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Opinion: We need more spaces like the Queerness and Games Conference

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At the very end of October, I was lucky enough to attend and participate in the Queerness and Games Conference, held at UC Berkeley.

It was essentially a big gathering aimed at queer game creators, academics and anyone who is interested in the subject of, well, queerness and LGBT issues in games. I was invited to speak, partially because of my background in activism, and otherwise free to watch the various talks, meet people and play games. I knew I was going to enjoy my time there, but I was thunderstruck by the impact of the experience.

Not only did I find the conference personally affirming (and fun), but I also saw it as a sign of incredible growth for gaming as a whole. I can't imagine something like this existing ten — or even five — years ago, but now, I can't imagine a future without it and other similar events.

I can't imagine a future without the conference

QGCon is so important precisely because it carves out a purposely safe and encouraging space. We talked about gender and sexuality and identity — in the context of video games — without the possibility of hateful, frothing rage coming in and drowning out useful discourse and exploration. It's a rare and wonderful thing for me to feel comfortable talking about intersectionality and feminism and identity in games. Not only was my audience onboard, they were passionate about the subject matter and eager to have the discussion.

I felt like somehow, after 29 years, I finally found my people and my community. There was something powerful and beautiful about being around smart, talented, creative people who were finally all in a room, able to express themselves without the fear that often seeps into life as a queer person. Even though I live a pretty charmed life (being here in the Bay Area), with a supportive workplace, being in this particular space made me feel both embraced and invincible, ready to tackle anything.

Sentris_paxprototype_2

I also had a lot of fun, which tends to prolong warm fuzzy feelings. I played a projected version of Soundodger+ Live that required me to use my body to avoid all the little digital daggers. I got hands-on time with Sentris, Samantha Kalman's puzzle-music generation game that put me into a rainbow-hued trance. In this respect, much of what I played at QGCon wasn't terribly different from other indie-friendly game spaces, where creators are happy (and free) to chat about their games and folks tend to be pretty welcoming. But in the context of QGCon, it was all the more comfortable — playing with folks from all over the gender and sexuality spectrums, dodging sounds and making music felt all the more liberating and frankly, awesome.

In order to bring the discourse about inclusion and diversity (of all kinds) in games further, we need to have events like this. They foster good, important discussion that leads to interesting and better games. They promote inclusive community-building. And perhaps most importantly of all, they encourage new voices to speak up in a world that's always been closed off to them. The entire world of games — commercial, indie, experimental and everything in between — is made richer by these conferences, and I'm excited to see the new work that comes from them..