There are days I wish everyday was like one spent at GaymerX. While my liver, and the rest of me, would not do well with the late nights of carousing at a hotel bar with friends, there are other elements I wish I could take away and share with everyone. One of my favorite things about GaymerX is not only is it a space for those who feel excluded from more mainstream gaming conventions, but the diversity of the attendees themselves. It’s honestly beautiful.
Lesbians had short and long hair, gay men can be tall and thin or short and stocky; there were African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and more represented, and it was awesome! They are who they are and their own experience make the queer community as a whole stronger. This diversity perfectly reflected the theme of inclusion which drives GaymerX. In fact, it’s why convention will be held under a different name in the future. The organizers recognize there are ways for even a convention with the motto “Everyone Games” to be more inclusive.
Sadly, there are those who don’t share my awe of inclusion though. I’m not talking about just religious right, or the hat-tipping, fedora clad, “nice guys”–though this certainly applies to them as well–but the people in my camp, the ones advocating for more change and representation. They crop up from time to time not only on microblogging sites like Tumblr, but Twitter as well as Facebook or whatever social media outlet is readily available, and it goes beyond just the queer community. They are people who say they want representation for women, but hate feminists; they say bisexuality doesn’t exist or goes away if a person marries and “picks a side.” Or that a person needs to look, or behave, a certain way to be considered a “real” <insert group of your choice>. One example of the latter, with a reverse twist, recently some Bioware fans accused the company of “queer baiting” by not making Cassandra Pentaghast a same-sex romance option in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The basis for this argument? Cassandra’s character design. Since when does having short hair, wearing armor, and generally being a badass automatically mean they are a lesbian? I know plenty of women who do not fall into the “butch” stereotype and like the ladies.
Most of the time I dismiss this behavior as someone just being a jerk, or a troll, but it’s been wearing on me as of late. Maybe I’ve been staring at the negative more than the positive, maybe there have just been a lot of hot button issues for me this past year. I just don’t understand why anyone thinks this kind of behavior is appropriate. It’s hurtful and cruel; it’s not productive and hypocritical. It shouldn’t matter what anyone looks like, what their sexual preference is, what gender they identify as, or how they act; we should embrace people as they are because it is how we would want to be treated. Different is good, it allows for different perspectives and different ideas, it’s what makes life interesting!
I also think this infighting to be accepted by our peers, much less individuals outside of such groups, hampers efforts to be included in games, and other entertainment. This weekend I saw Riot Games, 2K, Atari, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft (Yes, I know. We can talk about the AC Unity issue another time), Volition all participated in GaymerX via sponsorship and/or representatives on several panels. As a consumer this says, to me, game companies are starting to see the benefits of a broader demographic outside of the traditional view of gamer: straight, white, and male. What will these businesses do if all they hear is, “your effort to include X wasn’t done right, you suck” or “you included the wrong type of X because it doesn’t reflect my life experience.” I worry we’ll start losing ground and companies will simply give up trying to be inclusive since they never get “it” right. Mind you, I’m not saying we should never criticize and offer feedback of a portrayal of a woman, or queer person, or a person of color; just to have a respectful discourse instead of a frothing dogpile of hate.
If this weekend, and future conventions are any indication, people advocating for inclusion will have more opportunities to catch the ear of developers. There will be more GaymerX type events, more diversity panels, more discussion, and quite likely some action. It would be a shame to see the opportunity lost in a cacophony of infighting over what is the “right” way to be queer, or straight, a woman, a man, etc. As GaymerX showed me again this weekend, everyone is different and everyone’s experience is valid, even if it happens to be different than my own.