Jay Castello
Freelance Writer
jaymcastello@gmail.com
@jayplaysthings

A Gaymer X Roundup

I finally finished going through all my Gaymer X notes today and I’ve done brief writeups of many of the panelsHere are a few that you can watch instead:

Overcoming Personal Inertia. This isn’t strictly video game related, but it comes with my highest recommendations!

When Fandom Ain’t Fun: A Frank Talk by QPOC was periscoped by Tanya DePass.

Playing with Pride was, IIRC, filmed by GaymerX, but I don’t believe the video is available yet. I’ll keep an eye out for you!

I didn’t attend Rice Specific Content, which is about Asian representation, but there are some livetweets gathered here.

I also already talked about Failure is (Not) an Option: Tearing Out the Roots of Get Good Culture!

You might also like to look at GX Australia’s Kickstarter, ft. David Gaider’s notes on why GX is important.

I skipped over a couple that are unlisted here either because my notes were too sparse/confusing to consolidate easily or because I felt they were personal accounts of people of colour that I didn’t want to misrepresent. If they become accessible in their own words, I’ll be sure to share it. Some people I saw speak at these whom you might be interested in following: Ed Chang, Bonnie Ruberg, Jordan Wood, Evan Lauteria, David Gaider, Crystal Fraiser, Dina Abou Karam, Shawn Alexander Allen, February Keeney, Katherine Cross, and Karin Weekes. (Possibly there are others I missed, sorry if so!)

The rest of the writeups can be found under the cut.

Video Games Made Me Gay (and Other Happy Endings!)

 Panellists: Kepler, Scooby, Ivory.

The speakers at this panel work at Voltage Entertainment, which is a studio that makes a variety of graphic novel romance apps, all of which now feature female love interests (for your female character) and various other diverse casts, including people of colour and a nonbinary love interest in Astoria: Fate’s Kiss. So those are things you should check out if you’re into that sort of thing!

They gave some examples of queer experiences in games that had inspired them, such as We Know the Devil, Hustle Cat, Black Closet, and Analogue: Hate Plus. So again, more recommendations!

Scooby discussed her experience raising the idea of a female love interest in Queen’s Gambit, an earlier Voltage app, the challenges and fears of doing so, and how well it worked out. Emily, the female love interest, was actually the best selling route available in that game. So began a trend of Voltage including these options in their games, slowly developing into a wider array such as the aforementioned nonbinary option (who is written by a nonbinary writer, Ivory). They also mentioned that this was due to fan requests, demonstrating the positive effect of showing that there is a demand for these kinds of options!

The panellists also discussed the obvious issues of wlw seeing themselves dying in media so often, especially when we are worried to buy a game for fear of watching the same tired and harmful trope play out again.

Finally they encouraged those who might be afraid to make or ask for diverse games to keep trying until they have success! Because you never know what you’ll be able to achieve until you try it.

Things Got Better: Thirty-five Years of Industry Changes

Tim Cain, director at Obsidian Entertainment and producer, lead programmer and designer of Fallout (among many other accolades) discussed his experiences and changes he has witnessed during thirty-five years in the video game industry.

The main themes were increased diversity, increased budgets and team sizes (leading to increased developer specialisation), and of course technological changes. Tim also drew attention to the parallel between a growing social acceptance of a career in video games and a growing acceptance both in society and the industry of being openly gay in the workplace.

I want to keep this writeup short because Tim’s panel was a personal account and I wouldn’t want to misinterpret his words, but there were a few interesting notes, such as the fact that he lost his colour vision during the development of Fallout and determined never to release a game that he couldn’t play, and the fact that he experienced community backlash including gamers questioning whether they should “still like” Fallout when he got married in 2011 and therefore his sexuality became more publically visible.

He concluded (as we all do!) that things are improving, but that we can do better, and spread out this improvement throughout the industry and beyond.

Gaming to Achieve Mindfulness and Self-Care

Panellists: Serenity Sersecion and Joey Hannah, both licensed psychologists.

This panel focused on how video games can tie into important self care practices, such as exercise - Pokémon Go can be the perfect motivation to take a walk. (I use this as the example because this is what I do all the time.) Games can also be great motivators to get social support, if you can find non-toxic communities.

They also discussed the concept of mindfulness, which has important benefits in focus, relaxation, and emotion regulation. But it’s a skill that requires practice, and gaming can help to feed into that practice, through focused attention and awareness, achieving flow, and similar.

Another skill that requires practice is learning to feel better, which can involve things like time management, setting goals, and rewarding behavioural change. Games can be involved in all of these, particularly as a reward for having worked on something more tricky. Breaking down goals in a similar way to game quests, into small actions that build up to a whole, can also be useful for motivation.

Video games can also be a great distraction from stress and negative emotions, when used in moderation and balanced with other self care/coping mechanisms.

Some recommendations from the panel (I haven’t checked out all of these myself):

The Hidden Alphabet: Erasure, Phobia, and Invisibility in Video Games and Fandom

Panellists: Bianca Anderson, Rhadamus, Gabriela Aviero-Ojeda, Margaret Staples

This panel focused on APB – asexual, pansexual, and bisexual - people in fandom and games, and the erasure, ignorance, villainisation, denial, and stereotyping that we face, as well as how we might move towards solutions – representation, understanding, acceptance, positivity, normalisation.

There is still a need for education about the marginalisation of APB people, meaning that speaking out remains vital as ever. Inclusivity and using respectful vocabulary are key. These are necessary because picking a label that falls into the APB umbrella can cause a person to lose friends, even those who are within the LGBTQ+ community, and that’s never okay.

I recall that they showed examples of ace characters in games – essentially just Mordin Solus and Maya from Borderlands, and pan characters in games – The Iron Bull, as well as discussing the stereotyping of the few more bi characters that there are, but apparently I became so engrossed in this panel that I stopped taking notes half way through!

Gatekeeping & Geek Policing

Panellists: Tanya DePass, Donna Prior, Bianca Anderson

As I’m sure that most of us here are aware, women and nonbinary folks are often told that they don’t belong in geek spaces. Often times there are “nerd cred checks” which imply that we need to know everything about a certain piece of media, and any mistake is used as a “gotcha!” to show that we are outsiders. This can be compounded by gender stereotypes and ageism, and essentially amounts to bullying.

This can happen anywhere. It can happen in spaces that are intended to be inclusive and it can happen in spaces that you create for yourself. The best way to deal with it, where possible, is to call it out – ask them why they think you don’t know the answer to their question or why it’s not for you. But sometimes concealing your gender (or other marginalised status) can be the best way to protect yourself if you don’t have the energy to deal with such problems.

Fandoms and games can be examined before you get into them to see what kind of space they are, and might be best avoided for your own benefit. Many fandoms are less open to critique of their “thing” than others, even though you can critique and enjoy something simultaneously. But don’t get discouraged! There are many inclusive and excited people who want you to get involved. You just have to find them. 

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