Millions of people around the world spend a good chunk of their time locked into the virtual worlds provided by playing video games, whether it’s killing time at the office playing Candy Crush on your phone or immersing yourself completely in a role player game joined electronically with dozens of other gamers.
You may never stop to think who the virtual puppet master is behind the teammates and opponents you play with or against, but that may be because it never occurred to you that they were any different from you. But what if you’re a minority, a member of the LGBTQ community for example? How likely are you to find players like you playing online or even in the actual games you play?
These are the kinds of questions explored in Gaming In Color, a feature documentary that explores the queer side of gaming: the queer gaming community, gaymer culture and events, and the rise of LGBTQ themes in video games.
“There has been a lot of progress in terms of game design over the past few years, to the point where you have a game like Mass Effect which has an openly queer character – which is great – but it’s still not enough,” explained Phillip Jones, who directed the movie along with David Gil and Jonah Markowitz. “He’s still a marginalized character. It’s like the transgender character Sophia Burset played by Laverne Cox on the show Orange is the New Black. It’s great that there is a transgender character on a show like that, but it seems like every story line they give to her has to do with her being trans. Why can’t a show – r a game – have a queer or trans character whose sexuality isn’t the focus of everything they do? That’s what we want to see in gaming; characters like us who are part of the story above and beyond their sexuality.”
Diverse queer themes in game storylines and characters are an anomaly in the mainstream video game industry, Jones continued, and LGBTQ gamers have a higher chance of being mistreated in social games. Gaming In Color explores how the community culture is shifting and the industry is diversifying, helping with queer visibility and acceptance of an LGBTQ presence.
“The Internet can be a dangerous place for gaymers because of the anonymity of the people who use it. It can be a toxic culture,” he explained. “One of the hopes we have for the DVD is to let people know that there are safe areas to find other gaymers like themselves where they can play the games safely and securely and at the same time find people like themselves in a safe and accepting community.” Hones, and the movie, also highlight events like gamerx, an annual gaymer convention whose attendance and popularity has grown exponentially since its debut in 2013.
And while hopes are high that Gaming in Color finds its target audience — the LGBTQ gaming community – Jones believes the message and information presented in the film will be both informative and entertaining for anyone who plays video games. “We’re all gamers,” he said, “and the more we can do to connection a positive way as a community, the better.”