This is part of a series of profiles of conventions, local to Seattle and across the country, with missions that are relevant to the LGBTQ community.
GaymerX is still the only LGBTQ convention intended uniquely for gamers, and it paved the way for many of the other newer conventions we’ve previously profiled. While Bent Con and Gaylaxicon were perhaps the first queer geek conventions, they focused on different areas of fandom. GaymerX was also one of the first queer conventions to have a Kickstarter model for funding, and really broke through to the mainstream gaming press. Now in its third year, GaymerX features panels, games, a cosplay contest, concerts and more aimed at a queer population who plays games as well as industry folks and allies.
The most obvious change for GaymerX3 is a significant change of location and dates. The previous conventions were held in San Francisco the past two summers. It’s now moved to San Jose in December.
I spoke to Philip Jones, GX3’s exhibitor director, who runs the expo hall, indie space, and helps produce GaymerX, about the reasons for this change.
“We moved to San Jose because it’s much more of a convention destination town, while still being close enough to the tech buzz of the Bay Area,” he explained. “We’re avoiding the spiked downtown summer prices we had to manage last year. We’re super eager to see how the city responds to us, and we’re hoping for a lively positive attendance of new and old!”
What’s new and exciting about this year in particular?
“We’ve always prided ourselves on our diverse attendance and programming,” Philip stated. “But this year we took a more focused approach at ensuring greater diversity in our panelists, especially relative to the subjects they’re discussing. We also have the biggest and most impressive lineup of special guests this year!”
Highlights of those guests include: Jennifer Hale, a prolific voiceover actress, who was also the guest of honor at Pink Party Prime 6, Trixie Mattel from RuPaul’s Drag Race, and media critic Anita Sarkeesian.
“A lot of our company strategy so far has been reactionary in a funny way,” he pointed out. “We dealt with the problems in-game culture and wanted to help solve that, so we started the convention. A lot of the criticism was from people who didn’t understand why a space like this was needed, so we produced our documentary Gaming in Color as an educational and progressive wrapup and explanation of all the things we stand for and fight for. The criticism to that was that we should stop telling other developers what to do with their games, and if we wanted queer content, we should make our own, so we reacted to that by making Read Only Memories!”
Philip added that Read Only Memories started off as a little cyberpunk point and click game, but became a great opportunity to present queer characters in a positive way and has received astounding, positive reception in regards to that.
GaymerX has been a favorite topic for criticism on the Internet, which is difficult to avoid when trying to effect change. I asked Philip how they handled that.
“The criticism does wear on us after so much time,” he admitted. “But it reminds us that we are doing this for a reason, and that people care about video games now more than ever. There has been so much change and positive discourse on diversity and inclusion in gaming culture lately, and we’re honored to be a part of keeping that alive.”
Philip added, “We have an amazing following that always has our back when people show up to dump on us. The support we get daily is super inspiring.”
There has been an uncertainty about future conventions at previous GaymerX conventions, mostly due to finances and logistics. This year, GaymerX4 in 2016 has already been confirmed!
“It’s too early for us to announce where and when,” he noted. “We want to take another look at things and make sure we’re going to do it correctly. It will definitely happen though. We are always wanting to hear audience feedback on what the best dates and locations would be!”
I asked if he had any final thoughts on why people should attend GaymerX3.
“We provide a safe space and are making it the most fun, engaging experience we can as a young con,” he emphatically stated. “We’ve got three full days of packed game rooms, both digital and tabletop, extensive panels and programming covering subjects few others do, a massive expo hall with the biggest and best sponsors and exhibitors we’ve had yet, celebrity speakers and musicians leading our parties and concerts, and our huge cosplay pageant.”
“More than that,” Philip emphasized, “the crowd we gather and the camaraderie we see in friendships people make is like no other. We want as many people to experience that as possible, so come have fun with us!”
GaymerX is coming up in just two weeks (December 11-13!) There are still tickets available, though they’re running out fast. The host hotel is booked up, but their alternate hotel, the Fairmont San Jose, still has plenty of rooms left. You need to book by November 25th for their convention rate, though. There are other hotels close by with reasonably comparable prices if you miss the cutoff date.