Aug. 8, 2012 at 3:09 PM ET
Ask any gamer — straight or gay — and they'll tell you that some corners of the gaming world can be very dark and ugly indeed.
It's not uncommon for women, homosexual and minority gamers to find themselves assaulted with epithets during online gaming sessions or chased from the games they love by threatening, abusive and bigoted players.
But many gamers are fed up with the ugliness — and they're fighting back. Over at the website Fat, Ugly or Slutty, they make the abusive behavior public, hoping a dose of humiliation and a sense of humor will help stem the tide. And last month, a gamer launched the Gamers Against Bigotry website aimed at halting the hate (only to have it hacked and defaced by bigots).
Now a group of gay gamers is starting "the first gaming and tech convention with a focus on LGBT geek culture." The convention, scheduled to take place in San Francisco next August, will be called GaymerCon. And last week the organizers started a fundraising campaign via Kickstarter to get the convention up and running. Within four days, they had passed their $25,000 goal. As of this writing, they've raised more than $37,000 from 737 backers.
GaymerCon organizers say they want to provide a safe space for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender gamers to foster community — and to show the world that while "the perception that gamers are usually straight white guys in dark rooms furiously mashing at a controller, that’s not the reality. Gamers come in all sizes, genders, races and sexual identities."
"It's actually a really big community that people don'trealize is there," Jack DeVries, GaymerCon Operations Director and one of the three-person team organizing the event, told me during an interview. "We want to show the world that we are here. Wewant people to be able to open up and be themselves and have that be OK."
DeVries believes gay youth in particular have especially been drawn to video gaming.
"There's a very large community of gamers out there who are gay who gotinto video games because games are where they can go to get away from stuff," he explained.
Still, even he's been astounded by the reaction to the GaymerCon Kickstarter campaign. He knew they would reach their goal, but he never thought it would only take four days. (This is just how happy and thankful he is about reaching that goal).
"It's really brought home thatthis is something we need to be doing," DeVries told me. "There are people who really, really wantthis."
Meanwhile, the convention has received support from game industry stars such as Ellen McLain, the actress who provides the voice for the malevolent AI GLaDOS in the Portal games, and John Patrick Lowrie, the voice actor behind The Assassin in "Team Fortress 2's." Both have created video pitches for GaymerCon. (You can watch them here and here.)
"We all want to have our stories told," McLain says in her video. "We are people, we are humans, we live, we love. And if we love games, games should be created for us too."
But GaymerCon hasn't been without its detractors. As VentureBeat reported, some in the gaming community think an LGBT-specific gaming convention is unnecessarily separating the gaming community.
"Why do gay people need their own gaming convention?? Are normal gaming conventions not good enough? ... Do we need hetero and polygamy gamecons now? How bout for swingers? ... My point is why do we need extra specialized gaming conventions for a particular subgroup," wrote commenter DHX on a story about GaymerCon at gaming site Kotaku.
But DeVries says GaymerCon is not about putting up walls, "it's about tearing them down." In fact, everyone is invited to GaymerCon — gay or straight.
As the Kickstarter pitch says, "We want all genders, races, and sexual identities including our straight friends and allies to come together and have a gay, geeky good time."
GaymerCon donator Anders Goodwin summed it up well: "I hope to see the day where something like this doesn't exist," he wrote on the Kickstarter site. "That is, I hope the day comes where everybody is accepted as a gamer regardless of their sexual orientation (or any other classification for that matter) and there's no need for an event aimed at/designed for any given group to exist. But we're not there yet, and this is an awesome attempt at something vitally needed."
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.