QGCON: LGBTQ+ Community Gathers in Montreal to Reclaim Queer Narratives in Gaming

By Valente Villamil, DaBR Content Coordinator

Although in the last years game developers have been exploring different social topics through their work, the gaming industry has still a lot to do to deliver quality narratives that take into consideration the LGBTQ+ community and for that a group of scholars, developers, industry representants, and gamers gathered during the last days of September in Montreal, to host the Queerness and Games Conference, best known as QGCON.

The two days of conferences served as a showcase of experiences where developers got the opportunity to exchange ideas and worries on how to deliver good games with solid and real histories that avoid stereotypes and the prejudiced portrayal of queer people that are shown daily on media and social networks.

However, for avid gamers like me who never really questioned the inclusion of minorities (my bad) such as the LGBTQ+ community, QGCON was a perfect place to learn and face the reality which a lot of gamers encounter every time they play a video game in which they feel extremely misrepresented by a character or a dialogue.

To be honest, it was not that difficult to start understanding why it is really important to have such forums. I just had to have a chat with Brianna Dym, an Information Science Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado Boulder who participated as a speaker during the QGCON, and asked her what she feels when she plays a game in which a gay character is well represented and she identifies with.

The answer could be pretty much the same one that I would provide if any person asked me the same.

“When I see myself represented in video games I get very happy because it’s just fun, it is so fun”, said Dym to me.

During the conference, I even felt identified with some of the stories and cases analyzed. Being Mexican nowadays has a lot of cons when going/living abroad as the word Mexico immediately connects people with drugs, violence, death, insecurity, and theft. I’ve been told ‘funny’ jokes that include almost all those words in the same phrase by good people that just want to be funny and mingle.

And if you look into the small number of video games in which Mexico or even Latin America are mentioned or part of the narrative, well, those words are most probably part of the story you just have to add sombrero, guacamole, and anything related.

But not everything is bad regarding LGBTQ+ narratives in video games - during the QGCON I was also able to have a close look to the real interest and worries of developers, who desire to deliver solid products that manage to represent the gay reality.

I also got to see a sense of self-critique and reflection inside the LGBTQ+ community towards the way the members of the community react and demand queer narratives.

“You are never going to make everyone happy”, said Dym to me when we were talking about the several cases in which game developers have been slammed for delivering queer narratives that at some point failed to represent the LGBTQ+ community.

Although touching queer narratives in games can be complex, I also learnt that the industry can start with small simple steps that, at the same time, can make huge differences for users.

“If in ‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’ while you are talking to the transgender character Krem he discloses he is transgender, I doubt it would have taken much extra labour to include a statement where the character could say ‘Hey I’m transgender too’ and you could choose that option or not, but by choosing it, you could then establish something about your character that you didn't need to establish elsewhere in the game and you could take it or leave it”, said Dym.

However, the industry still has big steps to take. It is very important that the triple-A studios such as EA, Ubisoft, and Konami, hire more and more LGBTQ+ employees in order to deliver games in which queer employees participate. And it is also crucial the major studios engage in more forums and discussions such as QGCON in order to promote more and more spaces to have an open dialogue on how to board queer narratives.

I personally believe that having this type of forum is a great way to learn and develop good games and narratives, however, it is important to have one thing in mind, tattooed like a mantra inside all our heads whether we are gamers, developers, publishers, queer or not: empathy.  

The only thing it takes to start real inclusivity is to wear other peoples’ shoes and walk the streets how they walk it.

Does gaming represent you? Share your story with us here.