Make Canoe my Homepage

[Q&A] Toronto Gay Gamers smash stereotypes, steal your loot

- November 16th, 2011
278963_10150308968725791_696415790_9805107_4079271_o

The Toronto Gay Gamers cosplay it up at the 2011 Toronto Pride Parade.

They’re here, they’re queer and they are huge nerds.

What began as a dozen or so people who met over the Internet has blossomed into a a 200-plus member organization called the Toronto Gay Gamers that proves, one Pride Parade and LAN party at a time, that not all gamers are heterosexual men (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

I chatted with the group’s social media co-ordinator Drekken Pownz about where LBGT culture and gaming culture intersect, and how to meet gay geeks outside the club scene.


How has being in the group affected your life?

Being in the group has given me an outlet to give back to the community in a way that is close to my heart. I am able to utilize my talents and skills in an environment that I feel makes a difference in people’s lives. I remember growing up and wishing a group like this existed, and now I get to help see it grow.

Was it hard meet other gay people who shared your interest in gaming when you were growing up?

For me growing up, it was hard in general to meet other gay people, let alone those who share my interest. The Gay Gamer group was the first real contact I had with gay gamers. For me, growing up in Brampton (Ontario), the only place to meet other gay people outside of online were bars and clubs, and the question “So do own a Xbox?” doesn’t usually bode well in opening conversation.

How did you come to be involved in the group?

When I went to the first meet-up, it was serendipitous, because I just happen to stumble upon the original website gaygamer.net and then, once again, stumbled upon on thread in the forum talking about organizing a meet-up.  It was an amazing time. Back then, it was a very small core group of 10 to 15 guys and now we have over 200-plus .

What are some of the issues facing LBGT gamers or LBGT people in the gaming industry?

One of the biggest thing in the online gaming realm is the homophobia and desensitization of the word “gay.” It would not be uncommon to log into a multiplayer match today and at least hear the term “that’s so gay” once every 10 minutes over group chat, which is why I personally play with group chat off unless with friends. Even within the industry homophobia still persists, less we forget the Blizzcon incident only a few short weeks ago.

“That’s so gay” is one of the more printable examples of the kind of hateful things people say in MMOs, if that BlizzCon clip is any indication. How does seeing that kind of language in games or at gaming events make you feel?

For me personally, it’s a clear indication that things aren’t quiet “there” yet.  On the media end, games such as Mass Effect or Starwars: The Old Republic headway in being inclusive to LGBT player base, but still the player base has a long way to go. It’s a constant battle, but with developers like Bioware leading the charge, I feel it’s only a matter of time before the landscape changes.

When you come across those attitudes in games, what do you do? Do you try to address it, or just move on and try to avoid those kind of gamers?

Having language like that in game play can be extremely disruptive to the online experience.  I will try to disable group chat or ignore it if possible, If it is a group of individuals I know in real life, I will always address it because my friends should know better.

There tends to be this stereotype of gamers where they are all straight, white males. How do people react when they find out how much diversity there actually is within in the gaming community?

Gaming has reached a level where it has hit mass-media consumption, outselling some Hollywood movies. With this trend on the rise, the stereotypical barrier of gamers being a niche group of “hardcore” males has begun to diminish with the advent of products such as Wii,  which has done an excellent job of expanding the gaming demographic.

There are a lot of sub-cultures within the video game community. How does your membership reflect this?

Gaming is highly diversified when it comes to sub-genres and our membership reflects that. I, personally, am a “competitive gamer” which means I play to win, and my sense of fun is derived from winning, but that may not be the case for another member, so to accommodate, we offer a wide variety of themed-event nights. The events hold more than just console games — they expand to card games, board games, and even hand-held games.  We do our best to ensure that no one is left out.

There’s also a lot of diversity within the LBGT community. How does your organization reflect that?

Our group is a great reflection of the  diversity of the LBGT community, we have a variety members, from raging bear gamers to lesbian gaymers. Our members come in all shapes, sizes, genders and creeds.

What role do the Toronto Gay Gamers play within the larger Toronto gaming community or the larger Toronto LBGT community?

Our group’s role is to provide a safe space for LBGT youth to find, network and connect with fellow gamers. Consequently, it has also developed into an alternative to the bar scene for an individual to meet someone they have something in common with, which in turn, leads to long lasting and deep bonds.

That’s really cool. So is it safe to say you’ve formed some lasting bonds within in the group?

The other organizers and I have become great companions  and I count them among my closest and dearest friends. Individuals who for which we share a common bond and work together to build something bigger than ourselves.  I have also met a lot of great people within the group , all with robust personalities.

I saw you guys march in the Toronto Pride Parade this year, decked out in video game-themed costumes. I thought it was really awesome and crowd seemed really into it. What was that experience like?

For me, it was the first time in the Pride Parade and it was an amazing and uplifting experience. Not only was I able to be out there proud of my sexuality, but also my lifestyle choice of being a gamer. The roar of the crowd was also exhilarating  as we walked by in full costume and they responded with outcries of support.

What was your costume?

My costume wasn’t ready in time for the parade, so I wore very geeky and gaming apparel, it was a great time regardless and next year I will be looking to go as Commander Sheppard from Mass effect or co-ordinate with our group’s costumes.

Was it the group’s first time being involved in Pride?

This year was, in fact, our first year in the Pride Parade.

Can we expect to see you there again next year?

You will definitely see us in the 2012 parade where we hope to outdo our last showing. I hear rumors around the group of fully-themed costumes but I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so you will have to attend the parade to find out.

Looking forward to it! What’s on the horizon for the Toronto Gay Gamers?

I am very excited for some of the initiatives we will be taking in 2012. We will be working with Gamer Camp 3.0,  expanding our board games events and my personal favorite is we will have a presence at Anime North 2012 So keep an eye out for us.

Check out the Toronto Gay Gamers on Facebook and Twitter.

Subscribe to the post

Leave a comment

 characters available