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Interview: Matt Conn

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GaymerCon: Whether a rainbow-tinted beacon of merriment, or simply a novel idea, it has been making its presence known as of late. As has become increasingly common, the forthcoming convention began on Kickstarter: proposing a GLBT-centric gathering to be held in San Fransisco. The pitch video, hosted by GaymerCon founder Matt Conn, had a sort of charm that those such as myself found - well, rather charming. Having well exceeding its funding goal, said proposal has made its way onto mainstream video game news sites. Stories have been written, praise and criticism heaped, and comments sections have once again proven themselves to be the very bane of civilization.

Yet one's mind ponders the origin of this individual - one of many enigmas inhabiting the digital realm - this "Matt Conn."

Find out more after the jump!

As it turns out, said enigma manifested in a most unspectacular way: emerging not out of the mist like some binary apparition, but in the form of a phone call. While he drank fancy soy chai tea latte, and yours truly chain-smoked his way to the very summit of video game journalism, we shared a rather lively exchange about his history, how video games shaped our younger selves, and of course, GaymerCon.

Like many of us, Conn's affair with gaming started at an early age. "When I was a kid, that was what defined me," he said, noting that while latter years have seen his gaming somewhat curbed, he still loves "the culture, and the people that inhabit it." As tends to happen with enthusiasts, Conn and I got into a discussion about video games as "art," the validity thereof, and whether public perception could shift - one of the more common arguments coming from Roger Ebert, whose definition of art as "non-interactive" inherently excludes games - in favor of a more liberal interpretation of art that could include video games. In Conn's opinion, "it's hard for [people] to take the blinders off" regarding the more classic view, and it will takes some time to "start getting these dialogues about gaming [as an art]." Yours truly thrives on the interactive nature of games - my love of Shadow of the Colossus being encoded into my DNA and all - and Conn reminiscence about the impact of video game storytelling on his own life. "Experiencing Earthound for the first time [...] I don't thing I've ever felt something that," he said.

An exuberant, epicuristic young lad with a penchant for cutting loose - his way of "learning how to enjoy life" - Conn nonetheless harbored professional ambitions. Eventually, he met J who, sensing youthful enthusiasm, decided to give Conn a shot at business. He became a founding member of Bandpage, a Facebook application for creating and managing musicians' pages: allowing them to promote their craft, keep fans informed on tours, upload media, and the like. Launched in March 2010, BandPage has proven to be quite successful, having raised over $19M in funding last year and found the company (then known as RootMusic) listed as one of Billboard's "Top 10 Best Digital Music Startups."

Still, being a gay youth and video game enthusiast meant a sort of balancing act between his respective lives. According to Conn, despite the vibrant gay scene of San Fransisco, he noted a lack of openly-gay geeks, inspiring him to create SF Gaymers. "I just wanted to hang with out really cool, gay nerds," he said. Seeing the success of the group - and the loveliness therein - Conn decided he wanted to see something like SF Gaymers done on a larger scale, eventually leading to the idea for GaymerCon.

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The convention has has not been without its critics, however; particularly members of the GLBT community who believe that such a gathering encourages exclusivity, and would rather work toward greater acceptance (as well as representation) in the mainstream. While Conn doesn't fully agree with the sentiment, he doesn't dismiss it whole cloth. " That's the most relevant argument against GaymerCon that we hear, but we're not interested in creating a segregated base," he said. "It's just an extra thing that you can do [...] 363 days out of the year, you're still part of the mainstream; this is just our two days." Aside from being a celebration of GLBT geek culture, the convention is meant to "create a safe space for gay, lesbian, trans & allied gamers." Conn admits that with greater acceptance of GLBT folk, this appeal could die down - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. "In all honesty, GaymerCon shouldn't be necessary," he said. "I'd be more than happy to see a day when people say 'GaymerCon is no longer needed.'" Meanwhile, Conn & Co. will be looking at things one year at a time, and whether the convention withers or flourishes remains to be seen.

