Updated on August 7th at 3:45pm, after GaymerCon organizers were reached for comment.
On August 1st, a group of queer and ally gamers and technology industry professionals, primarily based out of San Francisco and Seattle, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for GaymerCon, "the first gaming and geek lifestyle convention with a focus on LGBT culture" and reached the campaign goal of $25,000 in less than four days.
GaymerCon, slated to be held August 3rd and 4th, 2013 in San Francisco, will fill a perceived gap in the nerd convention circuit. Though some conventions, such as PAX, have integrated LGBT-oriented panels and events, Cons, for the most part, have historically been targeted at straight, male consumers ( e3 booth babes, anyone?).
Gaming itself, as the organizers explain on their Kickstarter page, isn't much better. They write, "Hang around an online game long enough and you’ll start hearing homophobic, racial, and misogynistic slurs slung around without a second thought... Just like most gamers, queer geeks and gaymers want that same sense of community and belonging. Therefore we intend to create a space where all gamers and queer geeks can come together in a welcoming and safe space."
What does a queer-oriented gaming conference consist of? The organizers write, "We will have exhibitor space, cosplay, guest speakers, live music, panel discussions on topics that are directly relevant to our interests, gaming industry professionals who support including queer content in their products, social events, and of course… GAMING!"
For the most part, support for GaymerCon has been strong. After reaching the initial goal so quickly, the organizers continue to receive donations to help fund a Gaymer Concert and to host a "Celebrity Boss of Honor." Additionally, voice actors, such as John Lowry (who voices The Sniper from "Team Fortress: 2") and Ellen McClain (the voice of GLaDOS from "Portal") have posted YouTube videos advocating for the campaign.
However, not everyone has reacted positively to the idea of an LGBT gaming conference. As VentureBeat.com reports, the reaction -- that "GaymerCon [is] creating a division that doesn’t need to exist" -- is widespread in the gaming community, as evidenced by critical responses to a GaymerCon story on the gaming site, IGN.com.
When reached for comment, Ben Williams, one of the GaymerCon organizers, told Huffington Post Gay Voices:
Those dialogues are happening and we are happy to have them, but they are only happening because we are being told that we shouldn't have our own space, that we shouldn't come together and form a community, that we should just silently fade into the larger gamer culture...We are not saying that the rest of the gamer community has to change, or really do anything at all. All we are doing is saying that we are going to create this space. In that way we are not doing this for political reasons, but if others want to have dialogues and debate about our actions, we are happy to respectfully engage them.
GaymerCon is about making MORE gamer space, not segregating the gamer community. Just because we are putting on GaymerCon doesn't mean we're not going to still go to PAX, E3, GenCon, and all the other great cons out there...The gamer community has grown so much in the last five to ten years because of places like PAX, that sub cultures within the larger gamer culture are a natural and healthy progression for any community that reaches this size. We're still a part of gamer culture and are not segregating ourselves, just making a space where we can connect with people who are not only gamers, but also gay because that's who we are.
They also state their commitment to inclusion of all gamers and gaymers, saying, "this isn’t just for gay white dudes either. We want all genders, races, and sexual identities including our straight friends and allies to come together and have a gay, geeky good time."
As visibility and support for GaymerCon grows, so too will the questions of its relevance in the gaming community as a whole. Regardless, for online communities like Reddit's r/gaymers, for the people who celebrated when it was announced that The Green Lantern would be rewritten as a gay man and for those who argue between Shore Leave and Alice as the most "badass" queer cartoon characters, GaymerCon will surely be a welcome addition to gay nerd culture.
Visit the Kickstarter page to learn more about the convention. Check out the slideshow of 10 LGBT videogame characters below, and let us know what you think of the plans for GaymerCon in the comments section.
Birdo From 'Super Mario Bros. 2'
The original manual for "Super Mario Bros. 2" asserts that Birdo is a boy who believes that he is a girl, and would rather be referred to as "Birdetta". Although the name change never took effect and later franchise installments dropped mention of Birdo's gender, it was widely discussed by gaming magazines. One writer called the pink reptile '<a href="http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/6808/" target="_hplink">infamously gender-confused</a>' while another speculated Birdo was <a href="http://www.transsexual.org/birdo.html" target="_hplink">post-op transsexual</a>. If that's the case, kudos to you, Birdo, for queering the Nintendo universe and staying true to yourself.
