Gayming Closet


This month’s Blog of the Round Table: The Ghost of Gaming Future What role will gaming play in your familial relationships in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? Having already explored both the past and the present, this month’s round table asks us to turn our eyes to our future gaming expectations. If you can’t picture how gaming will impact your own family, feel free to explore what game designers could/should/shouldn’t do to make gaming a more family friendly experience, or even to create and explore a fictional world where gaming is (or isn’t) a major part of every family’s life.

When I first read this prompt I sat back and scratched my head. What is family? Do I even know on which continent I’ll be living in five, ten, or twenty years? After the initial confusion I started parsing out my thoughts on the matter and decided a few things: Corvus is not the type to make the question of family so limiting, I was looking at this from the stance of someone who has remained single for some time and did not account that a relationship can be family, and that given my past in gaming, the experience that exists with my family is unlikely to change. Instead, I decided to opt in for some navel gazing and ruminatin’ (and will admit this presupposes that I’ll enter into a future relationship, of which I remain curiously wary).

In the Gaymer community there seems to be a loose consensus that one comes out of the closet twice: once as gay, then as a gamer. As someone who came out at age fourteen and has been gaming unashamedly for many, many seasons, both of these seem far distant memories for me. In the past I have been on dates with a variety of men who’ve had reactions to my gaming habits mirroring my own when they admit their love for the heteronormatively insulting Katy Perry or racist and abashedly homoerotic Abercrombie & Fitch–it usually leaves us with pregnant, awkward pauses. At least, this is what results when I admit to playing something more than just Rock Band or Guitar Hero as a party game (or isn’t that Wii thing like the greatest fad ever?). What has resulted is an acknowledgment that I need more discerning taste in those with whom I go on dates.

While I often hear mixed reports from my heterosexual male friends concerning girlfriends’ and wives’ reaction to their gaming habits, the general consensus is that it is allowed as in the realm of those ‘guy’ things or joined in at some point. In the gay community, the reaction with which I’ve been met has been one of my habit being puerile to the extreme or hopelessly not cool, and, as these are fellow males, they see no excuse of guys will be guys being allowed as a small indulgence. Meeting gaymers seems to be a special occasion which often leaves me and the other party raising an eyebrow and throwing down gauntlets to make sure we’re talking to an actual gamer (imagine me sighing as I type that last sentence).

What does this mean for the future in the world of Denis?

Frankly, the odds of my happening to date and enter a relationship with someone who refuses to game or acknowledge it as a legitimate hobby may well face the fate of those who refuse to read (something I cannot fathom nor really begin to abide). What I see as an ideal proposal involves someone with whom I would actually game and hold discussions. Someone with whom I can debate the merits of dissonance in games, propose theories of queer theory as seen through an interactive lens, contemplate what a Dennis Cooper written game would entail, and other such topics (note, I said ideal–there is wiggle room there). It has reached the point where I have become fairly staunch in my belief that videogames are a medium which has to be acknowledged more universally as we often do with music, film, art, and literature as cultural signifiers and relevant to what entails our pop culture and more ‘high brow’ entertainments.

So, in five, ten, or twenty years, I’ll still be playing with my family via servers in various games ranging from MMOs with my mother to FPSs with my brother, and hopefully be that kick ass uncle for my nephew when he discovers the joys of gaming (I’ll be a kick ass uncle either way, but gaming would make the transition easier). In the meantime, any future familial relationship of my own has come to hinge on the acceptance of gaming, and hence my curious wariness and raised eyebrow as to the future in that realm (after all, I did once briefly date someone who gamed, but refused to talk about it…).

Please visit the Round Table’s <a title=”Round Table Main Hall” href=”http://blog.pjsattic.com/corvus/round-table/”>Main Hall</a> for links to all entries.

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About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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13 Responses to Gayming Closet

  1. It strikes me as profoundly sad that this should be the case, especially as (though I’ve read that official estimates suggest it’s about one in ten) I suspect that the concentration of people who are gay in society is far higher than has been anticipated. One might expect there to be more variation in opinion regarding video games in such a diverse group.There’s a chance that my thoughts may reveal my subconscious prejudices, but I’m concerned that the lack of acceptance games seem to find among gay men (and unless we both live in some kind of parallel dimension, there does seem to be a trend) is linked to their perception as being rife with machismo and being emotionally vapid.

