First, how did I get this facetious plan off the ground? Costs were high and I was hoping to room with others, for I knew no one who was going. This entire business was about to unfold in front of me, on the computer screen. This lends well to the experience one has as a gay man, where the object of intrigue rises slowly but surely to the fore, anonymous and mysterious at first.
In Japantown, San Francisco, two hotels lodged 3,600 attendees. I got in on Friday night, around midnight, and met the roommates with whom we orchestrated this interesting setup. Two of them had recently come out to each other, one of them a thirty-one year old organizing gaming conventions for youth, another, of conservative Christian background. The fourth roommate and I also got along, though our histories were quite different: I am an openly gay Middle Eastern, he, a quieter Alabaman.
Saturday morning kicked off with opening ceremonies and extremely long registration lines. Most guys and girls were taking it all in: the folks dressed as Ness, Link, or Peach, from those I could recognize. And soon enough, crowds were readily cruising through the panels, game room, and tabletop rooms.
Right: Hotel Kabuki hosted the events and 40-some educational panels
EA and BioWare made their presence and concern for the community quite clear, with discussion on LGBT-inclusion in game design and on keeping the template varied, so to speak. When we weren't joining in on the hundreds per seminar, some were purchasing Nintendo-imprinted apparel, or playing iterations of Street Fighter, Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., Dance Central, and Just Dance in the game room. Yes, the average gaymer's taste runs the gamut from dancing to fighting.
Left: Us roomies
Just Dance 4 on Wii U, the first and hopefully last time that I play this game.
Later that night, GaymerX readied a concert for those interested, otherwise the night was on with parties, drinks, and the like. I was up early on Sunday, wanting to start exploring other parts of San Francisco, like the Castro (seen on the first image). But Sunday was rife with other interesting seminars, like a Journalist's Roundtable, and Journalism 101 with IGN and GameSpot. Also, Gender & Sexuality in Interactive Fiction, and Plot Conditionals with Benefits: Creating Romances in BioWare Games.
At BioWare, Community & New Media Manager Jessica Merizan was joined by lead writer of the Dragon Age series, David Gaider, to discuss development of the series' characters and to consider ways to envision new queer icons in gaming. Merizan focused on Mass Effect 3 at length, a topic of interest for the audience, and the arduous process that went into making that game a new feat of accomplishment for BioWare.
Once upon a time, a gay lead engineer on The Sims enabled same-sex coupling.
A highlight from my time at GaymerX was sitting in and listening to prolific LGBT journalists share their journeys with us in this industry. Chuck Osborn of IGN (middle) and Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot (left) were hosted by Rob Galbreath on this panel about writing for games, and the perks and catch-22's of being a game journalist. "Imagine playing games day in and day out, in the end, there's no time to play games for fun," says VanOrd.
If only for the experience and the sheer uniqueness of the event, GaymerX holds very well for the first of its kind. The fresh, breezy Japantown backdrop and clean San Franciscan architecture and hotels made for a truly new kind of adventure. It goes a long way to look at LGBT culture from different perspectives, rather than the ones we are all too used to - the ones that are saturated, like sex, nightlife, and media icons outside the gaming world. GaymerX exists because it is in demand, quite simply - otherwise its Kickstarter would have failed.
Most importantly though, it was eye-opening to connect with so many like-minded people. It's about the games but much more; sharing with others from the LGBT community is grounding and elucidating, sort of like connecting with a family cousin - the sense of familiarity came with a sense of my maturity.