. The bullies I faced grow into adults, but remain emotionally stunted, immature, callous, heartless idiots; they just find new groups to terrorize. For that reason alone, I should instantly be sympathetic. But when the world turned its back on me, I turned my back on it. Even now, it feels strange to have an audience of accepting people reading and sharing my work, and who are willing to share their own experiences in return. It is a community, at its core, which is something I grew u[ completely estranged too. But being part of a community means taking on certain responsibilities; and being a gamer does, too.
Because I grew up with games, I watched them evolve from a niche hobby reserved for outcasts into a sprawling industry with a mainstream audience. I have significant memories in my life which are accompanied by the memories of the games I had played. I understand a decent chunk of pop culture, all because it is now centered around video games. And I have met and communicated with people from all walks of life, who are different in every regard except for that one part of their personality; the gamer, someone who may have been down a different road than I was, but who also embraced video games as something more personal, something beyond just "simple entertainment."
For that reason, it would be wrong for me to be dismissive, to not try and understand the various different viewpoints and ideologies held by gamers, and how they apply to the hobby we all, as a collective, hold so dearly in our hearts. I won't apologize for being ignorant; there are plenty of things I don't know or understand about life, and most of them happen to be on a humanitarian level. I was hiding from the world and shutting my eyes to it for so long that I can only hope to have a rudimentary understanding of some of these issues.
But I can
relate, even if it would be easier to feign total ignorance. I too know what it is like to feel alone and ostracized. And just like those brief moments of liberty where I was able to get together with a few who were like me, and simply be myself, I understand the necessity for something like GaymerCon.
Back then, a simple convention for anything I was interested would have done just fine. Instead, even hanging out quietly in the library with a friend resulted in an ass beating by dull headed mongoloids. Because of that overall experience, I now feel it would be irresponsible, as someone who is for the first time ever trying to penetrate and be active in a community, to dismiss these things as unnecessary, just as it would be irresponsible to ignore sexist bigotry in games, racism, or any other exclusionary nonsense that keeps gamers from doing what they do best; playing and enjoying games, both alone and together. Because the best times I had as a kid took place in basements and bedrooms, with four or five others huddled around TV, all clutching controllers in our sweaty hands, and having the time of our lives.
That being said, my policy on charity still hasn't changed; it is and always has been something I reserve only for dolphins and kittehs. But it doesn't mean I don't give a shit, either, even though nobody was making that accusation to begin with. What turned into a simple mention of a convention snowballed into something larger, but I felt the need to share my own two cents since I too was perturbed by the negative reaction - and in some small way, I guess I felt partially to blame also.
Not because I was part of the solution, or part of the problem, but because I was part of the background; and sometimes saying nothing is just as damaging.
I certainly wish someone had been around to speak for me when I felt so helpless, hurt, and alone.