“Gaming in Color” delves into the queer world of video games

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I think it’s important given the context of this review to inform you that I don’t consider myself a gaymer, or even much of a casual gamer. But as a product of the ‘90s, I would be lying if I said video games didn’t influence me. Growing up, I would go over to my next-door neighbor’s house all the time just to watch him play, and sometimes I actually joined in (he always offered, but I was a weird kid and usually preferred to watch). Eventually I would get my own systems–a Game Boy and a N64 – and play semi-regularly throughout the years.

By my preteens, however, video games had largely exited my life. That’s probably because I was never that good at them, but also because television, film and books had become my new interests. Then this past weekend an event occurred that had me suddenly feeling nostalgic–the passing of Saturo Iwata, Nintendo’s president and CEO. I don’t have to be a hardcore gamer to appreciate Kirby, Pokémon, and Super Mario. And because I make a habit of looking at things through a queer lens, my trip down memory lane got me thinking of gaymers and what the queer side of gaming is. Fortunately I already knew what my go-to would be–a new documentary called Gaming in Color.

The film features many interviews with industry pros, journalists, fans and more. What they all have in common is a passion for video games as well as a want for more inclusion in them.

Many of these individuals found an acceptance in the video game world that they didn’t find anywhere else growing up. But that notion of acceptance started to blur as they grew into themselves. If an industry and a community have truly accepted us, why don’t we see ourselves in the games we purchase?

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The gaming industry undoubtedly caters to heterosexual white males. Just ask yourself this: how often have you played as a character that’s a bisexual woman of color? Gaming, unlike watching TV or listening to music, is an active activity. When you’ve immersed yourself in a game and have invested in it (both from a monetary and emotional standpoint), it’s only normal that you would want to see yourself reflected in it.

No one in the movie asks that most characters be queer, or even that this always be an option (though it is in some cool games like Mass Effect 3 where you can choose to play as a male or female Commander Shepard and have him or her be gay, lesbian or “default”). But surely it’s not too much to ask that video games be more reflective of society as a whole.

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While we don’t see this much in mainstream games, “queer games” created by indie LGBT developers are making their mark. With their broader availability, there’s hope that this will serve as an education tool for gaming culture as a whole, which struggles with homophobia and transphobia. For proof of this just check out the comments section of articles highlighting games that are more LGBT-inclusive. Or turn on your headset and play online shooter games with guys who say, “That’s so gay,” with every loss.

In light of this it became clear that a safe space was necessary, and the GX game convention (formerly GaymerX) was the answer. The first convention happened over two days in the summer of 2013 in San Francisco, uniting gaymers who were “too gay for geek culture” and “too geeky for gay culture” with each other and allies. It was a super smash hit (I had to!).

As a movie, Gaming in Color lacks a certain energy and flow. The choppy transitions between interviews are a little annoying and I have to warn you that it does focus on GX a bit much towards the tail end–not all that surprising when you consider that the film’s production company is MidBoss, which organizes the convention. That said, I think you’ll be able to get past all that and focus in on the real stories the film tells and the serious issues it raises. In that way, Gaming in Color is a game changer.

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Now, will one of you let me watch you play Mass Effect 3? Pretty please?

You can visit Gaming in Color’s website to buy or rent it today.