Friday, July 11, 2014

GaymerX: First Impressions and Comparisons to PAX's Diversity Lounge

Friday night in San Francisco, and I'm in my hotel room writing a blog post. I think at this point in my life I'm a little bit over traveling by myself. You'll see in a moment how that realization colours my perception of GaymerX.

For those not in the know, GaymerX bills itself as "the gaming event for LGBTQ gamers and allies. All are welcome as we celebrate queer representation in gaming, meet new people, and of course, play awesome games together!" After checking out the Diversity Lounge of PAX East, I fond myself wanting a juxtaposition of a truly welcoming safe gaming space to what the Penny Arcade folks had put together.

Day 0

My convention experience started a day earlier than many others, having a VIP badge--nothing too crazy, just a more expensive badge to get into the pre-party. Communication on registration was an issue, as a reminder email told us to show up at 5 PM on Thursday, while the website said 6 PM. In actuality, registration didn't start until 7 PM. I'm unsure as to why that was, but the discrepancy ruined my plans to return to my hotel room before the party to drop off my bag and stuff.

GaymerX Badge Get!
However, logistical issues aside, the VIP party was pretty nice. Held outside in a greenhouse-like plastic tent, they had open bars for the first couple hours, good music, and a Mario Kart 8 station. Thankfully the alcohol helped me power through my own awkward to meet new folks, from a storyboard artist to marketing directors. I even ended up hanging out with Jackson Palmer, the creator of Dogecoin--a cryptocurrency not unlike Bitcoin--who was visiting the convention to perform a talk on cryptocurrency and microtransactions for tipping streamers. Such currency, so wow. Pretty cool to meet someone and be able to talk shop and programming, so to speak.

I rather wish I had brought business cards for either my blog or my game company. The networking opportunities were pretty sweet.

One of the coolest things about the VIP party, and frankly a recurring theme throughout the event, is just how diverse the crowd was. Pictures are generally verboten unless you ask first, so I don't really have any visual examples; however, when compared to PAX, there were a lot more ladies, and folks comfortable dressing the way they'd like to dress. Genderqueer folk not conforming to either primary gender stereotype; gay guys from the gym bunnies in tank tops to the neckbearded engineers (represent, yo); femme and butch lesbians; and just so many people who honestly defy labels. I realize I'm really not doing the crowd justice, to be perfectly frank. The crowd was extremely eclectic and it was fantastic.

Jackson Palmer and Josh Mohland of Dogecoin fame

Day 1

Officially Day 1 of GaymerX began on Friday, and I admit I ended up sleeping in rather than going to the opening ceremonies. I don't think I've ever gone to the opening ceremonies for PAX either, to be honest. Opening ceremonies tend to be pomp and circumstance, and I rather like my sleep.

I arrived at about 1 PM to the hotel where the convention was being hosted. I had a panel I wanted to be at an hour later, so I wandered the halls. The convention takes place across three floors of the hotel, though the middle floor was largely set aside for things like registration and rooms for organizers, so really it was on two floors.

There was a few sections to play some games the Cards Against Humanity folks liked, with each game having a clear placard talking briefly about it. There was a section for OUYA games, of which I played some duck game where you all spawn on a small level, pick up weapons and try to be the last duck standing. Frankly, the game was extremely confusing at first, but I picked up on it eventually. Wasn't really fun, though. Honestly I thought the OUYA was dead, so a whole room dedicated to games on the platform was interesting. Wasn't particularly impressed by any of them offhand, though.

There was a Pokémon Gym area that had trivia contests and battle tournaments. I didn't check it out, on my list for later, but it was neat. There also was a board game room and a card game room, but the rooms only had 3 or 4 tables each, and were much too small for the populace interested in playing games. Future conventions should probably set aside more space for those.

At the end of the floor, a small expo hall awaited. Some super cool vendors in there, including a couple comic book stores; someone who made keychains/necklaces out of recycled comics; another person selling layered shadow boxes of gaming motifs like Pokémon, Zelda, and Portal; one person who was selling a board game she had created, called Dungeon Escape, which looked neat.

There also was a table dedicated to the Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to providing crisis and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth across the country. Below you'll find a picture taken where I dressed as a globe-trotting Latina jewel thief (other options included an elf hero, an Italian plumber, a speedy hedgehog, or an animal trainer) with a message for kids who are having difficulties:

You can also see about 1/3rd of the expo hall behind me.

That brings me to my next point: I had seen the grand majority of non-temporal events. Mind you, I could have interacted more with some of the game stations, but I did have extensive chats at four of the expo hall booths. But at only about 2000 participants, and only really two floors of the convention center, I question how I will fill up 3 full days with content by myself. I think I would have benefited greatly bringing a friend to this event, whereas at PAX, it's so massive I can easily fill up 3 days and be left wanting for more. Or I just need to get a LOT more outgoing than I am normally.

But on the other hand, there are a fair number of things like panels that are at specific times, and the two panels that I saw on Friday were really quite good. I'll be doing separate write-ups for those at a later time, but to whet the appetite, one was about Gaming and Intersectionality, the other about Designing Inclusive Video Games. Really, really great panels!

GaymerX and the PAX Diversity Lounge

So far I've been having fun. The atmosphere is great. So much more hopeful, open, and free than even the diversity lounge at PAX East was. While the Diversity Lounge was a decent start, seeing how happy everyone was just to be at GaymerX and be themselves was incredibly refreshing.

For some folks, this is the only venue they can really be themselves at. I don't think that people really understand the crushing loneliness that is living in the closet and having to hide who you really are for your own safety, and seeing that erased even for a couple days in a safe space such as GaymerX has been very awesome, and I think it's finally given me the perspective to articulate what bothers me about the Diversity Lounge.

The PAX Diversity Lounge is built to educate the general populace, not primarily as a safe space for minorities (despite the description). Now, it can be a safer space than the rest of the convention, but arguably, the whole of PAX should be a safe space for folks; however, I don't think it will ever be anything like what GaymerX has been able to offer folks, not until the general populace accepts people for who they are rather than expecting folks to fit into neat gender/sexuality stereotypes and roles.

I think education is incredibly important, and the Diversity Lounge provided that functionality pretty well in my opinion. But it's a lot like when you see feminists decry people for engaging them for clarification/education: sometimes you just can't. Sometimes you just need the problem to be fixed, and sometimes you're too tired/scared/angry to be the person to educate others. Sometimes, you just need a safe space where you can decompress and not have to worry about the consequences of those things. GaymerX provides that in spades, and it's wonderful.

#GaymerX, #FirstImpression


  1. Thanks for the Shadow of Dorkness plug!

  2. fuck blogger. It always eats my comments. In short, good article.

    1. You and Murf both. Gonna have to switch platforms, I think... I'm just loathe to change my domain name; that's a PITA.

  3. I second Doone. great insight on a convention that isn't sufficiently covered imo! :)