Still, there is a specter that haunts GaymerCon. While successful projects (such as Wasteland 2) generate a fair amount of press until the Kickstarter's end, said press inevitably fades thereafter. Since the convention is being slated for "August 3 & 4, 2013," there will be a great deal of dead time between the buzz generated thus far, and the beginning of the convention. To keep enthusiasm going, Conn & Co. are looking at ways to keep the community involved. In our interview, Conn mentioned Google+ hangouts, as well as the possibility of "Let's Play" videos. Since then, said hangouts have indeed manifested, in the form of "GaymerCon Play," the purpose of which is to get gamers acquainted with the team in a more personal capacity - including salty talk and "risque" language. As mentioned in the "Opening Ceremonies" video, Conn & Co. also plan to use this as a way of distributing the aforementioned "Let's Play" videos, including those created by members of the community.


So if you're interested in following the fun and frolic that is GaymerCon, be sure to check out their Facebook and Google+ accounts. For those who still wish to donate to the Kickstater, it will be active until Friday, August 31st. The date for the festivities is August 3-4, 2013; more information can be found at the official GaymerCon website!

12 Comments

Silver Phoenix said:

Fuck San Francisco. We need it on the East Coast.

Keith said:

I've met this guy before. I was not impressed. I would advise caution to anyone considering donating/investing in anything he's involved with.

Mikey said:

Oh, yeah, right...like they need ANOTHER gaming convention in California. Ugh. Where is the East Coast love? I'll definitely not be donating to this.

Now, if someone was going to do it in DC or even New York, I'd be all for that!

Gaymercon is so circled on my g+. Why would I, as a straight gamer, want to go? Because I would love to go to a video game convention where diversity is expected, not ridiculed. I love me some Grand Theft Auto, but I also love Kinectimals, Pinball Arcade, and Bonsai Barber. I'd like to go somewhere where people don't assume that I'm lame because I don't play Call of Duty, WoW or Splinter Cell.

I wonder if they'd let me run a Style Savvy panel... man, I'd love to.

By the way, Keith, can you be more specific in your reasons for distrusting Matt Conn, or are you just trolling? Or were you referring to Super Swede? He is a mite shifty...

Charlie said:

Really looking forward to it.

benwa said:

Man I would love something in Texas like this. It would be so easy to work into SXSW media festival or any other time. And yes it would be great to go somewhere gaymer oriented and not feel like your COD or WOW skills are the only thing anyone cares about. Maybe another Kickstarter project on the rise???

Nexus said:

Would the booth-babes be male? :)

Keith said:

The reasoning behind my distrust of Matt Conn comes from my experience of meeting him through a mutual acquaintance. He was an inconsiderate, shifty little weasel. He's also a thief.

In fairness to Matt, this was some 4+ years ago. I can only hope he's done a lot of maturing in the meantime. Having read this interview and watched the video it links to, I wouldn't count on it.

As a personal experience for which I may offer no proof, please take my anecdote for whatever it is worth.

Dang, Keith! said:

Keith, can you be more specific? So far all you've really done is call him names with nothing to back up your accusations. Makes you look a lot worse than him!

Keith said:

Take my word for whatever it's worth to you. If that is not at all, so be it. In the short time I spent around Conn, the impression he left me with was that of a rude, selfish, immature individual. This was in the context of a mall visit with a mutual acquaintance. After leaving the mall, he revealed that he had shoplifted from one of the stores we had visited. I feel nothing but disgust and revulsion towards this individual. To be honest, I had hoped never to see or hear from Conn again, and when I saw this post I was conflicted but ultimately I felt impelled to share the benefit of my experience with anyone considering involving themselves with him or the project he is a part of. Kickstarter being so ripe for fraud, and with this unsavory individual being involved, I can only advise caution.

Wootini Author Profile Page said:

To be fair, he's not the only one associated with Gaymercon.

g_whiz said:

This is incredibly cool. A con dedicated to the particular experience of being a gay gamer is not only needed, but its a pretty huge step for diversity in the game industry. I hope they manage to get a good turn out as far as pannelists go.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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