  2. Denis Farr says:

    @Spencer: Estimates on exactly how many homosexual people exist are hard to pinpoint. I believe it was Kinsey who coined the 1/10 number, but his research methods and numbers are highly suspect. I’ve seen numbers ranging anywhere from 2-10%. This all supposes that we mark our sexualities correctly on forms, however (I’m still amazed you had that come up recently).As for why this phenomenon occurs? I could probably give many hypotheses, including the fact that the gay community is one that is not incredibly diverse, as some may posit. The level of conformity falls into either gay camp or ‘straight-acting’ most of the time, both equally frustrating. There is an indie-queer scene, but it is often beset with as many problems as the normal indie-scene, so that’s a hit or miss depending on the person (it is, however, more reflective of gay people fitting into a larger culture). This then puts in the problem of not allowing for such an activity with other activities already taking precedence.Then there’s the issue of the closeted gamer–one who games but does not admit it for fear of what it might say about him or her. We see this in females in various regards (of any sexuality), but it seems quite true in gay male communities as well. To then get these males to talk about games is another endeavor in pulling teeth.

  3. Yes, I’m also skeptical of some of Kinsey’s conjecture. (His rigid scale, for example, seems counter-intuitive.) I apologise, but I’m not sure I understand what your last sentence in that paragraph meant.This may be a little off-topic, but I fear that a lot of gay people believe that part of their coming to terms with their sexuality and society’s opinion of it is to defer to a stereotype. The result doesn’t reflect well on anyone.I can understand the closet gamer’s perspective, though. I know that I’ve mentioned my thoughts on games to friends, and that’s it’s almost always been a total conversation killer.

  4. Denis Farr says:

    @Spencer: I thought you were the one who recently filled out a form that had a question on sexuality? Perhaps I read that wrong on Twitter.Anyway, there is not just the problem of stepping into a stereotype, but leaving the closet often inspires one to feel that they need to reject the life that came before them. We’ve seen some backlash in the ‘straight-acting’ community that believes in sports and other such activities (though I hate the term straight-acting, as if there are only two polar extremes in sexuality and its portrayal).Gaming is still relatively new, and even finding straight people who are willing to talk about it or comics can be difficult. It’s highlighted for me in the queer community just because of the whole dating perspective, rather than just the social one. For me, it more often than not establishes a very easy and comfortable relationship with straight males.

  5. You’ve used the term dissonance (hot topic!) and queer as if it were exclusive to sexual orientation. Gah! pet peeve! But your personal musings as a gaymer has been quite enlightening as I ponder on the similarities of these two aspects of identity. Is it not surprising that we just need to wait for zealots and the older generation to die off for both to be more easily accepted in our society?Also I would like to make note that the same crisis you describe also applies to girl-gamers. Now imagine girl-gaymers. What a terrible ordeal that must be.

  6. Denis Farr says:

    @GSG: Dissonance was meant more generally, not in connection with sexuality. Abbott’s latest post about it has me munching it over, especially in terms of verfremdungseffekt and its usability in videogames. Those are the types of conversations I was envisioning. As for queer theory, I’d hope a potential partner of mine could discuss it instead of just heterosexual studies. ;)I am, however, interested in all spheres of sexuality, especially how we portray them. For myself it might not be the default conversation, much as I expect it not to be for heterosexual males with their own partners.Indeed on the female and lesbian gamers front, though I am glad that sites such as Lesbian Gamers (and Gay Gaymers, for that matter) exist as a place to discuss such topics.

