London’s gaymers tell us why they fell in love with videogames…
The beauty of the LGBTQI community, is its huge and uniquely varied range of subcultures. One of the lesser-known of these is gay guys who are into computer games. Also known as GAYMERS! The word “gaymers” in itself is great, we love a pun! Especially a wonderfully simple one. There are SCORES of gay gamers in London alone, which may come as a bit of a surprise, but if you think about it, computer games do have a wonderful whiff of the camp about them! Lara Croft flinging herself over waterfalls, musclebound adonises dipping and flitting through Tekken temples, Princess Peach brandishing banana skins…fab! We spoke to five of London’s gaymers to find out more!
I got my first console when I was three years old! My dad brought me a Gameboy with the Tetris game. He also had a computer with a few classic games: Prince of Persia, The Simpsons, Flight Simulator. We used to play together.
What attracts me the most to video games is the capacity to experience alternative realities, where the rules are different. You can practice magic, or do things you cannot do in the real world, but at the same time you can be sociable. You interact with other gamers. I think multiplayer gaming has helped video games become a mainstream entertainment industry in the past twenty years.
My favourite game is Final Fantasy VII. I love the concept and storyline. You start the game as part of a rebel group trying to fight the biggest corporation on Earth, which is trying to extract as much energy as possible from the planet while drying it out. Sounds familiar, right? You form a team of different characters with different backgrounds to fight for the planet and you can use magic and summon spirits to help you. I have to recognise it’s not only the storyline that makes this my favourite game; I got to play it for the first time while at my cousin’s during Summer. I watched them play it for weeks and eventually they got tired of not being able to get past one of the bosses. I asked them if I could give it a go and defeated the boss in my first go – they were speechless! I haven’t stopped playing videogames since.
The first game I ever had was Super Mario on the Gameboy. Back then, you couldn’t even save your game or continue. If you died, that was it – GAME OVER! I probably wouldn’t have the patience for it now to be honest! A couple of years later I got a PlayStation, and that’s been my main source of gaming since. Each Friday, my dad would take me to the local video shop and I got to rent classics like Spyro the Dragon, Tekken and Crash Bandicoot, completing them in just a day or two!
Playing video games allowed me to escape my day-to-day problems. I was bullied (as many were) for being gay and was really unhappy with my life. Playing a game allowed me to forget about all that negativity for a couple of short hours. I got to play the leading role as a hero who would save the day, when my reality was quite different. I think a lot of LGBT+ people can probably relate to that.
The most enjoyable games for me are definitely artistic. They have mastered the art of storytelling to completely envelop you in the lore of that place or world, and you become attached to characters to the point where they almost feel like friends. Anything which takes you on an emotional journey like that is artistic to me, not to mention that the graphics are absolutely stunning on modern games now.
Being part of the LDN Gaymers, It’s been incredible to turn the idea of gaming around. It used to be something I associated with being alone, but now it’s about being sociable and it’s how I’ve met some of my closest friends. We’ve heard incredible stories from our members who have found that LDN Gaymers has really helped them to come out of their shell and feel more comfortable about themselves and their sexuality. Plus, it’s amazing fun!
VFX Artist at Rocksteady Studios
I first got into video games when I was around twelve years old. I had a neighbour whose dad repaired arcade machines, so he had a garage full of Pacman, Super Mario, Green Beret, Pole Position etc. We spent a lot of time in there.
Now I work at a company that makes AAA Games (Triple A is what we call games that have the highest development and promotion budgets). We develop for consoles and PC. The last game I worked on was Arkham VR.
The process is really complex, since you work in big teams of over 100 people. Also there are very strict NDA’s that don’t really allow me to talk much about the details of development.
I personally think videogames can be an artform, but that also depends on what you define as art. Per the classic definition, they are probably not, because they’re mostly not created to express a certain emotion or for you to appreciate their beauty. They’re for entertainment purposes only. I think there is an extraordinary amount of creativity and artistic skill involved in creating them though and some of them do aim to convey specific emotions. But people often confuse artistic skill with art, and it’s just not the same thing.
I started playing video games when I was seven – my neighbour had a SNES and I was addicted! Especially to Street Fighter 2, which was my first look at gay stereotypes – Ken the himbo, Zangief the muscle daddy and Vega the self-obsessed A-gay!
My favourite game is Horizon Zero Dawn – I think I’ve found my calling in life hunting giant machines with a bow and arrow. As a conservationist and feminist who grew up obsessed with dinosaurs, I was hooked by Horizon’s expansive story, which deals with themes of the destruction of nature through technological development and the rise of a matriarchal post-apocalyptic society. It’s like Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park said: Man creates dinosaurs, dinosaurs eat man, woman inherits the earth. The gorgeous visuals are captivating – I’ve spent hours just chasing wild boar through the overgrown ruins of cities and collecting medicinal herbs amongst gently waving fields of flowers. Also, did I mention robot dinosaurs?
In terms of my video game crushes, I’d have to say half the guys from Final Fantasy 8? This game was released when I was deep in the grip of puberty and Squall, Irvine and Seifer were pretty much on rotation in my fantasies.
I can still remember the exact moment I got hooked on video games. I was 11, staying with distant relatives in Canada, and there wasn’t a whole lot for a young boy to do. But they did have a huge TV – unlike anything I’d seen back in the UK – and a Nintendo 64 with Goldeneye 007.
The graphics were jaw-dropping, I got to play with an enormous controller instead of a PC keyboard, and for the first time I could play head-to-head against family members, stomping around as James freaking Bond. It was the first time I thought “I have to have this”, and I pestered my mum relentlessly until she eventually let me get an N64 at a car boot sale.
I spent many weekends playing that game with my best friend Harry. It never lost its sheen, and even though the graphics are showing their age now, I still love challenging friends to a game, and blowing them up with remote mines.
The idea that video games only appeal to straight men is a total myth, and I know gay guys who are into every different genre.
I love multiplayer games like Mario Kart and Towerfall, where you can get the guys over for an evening, play a few rounds and have a laugh. It’s another way of spending time with your mates that doesn’t necessarily involve drinking or going out to a club.
I remember how nervous I was going to my first LDN Gaymers meet-up, walking into a pub full of people I didn’t know, and having to approach them and speak to them. It was a situation I would never have put myself in, but I was lured in by the promise of video games. Thankfully everyone was so friendly, I played a bunch of games and made a ton of friends – and I’ve never looked back! Now I help run the thing.
Gaming can be quite a solitary experience, and I know a lot of LGBT people who say they have felt quite isolated in London. So groups like LDN Gaymers give people another way of making friends, away from the clubs and drug scene. Multiplayer games are such an easy ice-breaker – you’ll always find somebody willing up for a round of Mario Kart! For me, it’s great to see so many new friendships forged over Smash Bros and Bomberman – and a few relationships too.