Gaymercon: A Cynic’s View

Conventions these days aren’t hard to come by. Gaming events and conventions, even for specific genres, are in no short supply. With this in mind, I wasn’t particularly surprised to hear of ‘Gaymercon’, another Kickstarter project that continued the trend of going viral and reaching its funding goal of $25,000 and surpassing it in a matter of days (as of this writing, it has reached double its goal with a fortnight to go]. Propelled forward by endorsements from two Valve-related voice actors, it looks set to be a rather memorable event. However, I can’t help but pay attention to the nagging in the back of my head that says Gaymercon has some issues written into the very premise of what it is.

Variety is the Spice of Life…

Like I said, the spectrum of different gaming events and conventions, just like gaming culture and games themselves, is very broad and can offer something specialised for almost everyone. So in one sense, I’d eagerly welcome Gaymercon’s simple existence. The fact that the project is going ahead and receiving attention, like gaygamers (the website) is a huge shout of ‘we exist!’ from LGBT gamers and can act as a ‘safe zone’ for people afraid of being judged. Not to mention the fact that I can wholeheartedly get behind (oh, grow up) pretty much any method of saying ‘it’s okay to be gay’.

Don’t uncork the champagne / red wine / beer / gay-or-not-gay-celebratory-drink-of-choice just yet…

…But you can’t live on Spices

At the same time, Gaymercon can be seen as self-defeating. If a minority group wants to move freely about a larger culture, having a specific event just for the group, rather than a bit more vocal, colourful but affirmative involvement in the mainstream, may not be the best idea. This can be seen in some reactions to the project, in the way that some misconstrue it as ‘shoving the lifestyle (there’s that damn word again) down our throats’. Even though this wrongheaded assumption (welp, damned if you do, damned if you don’t) misses the point entirely, it does serve to highlight a flaw in the idea behind Gaymercon: just how much is it about the ‘gay’ and how much is about the ‘gamer’?

If the focus is clearly on the latter, then the event may be indiscernible from most other events to the point of having no identity other than being a safe place for LGBT gamers, rather than attempting to make the world at large one. But if it’s on the first, how exactly would Gaymercon set itself apart? A pink or rainbow banner here and there? A couple panels featuring the writers of Dragon Age II? Posters of Valkyria Chronicles’ Jann Walker, Persona 4‘s Kanji Tatsumi and Fallout New Vegas’ Arcade Gannon? A question-and-answer session with the vile, racist, hateful, prejudiced, untrustworthy creators of the Arkh Project? A blind date event with more attention on it than there should be? An impromptu real-life firing range, courtesy of a picket by the Westboro Baptist Church? (edit: 23 Aug – holy shit, they’re actually doing it!)

All the different possibilities add up, and even though it’s obviously not possible to please everybody, I fear that ideas of what an event should be are going to be most controversial in the very community that Gaymercon is aimed at.

We’re in this Together – Except for you, you, you…

i r gud at ms pint

The LGBTQAI (also known as ‘alphabet soup’) community can be very, very fractured. Even now, it’s likely that some people would scorn my use of the acronym ‘LGBTQAI’ as opposed to LGBTTI2QQAP, or think that ‘Q’ should exclusively mean ‘queer’ instead of ‘questioning’, while others are wondering why trans people are included with intersex ones and why asexuals are included at all. At times, it’s a group that’s held together less by glue and more by santorum – the frothy mixture of faeces and lube that results from anal sex.

Perspectives on pride parades vary, some exclusively gay and lesbian men and women hold a strong dislike of bisexuals, trans people are often discriminated against within the community, ‘straight-acting’ and ‘flamboyant’ people are at loggerheads with one another, voicing opinions on what counts as a ‘fair’ portrayal of gay characters in fiction can result in deep divisions, Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project (not to mention Savage himself, but that’s a whole other post) has its lovers and haters, and the definition of what constitutes an ‘ally’ to LGBT can be almost polar opposites. Some people will chastise others for saying ‘gay marriage’ as opposed to ‘same-sex marriage’ and some are even against same-sex marriage altogether.

The success of Gaymercon for the people meant to benefit from it depends heavily on whether or not people are able to put aside these differences for the greater good (I predict that this will be extremely problematic if fighting game tournaments are scheduled). If we can, everyone wins. If we can’t, Gaymercon will look as dysfunctional as the fighting game community.

If this happens, it won’t end well. If this doesn’t happen, that won’t end well either.

Let’s Have A Gay Old Time

But with those concerns out in the open, I remind you that it’s my cynical side speaking. The potential problems don’t eliminate what change, discursion, and of course, positivity and fun Gaymercon may very well bring with it. The road to the event being a success may be littered with landmines, but proper attention, care, and an affirmative attitude can ensure wonderful results. Who knows, maybe Gaymercon will become annual? Regardless of whether or not it does, it’s certainly something for me to check out in the summer of 2013!

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  1. Westboro Baptist Church to Picket Gaymercon! « The Polite Timesplitter

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