  7. As far as mainstream gay culture goes, it seems to me there’s a pretense of “sophistication,” that gay men ought to be obsessed with fashion and food and expensive vacations to exotic locations. Games and gaming are considered unsophisticated, so they’re to be frowned upon. I don’t think straight men have the same pressure to conform to this false idea of sophistication, so there’s more of a tendency to accept their gaming habits.Games being seen as a valid art form along with film, music, etc. is pretty much inevitable. I think they’ll follow the same path as comics, where a few breakout art games will work to change people’s perceptions. Ten years ago the only graphic novel non-comics readers had heard of was Maus. Now there’s Persepolis, Fun Home, and a wide variety of other comics with the same cachet as prose books.

  8. Most of my hesitancy about revealing myself as a gamer relates to the kind of comments you hear “gamers” make on X-box Live or that thread on PalGN. Not specifically comments relating to sexuality, but other forms of ignorance as well.Is homophobia more prevalent in the gaming community than the general population? Or is the general anonymity of the internet the cause?

  9. Denis Farr says:

    @Dylan: It is unfortunate, but that’s also how marketing and advertising toward the gay population is aimed. We’re the vanguards of taste and culture, supposedly. Yawn.Agreed, videogames are inevitably headed on that track, but it’ll be interesting to see how that occurs.@Dhalgren: The anonymity helps. It also provides a microcosm to examine in terms of how prevalent the acceptance of such attitudes is–which I feel to be disheartening.

  10. Eduardo says:

    My partner once said, as we were discussing children, that she wouldn’t allow ours to play video games.She couldn’t understand why I was so upset by this. “What if I told you I wouldn’t allow our kids to watch movies,” I asked her.But when her frame of reference is Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat, games seem like, as Spencer says, overly macho and full of extreme violence, it takes time to show that this simply isn’t the case. There are so many beautiful and creative games that have little or no violence in them.In my little queer community here in Chicago, video games are a point of contention. Some of my friends are very interested in coming over to play, and some have been trying to find ways to get systems of their own, to the condemnation of their partners.But I’m the only one of my friends here who considers themselves a gamer. Other people like games, but wouldn’t call themselves gamers.

  11. Denis Farr says:

    @Eduardo: At that point I might point out to your partner that one can easily have as a frame of reference for film <>Kill Bill, Vol. 1<>, <>The Dark Knight<>, and many other very violent or suggestive films. It’s all in the context.I believe it to be the responsibility of the parent to be familiar with and determine what is right for a child in any medium. The one difference is that we have the level of interactivity with which to deal, but I believe we’re currently in a society that is hyper-violent and we see that everywhere we go.As you suggest, however, all in good time.I’ve made many gaymer friends in Chicago, and we constantly seem quite aware that we are both gamers and queer. We’ve encountered more people with Wiis of late, but as you suggest, many would hesitate to call themselves gamers. Which is a label I don’t necessarily see as helpful (look, Spencer, we agree on semantic issues!), especially since I care more about actually playing the games than labeling one’s self.The only problem becomes that of being able to admit such, and the easiest way for many to do such is by placing a label on the activity and thereby marking that as a branding.

  12. Drew says:

    A little late joining into your discussion, but I wanted to say nonetheless that it makes me happy to hear my thoughts on the subject being put forth so eloquently.I’m an odd case, I feel, as far as guys who date guys and who also happen to play games. (Or is that guys who play games and who happen to date guys?) I’m bi, but have been in a now-three-year relationship with a guy who had never really experience video games one way or the other until he started dating me. It’s been great for me, as I’ve gotten to show him something that brings me a lot of joy and he’s been eager to take it all in. However, he gets some strange reactions when he, in his amazing innocence, explains what I do as a pastime to his friends and they judge it to be unacceptable. So I feel like I’m this awkward anomaly when I really have no reason to be.Sorry if this is off-subject at all, but your post stirred up a lot in me. In reference to your prompt, I have every reason to expect that I’ll still be playing video games in the future, hopefully with my boyfriend and with whatever other members of my extended family happen to accept this as something worthwhile to do. Great blog, by way. Keep it up.

  13. Denis Farr says:

    @Drew: Thank you.It is rather amazing to see how easily we can project. They are just more interested in other things, it can’t possibly be because they have no interest. While I believe that statement to be true to some extent, it takes someone heavily persuasive to overcome the demons of peer pressure.

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