After years of picketing the funerals of celebrities as well as U.S. servicemen, the Westboro Baptist Church now has its sights set on GaymerCon.
Rebekah Phelps-Roper, the niece of the notoriously anti-gay church's founder Fred Phelps, took to Twitter this week to condemn the event, which has been deemed the "first gaming and geek lifestyle convention with a focus on LGBT culture," Techday reported.
Her tweet also links to video of a news report, in which Westboro Baptist Church member Charles Hockenbarger condemns the event as "a fag-focused gaming convention" and "yet another area of life where fag filth is intentionally called out and crammed down our throats."
Currently scheduled to take place in San Francisco in August of next year, Gaymercon is intended to "create a space where all gamers and queer geeks can come together in a welcoming and safe space," according to the event's Kickstarter page.
Even before Westboro declared its stance on GaymerCon, the planned event has already faced a fair share of criticism. As VentureBeat.com reported, the reaction -- that "GaymerCon [is] creating a division that doesn’t need to exist" -- is apparently widespread in the gaming community.
Members of Westboro, which has previously picketed the funerals of Apple CEO Steve Jobs and slain gay student Matthew Shepard, also protested at the Super Bowl. They've nonetheless been less-than-predictable in recent months, bailing on scheduled protests at both a Missouri high school and Whitney Houston's funeral, despite tweeting out a Photoshopped image of the latter.
Check out the slideshow of 10 LGBT videogame characters below:
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.