What You Need To Know About The Queerness And Games Conference
What would you think if I told you that recently, a conference took place that encouraged multi-colored hair, the wearing of rainbow unicorn onesies, and included video games and well-researched, academic theory? Happy Late April Fools, right?!! –Wrong. The Queerness and Games Conference is as real as the importance of their impact on the community they host.
Having accumulated a consistent demand and audience within the queer gaming community, organizers were able to pull off the 4th annual Queerness and Games conference in Los Angeles at USC. Since the first 3 conferences were previously held at UC Berkeley in Northern California, the move to LA was a test to the loyalty of QGCon-ers and the true pull of the conference itself. If anyone was worried, they were quickly put at ease, as several hundred attendees graced the halls of the Con hailing from not only the Bay Area, but also Seattle, the East Coast, and as far away as Sweden!
For all those unfamiliar with the concept of Queerness and Games, well, now that’s exactly the point of holding the conference to begin with. Colloquially coined “QGCon”, QGCon is an event “dedicated to exploring the intersection of LGBTQ issues and video games” and holds a space for scholars, game developers, game players, and anyone interested to come together to foster dialogue surrounding sexuality, race, gender, and difference within all sorts of play, not just exclusive to video games. Where is queer representation in video games? How can we think about games and gameplay through queer lenses? What are the reasons why the processes of gameplay and how games are designed reproduce toxic or non-inclusive spaces? These are only a few of the questions that this conference attempts to address over the course of a single weekend packed with speakers, workshops, presentations, and game showcases. It’s an event that brings together a unique, niche group of people fostering community, learning, growth, and support of each other’s struggles & existence.
The games industry and community has had a long history of homophobic and exclusionary behaviors. It’s a space dominated by straight, cisgender, white men where misogyny, sexism, and violence towards bodies that represent marginalized communities is rampant. In light of the recent election of Trump as our new President, QGCon organizers felt that this year’s Con would be more important than ever before. QGCon’s mission is to nurture the fight to affirm the queer community and encourage changing the way games and the gaming community represent queerness. Exclusively organized by a team of volunteer organizers scattered across the country and Canada, QGCon is achieved through months of labor, blood, sweat, tears, and love. Together these 8 fantastic folks put together the biggest QGCon yet, with more games in the arcade than ever, and new additions such as a QGCon photobooth, an Instagram feed, hundreds of bottles of free lemonade, and a “Quiet Room” for folks to take space to practice self-care.
In the past, QGCon speakers have ranged from academics in queer studies and games studies to AAA game devs to students and amateur game designers. Attendees take to Twitter to live-Tweet their favorite talking points during presentations, which fosters a unique sub-conference which takes place in the annals of social media. The #QGCon is used in each post for attendees to easily find and respond to content and dialogue being had in real time about the conference while they attend in person or remotely through the special live-feeds broadcasted internationally through Twitch. Friends are made and collaborations negotiated within minutes over the Twitter-sphere. Conference go-ers were so active during the event, for the first time ever, #QGCon was trending #1 on Twitter. As a result, many people who had never heard of the conference expressed their excitement at the existence of such an event, and their intentions to attend next year.
This year’s conference wrapped up with a heartfelt presentation by QGCon organizers, holding space for attendees to speak about their experience over the weekend and what could be improved. Though every conference has its critics, it’s pretty much universally agreed upon that QGCon is one of the most inclusive, accountable, and supportive organized conferences out there, and the impact this weekend had on its attendees will last a lifetime.