Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gaymercon 2013

Image from Gaymercon.
I learned recently that a convention catering specifically to queer gamers--that is, gamers whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual--called "Gaymercon" will be held in August 2013. Prominent games writer Jim Sterling went so far as to write about the importance of such an event over at Destructoid.

Naturally, reactions elsewhere on the internet are not quite so positive.

Sterling's article was wonderful, but I wanted to say in my own words why I feel that a convention like this is important. Keep in mind, nobody's trying to segregate anything: Gaymercon is open to straight people, bisexual people, gay people, asexual people, pansexual people, and any other form of sexual orientation, race, or gender you can think of. Creating a gathering of people with a shared characteristic, be it interest or something immutable, is not segregation. If this convention were an attempt to segregate people by sexuality, then only queer people would be allowed into it. Uniting shared characteristics and segregation are two completely different things.

I see many people using arguments such as "Why do we even need this? They're already the minority and we don't need this shoved in our face!", "This is useless! They just want to segregate themselves and they're not actually promoting equality!", or "This is stupid! Why would you exclude people?!"

The fact is that the majority of gaming--the majority of nerdy/geeky anything--is geared toward heterosexual people. Yes, the majority of the world's population is heterosexual... but gamer culture is disproportionately so. The amount of straight characters vastly outweighs the amount of queer characters, to the point where they seem to be in only several specific franchises. To gay people, that's really alienating. Having a group of people that share that experience can be just as cool as having a group of people that share the experience of enjoying video games in general.

Nobody is trying to exclude anybody here. While we need to push for an accepting atmosphere in bigger gamer gatherings--San Diego Comic-Con, for instance--Gaymercon is not trying to exclude anyone. Having a gathering for a set of interests or characteristics isn't about excluding others; it's about including people who may feel alienated in other settings.

Go play a game of Call of Duty or Halo online. Listen to the insults thrown around: "Gay". "Homo". "Faggot". Some people want to move away from that, and while plenty of straight people don't use those terms, they cannot know what it feels like to have a large segment of the population opposed to their entire existence, to have so many people disgusted just because they like men instead of women or vice-versa. Many gamers even seem to be more comfortable playing a female character than a gay one.

Another common argument against something like this tends to go along the lines of "We don't have straight gamer conventions!"

Even companies whose games eschew stereotypes have
booth babes. Image from Atlus Online.
Think critically: yes, we do. Go to San Diego Comic-Con and take a look around. Count how many straight couples you see holding hands. Count how many people wear wedding rings. Count how many guys talk about something their girlfriend said, or how many girls tell funny stories about their boyfriends. Look at all the booth babes, or all the official gaming art of scantily-clad female characters. It's not explicitly only for straight people, but we come back to the theme of alienation: I know I certainly sometimes feel excluded at big conventions. I have to worry sometimes about flirting with the wrong person--consciously or not--, about showing affection with a boyfriend, about saying the wrong thing... or risk getting ridiculed or even assaulted. I should not have to feel this way in a nerd convention; I am a nerd, and I should feel accepted and comfortable in that setting.

Nobody here is trying to "politicize" gaming. Sexuality is not inherently political, but it is inherently human, whether it be sex drive, a lack of of it, an overabundance of it, or a different manifestation of it. Just as much as Heterosexual Man A wants to walk around holding his girlfriend's hand, Homosexual Woman A wants to do the same with her girlfriend. It's as simple as that.

What I feel the core of this entire incident is the feeling of exclusion. Gaymercon is not trying to segregate gay gamers from the rest of the gamer population; it's not trying to exclude straight people; it's not trying to pull away from the main gamer culture and not affect it. It's trying to make a comfortable space for gamers of sexual minorities who may feel ostracized in other gaming settings. While we need to push for greater representation of minorities in games, that doesn't mean that having a space to our own--whether it be for RPG gamers, fighting gamers, or queer gamers--is counterproductive. It's simply another way to feel accepted, just as the idea of a bigger convention is.

I'm going to close this post by linking you guys to a collection of others' opinions that are in line with mine. Perhaps they could word it better than I could; I think they're well worth reading, and more succinct than I could be.
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (360)

Stay frosty, web-head.

Cover from Xbox360Achievements.org.
The Amazing Spider-Man, contrary to the title, is not based off of the 2012 film of the same name. Developed by Beenox, the creative minds behind the two most recent Spider-Man games--Spider-Man: Edge of Time and Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions--, The Amazing Spider-Man is actually a sequel to the Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone movie reboot. Although the game is a movie tie-in, it does its best to feel like a fully-fledged game; while it can be a tad tedious at times, it's certainly a strong game in its own right.

Read on for the full review--but please be aware, there will be spoilers for the film.