Liara From 'Mass Effect'
In BioWare's sci-fi series, "Mass Effect," whether the player chooses to play as a male or female character, there is an option for a subplot romance and sexual encounter with the alien Liara. Liara takes pansexuality to the extreme -- she is a member of an all-female race that is able to reproduce with any sex of any species.
Tony From 'Earthbound'
There was no mention of Tony's sexuality in the 1994 Super Nintendo classic "Earthbound," but there are several hints at a crush on bookish best friend and roommate Jeff Andonuts, like Tony waking up and saying, "Ah, Jeff, I just dreamt you and I were taking a walk." After defeating Giygas, a gift box in Saturn Valley contains a letter that Tony wrote to Jeff, saying "I can't wait to see your cheerful face. I bet your glasses are dirty... If you come back, I'll clean them for you! Like I said, I'm waiting for you...Don't show this letter to anyone!" Years after the game's release, director Shigesato Itoi <a href="http://earthboundcentral.com/2008/06/yes-tony-is-gay-and-mr-saturn-is-innocent/" target="_hplink">confirmed Tony is gay</a>. For more on Tony's sexuality, check out <a href="http://gay-nerds.com/site/videogames/unrequited-love-earthbounds-gay-tony/" target="_hplink">this post</a> on <a href="http://gay-nerds.com/site/" target="_hplink">gay-nerds.com</a>. (edit: Video changed because the previous one was pretty offensive. Original video was a last minute addition to replace a screen shot. An error made in haste. Apologies. Thanks for pointing that out, user AscensionSoon.)
Jimmy Hopkins From 'Bully'
As tough guy Jimmy Hopkins, the protagonist of "Bully," players can make out with either boys or girls to gain health. Although the game ends with Jimmy making out with female love interest Zoe, one of the female characters in the game alludes to Jimmy's curiosity, saying, "I'm like Helen of Troy, but you seem more interested in boys named Troy."
Kanji Tatsumi From 'Persona 4'
In the 2008 role-playing game "Persona 4," street punk Kanji Tatsumi must confront his closeted homosexuality... literally. In the battle against Shadow Kanji, shown in the clip, Kanji fights the woman-hating, narcissistic menace that lives within him. As the embodiment of all the negative stereotypes of gay people which Kanji had internalized, and the deep-seated anxieties surrounding masculinity, the defeat of Shadow Kanji is indicative of Kanji accepting his sexuality as an essential, yet not essentializing, part of himself. For a fantastic analysis of sexuality and homophobia in "Persona 4," check out <a href="http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=22015" target="_hplink">this Gamasutra article</a>.
Gay Tony From 'Grand Theft Auto IV'
Gay Tony is the pill-popping, cocaine-snorting gay club owner in "Grand Theft Auto IV" who is friends with main character Niko Belic. The powerful and destructive socialite was given an expanded role in the follow-up titled "Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony."
Vamp From 'Metal Gear Solid'
Vamp, who was introduced in "Metal Gear Solid 2" as a blood-feeding antagonist with superhuman strength and affinity for knives, didn't get his name for his vampiric qualities. Rather, "Vamp" is <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpx5TW1A68I" target="_hplink">apparently slang</a> for men who suck the necks of men and refers to his bisexuality.
Sims From 'The Sims'
How about this for a progressive view of sexuality: In Maxis's groundbreaking life-simulator series "The Sims," no Sim is straight by default, as s/he can have a crush on, fall in love with, engage in romantic interactions and "WooHoo" with a Sim of either gender.
Arcade Gannon From 'Fallout: New Vegas'
In the 2009 sci-fi game "Fallout: New Vegas," Arcade Gannon is a member of the Followers of the Apocalypse in 2281 and researches the potential medicinal uses of natural compounds. As you can see in the clip, he is highly intelligent, personable, and quick-witted. Whereas many LGBT characters are defined only by their queerness, Gannon is a complex character who happens to be gay.
Juhani From 'Star Wars: Knight Of The Old Republic'
When Juhani appeared as a playable character in the 2003 sci-fi game "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic," she became the first openly gay character in the Star Wars universe. Although some versions of the game contain a glitch that allows a romantic subplot with a male player, and there are hacks to unlock this in games that don't, Juhani is, under normal circumstances, strictly a lady's lady.