The shuffling of feet. Lines crisscrossing the hotel floor. Eyes made at a stranger.Wait…did I just check out…Link? My 3DS is full of StreetPasses for the third or fourth time today. I’m tired, exhausted even. I’ve been walking around all day and my feet hurt, but I can’t stop. I also can’t wipe the big, stupid grin off of my face. Why? It’s simple. I’m surrounded by people who share a passion with me, a passion I know without even having to ask. The greatest thing is that they are all smiling too.
This is GaymerX.
Located in the Kabuki Hotel in Japantown, San Francisco, GaymerX took place for the very first time last weekend. Two days of panel-going, gaming, and meeting lots of new gamers (and finding out some old friends are gamers, too!). This was my first real convention, and it was certainly something to behold. The convention areas were packed with people, all shopping at vendors, checking out artwork, and trying desperately to get Pandora Boxx and Ellen McLaine’s autographs, just like me.
Of course, as the name says, GaymerX is a convention for LGBTQ gamers, and there were plenty. The number I heard was that there were just under 1,900 registrants. If my 3DS isn’t lying to me (and there’s no reason for it to start now), there were visitors from as far as the UK and Australia. Representatives from game companies like Riot Games and Bioware were there to hold panels about their games and what they mean to queer gamers. It was a chance for queer gamers not just to feel accepted in an environment surrounded by their peers, but it was chance for us to shine. The feeling of barely-contained excitement was palpable. Certainly my favorite memory of the convention was how kind and happy everyone there was. Volunteers, staff, security, attendees, you could feel from everyone that they were just happy to be there, that there was finally something for them. There was an energy in the convention, a spark of sorts. Not a sexual energy that you feel in a club, it’s just…a positive energy. I felt the same thing at San Francisco’s Pride earlier this summer. Everyone is exuberant, happy not just to be there but to see everyone else there too.
It kind of sounds strange to say this now. At the time, I was admittedly a little less than enthused. I glanced at the schedule of events and thought, “Well, at least there are game rooms.” In fact, I ended up only going to two different panels out of the thirty-five or so available, not including times set aside for autographs and such. The first panel I attended was “Improving Player Behavior in League of Legends,” which I went to because my friends were going and it is an interesting topic to me, even if I don’t play LoL. The second panel was GayGamer.net’s, and that was a panel I was genuinely interested in. The rest of the schedule simply did not grab me. Nothing said to me, “You must go to this panel!” So, I didn’t. I decided to game instead.
Which caused me to run into another problem: the spaces set aside for gaming were tiny. There was a somewhat large room for video games, but the board game and card game rooms were both quite small, with only enough space for a handful of tables total. This also caused some awkward situations to arise, like when the Pathfinder group came in and had to boot out the board gamers for a 4-hour scheduled session. So, for a large chunk of time on Saturday, there was simply no specified place to go if you wanted to play some board games. In fact, everything was a bit cramped, especially when you had to dodge throngs of people standing in line to get into a panel. The Kabuki is a great venue and in a prime location for the convention (well, of course you’re going to have a gaming convention next to Japantown), but I think GaymerX needs to be in an actual convention center.
Speaking of board games, I was really touched by the presence of some board game companies at GaymerX. Greater Than Games, makers of Sentinels of the Multiverse and the recently Kickstarter’d Galactic Strike Force were there, playing demo games and selling copies of the former product. I got the chance to talk to them for a bit (after buying my own copy of Sentinels, of course), and they were extremely friendly and happy to answer any questions. This wasn’t a PR team, either, these were the three guys who actually made the game. Every time I passed their table, it was full of gaymers playing and having fun. Looney Labs, makers of Fluxx, were there as well, but I didn’t have the chance to talk with them much. It would be fantastic to have more companies represented next year.
The feeling I got from talking to some people is that the convention was wonderful, fantastic, what have you, but it needs to be bigger. Which is a good problem to have! That means next year you can plan bigger without fear that the convention will outgrow its audience. Plus, there’s still an audience growing out there! A lot of people elsewhere in SF didn’t know about the con at all and were definitely excited to attend next year. See, that’s the thing. This article might seem up and down, and that’s how I felt during GaymerX. There are so many panels! But I don’t really want to go to any. So many people to game with! But there’s no room to do that. However, despite these criticisms, am I already counting down the days until next year’s GaymerX? A bigger, more organized, simply better GaymerX? A GaymerX that has learned from experience and ready to put what it has learned into practice? You better believe it.