On Being a Gay Gamer

Written by on May 1, 2013 in [, , , , , , ]

It seems we’re talking about gays a whole bunch again because of this whole Prop 8 and DOMA Supreme Court business and Jason Collins. It feels like something I should write a bit about. I’ve been partnered with the best man in the world for nine years now, and been an idiot on the internet for something like twenty. For the majority of that time period I’ve been openly gay. I think what I want to do here is share some of what I’ve seen.

Some of what I've seen is Cho-Aniki. I don't know either, you guys.

Some of what I’ve seen is Cho-Aniki. I don’t know either, you guys.

My first big multi-player experiences with other folks were Counter-Strike and Myth. In Counter-Strike I was less…subtle about who I was. As one might tell for my handle; “The Buttsex Ranger.” In Myth I was a bit more of an adult, but it honestly wasn’t much of an issue in either game, which is surprising for most people to hear. People who were jerks in Counter-Strike weren’t more or less jerky, though there’d always be the guy trying to justify his use of “that’s gay.” We were all children of the same internet at the time, and such a small and ostracized community that one more difference really wasn’t that big a thing. Also typing is hard when you’re a rage-filled bigot, I guess? It wasn’t until World of Warcraft that specific stuff about homosexuality really felt like an issue.

WoW was the first actual guild experience I had in a game that involved people I knew off and online, and as such it involved a number of people who were both immediately familiar with and potentially uncomfortable with my sexual orientation. Timewise, this was shortly after I’d finished a student teaching stint at a Kansas school that was protested by members of the Westboro group. It made me feel bad. Not because of the hate-mongering going on outside the school, but because my hundred and thirty students had to deal with the same vague discomfort. I’d see the same confusion on their faces as they tried to make sense of which adult was okay, and it just kind of made me sad.

It was around this time that I made a statement about being gay on the guild’s forums (we had forums, our WoW guild) The guy running the guild made an immediate statement about how discrimination wouldn’t be tolerated and how awesome I was. It was cool, but also kind of gross. There was the instant expectation that this was going to become an issue. And it was. My block list grew fairly substantially. I had occasional players run around to bug me. I still didn’t think of it as much of an issue at the time. Other players had to deal with the same thing without being gay.

Xbox Live was really where the idiocy of the internet reared its head. I’m not going to relate the slurs, death threats, or other nonsense I’d get on a semi-regular basis, but this video from another player who dared to “reveal” his sexual orientation in Halo 3 should provide some context:

I wouldn’t get that level of nonsense, but I also made a specific effort to avoid playing with people I didn’t know. The RobotPanic and Married Gamers crews became my gaming buddies, and I wouldn’t touch multiplayer that didn’t involve these groups. The times I did (or listened to the group chat before a match of Left 4 Dead started) it was pretty much everything you’d expect. It was somewhere around this time that an acquaintance at Kansas State University was beaten to the point of hospitalization by an anonymous group of more than half a dozen men. For being gay. It became one more thing to worry about, online and off. I’m not sure how you can express that anxiety to someone else. It’s one of the greatest (and saddest) benefits of the closet, to not be afraid of who might want to beat your head in for who you are.

I’m not talking about this to condemn people on the internet (well, not all of them), or point out my “struggle” with video games as a gay man. To be honest, I haven’t had much of it; most of the communities I know of are quite happy to ban people who can’t seem to be polite, and I appreciate that. I do want you to consider these ideas for a bit, because this is why the current SCOTUS debates are important. Every time I log onto Twitter, Steam, Xbox Live, or whatever else I go in with the idea that someone will, for no other reason, completely lose their shit because I prefer the company of men. Or, unless I mention that I’m gay and the language isn’t ok, consistently use my specific minority as a pejorative.

If it were just that? I’d be cool with it. The problem is I hear these sentiments coming from way too many people who are at an age that they should know better. The F-word coming from a thirteen year old kid is dumb, but ignorable. We’re all idiots as teenagers. It happens. However, the same remark coming from a twenty-year old? Or used as the guild tag for a couple hundred Starcraft players? That’s a larger problem. That makes this issue pervasive. That leads to things like World of Warcraft banning recruitment for GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered) friendly communities to simply avoid the potential for harassment. I find it deeply unfortunate that a part of my life is related to harassment bait or simply white-washed away. My hope is that we could move away from that. Maybe it’s a silly hope. But it seems to be shared by more than a few people. Twelve year olds with anonymity may always be terrible (because we all were, seriously), but generally being a belligerent, homophobic ass on the internet seems to be less ok now. So that hope maintains.

That’s how it works, right?

I would really like to have a marriage in more than name with Erik. Not paying an extra thousand or so in taxes a year or renewing HIPA releases and power of attorneys would be nice, too (gay couples need those things so we can visit each other in the hospital in case of emergency). I’d also very much like to not log on to the internet and wonder if I’m going to receive a death threat or be mocked because I’m a gay man. But I can be content knowing that this is changing, and for the better. The court debates and the almost unending positivity on my networks online demonstrates that.


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Author: Zach Snell View all posts by
Hi there. If you're reading this you've probably read some material of mine. If you want more go here and read my stories about a guy who punches wizards. http://www.amazon.com/Zachary-Snell/e/B008G0MORI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

One Comment on "On Being a Gay Gamer"

  1. Samantha Olvera May 2, 2013 at 7:02 am -