A few years ago I was playing whatever the multiplayer shooter du jour was at the time, and I just got sick of hearing the word ‘gay’ thrown around as a pejorative term. It had started years before, and I thought I was immune to it – turned out I just hadn’t reached my limit yet.
I’m a gamer, a man, and bisexual. I’m also a games journalist, and that put me in a rather unique position to deal with my growing anger at this casual homophobia and abuse. So I sat down and wrote something like 3,000 words about how the use of the term made me feel, and how damaging it was to queer gamers in general. All I’ll say of that article was that not only did it generate a lot of traffic (yay!), but it was also one of the best things I’ve ever written. But I don’t want to talk about that bit of writing in particular – rather, I want to talk about why hearing a queer voice in the industry matters.
In recent years a very straight, masculine voice has emerged from within the gaming community, and while it may represent a vocally hostile minority, it’s still highly visible. This means that positive, queer, and authoritative voices are more important than ever.
When I wrote that article, it wasn’t just a success in terms of clicks – it actually changed people’s minds. Within the comments were people who’d never realised how damaging it could be to constantly hear “That’s so f**king GAY!” over and over again in game chat. And they decided to stop. There were gay kids who thought they were alone in feeling like dirt every time they logged into a game, and were so happy to realise that their experience wasn’t one they had to suffer in isolation.
A lot of people say they don’t like to see politics mix with the thing they love, but it’s impossible to separate politics from a cultural artefact like videogames. It’s a global, multi-billion dollar industry, employing tens of thousands, and reaching millions, and with the rise and reach of esports thrown into the mix, it’s likely to only get bigger and even more impactful. And if we do love this crazy-massive industry, we owe it to ourselves to make it as inclusive a space as possible.
And so we need queer voices and queer writers, talking about their experiences. Hopefully, too, we can stop talking about the impact of negative experiences, and shift to celebrating how much richer and diverse our gaming spaces can be.