Well, another GX has come and gone and I wasn't able to get my finances in order in time to make plans to take the trip. From what I've gathered from the Twitter feed under #gx3 there were many interesting panels and guests as in prior years, which I'll probably get caught up on as they're uploaded to YouTube.
When the topic of GaymerX has come up on Dtoid in the past it has been with either support, genuine confusion, various misconceptions or the cynical misery.
But rather than give cynical misery much attention, let's address the confusion and misconceptions regarding GX instead since some of that confusion is fair.
Let's start with what a convention is. It's a large gathering where people of similar interests meet, but in gaming culture, we've been trained to expect them to be consumer shows. Lots of folks think conventions are just things where companies announce new games, but they can be more than consumer events like E3, Gamescon, Tokyo Game Show and so on. Many of those shows are actually more for the press and retailers than gamers, even if they feature things we might want to buy.
PAX, Dragoncon and GaymerX are a bit more ground level and anyone can go. Companies and indie devs might still show up to promote their wares, but these events host panels where developers, artists, voice actors, journalists and others are the main draw. They can speak on games, the subjects and issues surrounding them and the audience can sometimes get to ask questions as well. Being more community-focused, they also can have tournaments, cosplay pageants and so on.
So why does the LGBT community have its own gaming convention?
Well, why not? Christians, political parties, car enthusiastss and middle-aged men who love pink animated horses have conventions. LGBT gamers can, too.
I've heard it said that sexuality and gender identity have no impact on my gaming experiences. This might be true for a number of games, such as ones focused on high scores, killstreaks and wins, but games can be about so much more. You can run a city, date characters, have romances, roam vast worlds, experience and influence stories, build dungeons, hunt monsters or create weapons from scratch. As such, our reasons to play games have expanded greatly and the larger the audience for games has become, the more glaring the lack of variety in options or characters has become
Do I need my sexuality and gender identity validated in each and every game I play? Nope. I can play many of the games everyone else does and have a good time, but when we start getting into games with emphasis on story, character, choice, romance or role-playing the desire to see or have experiences that reflect my own certainly rises.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a fine example of this problem. I love this game to pieces and have started my third campaign through the game to prepare for harder difficulties, but when it comes to relationships, I can't have the one I want. Tharja, a mage who displays infatuation toward the protagonist regardless of gender, is locked off to male characters only. So she can stalk, concoct love potions, cast spells and use voodoo dolls in hopes of making me love her, but the game won't allow it.
This is called "queerbaiting," when a character is written as bi, lesbian or gay, but turns out to be heterosexual after all. With Fire Emblem: Fates, even though Zero and Shara are legitimate bisexual options this time, this baiting happens yet again with another cast member..
This likely isn't the result of a malicious writer who wants to tell me my identity is wrong and needs fixing, but it's still the message sent and one I'm too familar with hearing. It's probably the result of multiple writers and a lack of communication or perspectives between them.
My favorite panels from GX2 were from Dragon Age: Inquisition's writing team at Bioware. In these panels, they actually illustrate how to avoid such inconsistencies and create nuanced characters, something David Gaider goes to expand on at a panel at GX3. The writers peer review each other's work, storyarch and if they lack a certain perspective, they reach out to someone that has that experience or even hires them.
You don't get these kinds of insights from E3 or Game Informer, and this applies just as much to game development as being more inclusive toward other audiences. There also panels where game design and voice acting are the core of the discussion and LGBT issues don't come up. Some of the panelists and guests of honor are even straight!
Some would say, "Well, if you want these things in your games, make your own!" This is why there is an LGBT gaming convention. Queer indie devs are there, the founders of the convention are the people that made Read Only Memories.
There are not only people in the community making games on an indie and AAA level, game criticism still has a vital role in helping refine it. I'm not terribly fond that Anita Sarkeesian, but that's why it's good people like Katherine Cross and Maddy Myers are there with more nuanced, sex-positive views and a genuine love for what they critique. They don't binge on the male sightorgan rhetoric. Just because Feminist Frequency was there does not mean they are the last word.
And it's awesome to see trans women get a spotlight in gaming at all, as they're so seldom heard from or seen. Seeing them gives me hope, recharges me a bit and reminds me my experiences matter; that if I turned things around enough I could work at Naughty Dog, Harmonix or strike out on my own someday. I actually have concepts all the time, but no tools to realize them with.
I've also heard it said that having such a convention is the LGBT gamer "segragating" themselves from other gamers. Uh, that is a very politically-charged word for something I'd pack a week's clothes and be in California about five days to do. I would be playing video games at it and watch it end with a cosplay pageant.
I think I'd call this a vacation, but if you think otherwise I'll just direct you to Mandy Patankin.
Anyway, GaymerX is a convention and I could go to it. Guess I'll start saving and planning for the next one.