Diversity for All: AbleGamers Interviews the Founder of Gaymer X Matt Conn

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Matt Conn, a young man from San Francisco California began a Kickstarter campaign on August 1, 2012 to host a new kind of video game conference specifically targeting Gaymers—gamers who are from the LGBT community.

AbleGamers backed the campaign and supported it via social media strongly believing in need for more diversity in gaming. 30 days later, the campaign ended with a grand total of $91,388, which was almost 4 times the amount needed to run the initial vision of the campaign ($25K).

Steve Spohn sat down with the leader of GaymerCon (now called Gaymer X) to talk about leveling the playing field and the video game sphere, the similarities between the minority communities and our shared hopes for the future.

Steve Spohn: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where you came from and who you are outside of Gaymer X.

Matt Conn: My name is Matt Conn - I'm a former startup veteran (whatever that means) who left his position in the tech world to focus on fighting for LGBTQ (but really, equal rights for all) rights in gaming. I'm 25, live in San Francisco, and spend most of my time learning and studying technology and its long term effects and how we can best use it to further the cause of equality.

SS: Where did the idea for Gaymer X arise from and what made you decide it was the right time?

MC: The convention originated from the group that I started in SF with some close friends of mine: SF Gaymers. It started out as a whim, just to see if I could find a few more people who, like me, wanted to be able to share their geekdom and queerness at the same time without worry of being ostracized. The group grew far far faster than we expected, with purely word of mouth driving in new members. When I saw how many people were joining, and heard their stories of how much of a positive impact it was having on their lives to be so open about their geekery, I thought that there might be a larger audience then just in SF. Little did I know just how big the need for this convention was.

SS: We often talk about how video games level the playing field when it comes to life and equality. Are developers doing enough to blur the lines of separation between different groups in video games?

MC: I'm not sure if I can't exactly say what it is I'd like to see except that I would like to see more female, minority, disabled, LGBTQ, and game developers of all shapes and sizes involved in the process of making these games. I'm a gay white male - I can't speak for the needs of every community and I think that developers can't take a "token" approach by just hiring one gay or disabled team member and then expect to see diversity shine in their games. They need to make diversity a part of their hiring and development process from top to bottom.

gaymer-x-13-fbSS: Would you agree that the disabled community and the LGBT community have similar challenges in the video game community and beyond?

MC: I would say that the issues that the LGBT and disabled community face are similar in some regards, but different in others. I think that the amount of hate speech, the amount of calling people "faggots" or "retarded" or any of the vile speech that emanates from these online experiences needs to be culled and we strongly believe that we can elevate the experience for everyone if we can take steps to end bigotry across the board. We're big fans of Gamers Against Bigotry and really any organization, like AbleGamers, who are fighting for these causes. I do believe that the LGBT issues and disabled issues don't cross paths on every level, as the fights go beyond just the games, and we each individually have our own minor and major battles that we have to fight. It would be an injustice to say that the LGBT community can truly understand what the disabled community has to endure, and in some ways, the same could be said in return - they are two items that are both widely misunderstood and at times vilified, but in different ways.

SS: Would you say that we’re doing well as a nation striving for equal rights? Not just for same-sex rights, but disability, religious and minority rights.

MC: I would say that we have a very long way to go, but at the same time, have been making some pretty big strides over the last 20 years. I think if you were to go back in time to 1993 and compare how society viewed minorities, those with disabilities, trans individuals, even just "gays" as compared to where they are now - I think its been a drastic improvement. Although I'm not well versed enough in the specific changes and movements that have happened, I know that, especially with the advent of the internet, so called "Fringe" groups now can find a huge community to talk and grow with. So - I don't know if as a nation we've been doing enough to continue to fight for equal rights, but I think that the internet has helped groups band together and fight together in ways that have been truly meaningful.

SS: Any final thoughts or message you would like to give to the AbleGamers community?

MC: The amount of strength that I see coming from the disability community is outstanding and inspiring - and, much like the LGBT movement, I see it getting stronger and more powerful, and louder every day. I think that the internet has helped level the playing field and helped to keep the bullies that have fought so hard and so long to keep us down at bay, and each day we each grow stronger, louder, and more confident in our abilities to fight for what is rightfully ours: a equal playing field in gaming because -everyone- games.

Thanks to Matt for sitting down with us and chatting about some hot topics. Gaymer X 2013 will be held Aug 3-4, 2013 in the festive Japantown district of San Francisco, California. For tickets, location and hotel information, and more general information on the event please visit http://gaymerconnect.com/

About the Author
Steve Spohn
Author: Steve Spohn
Steve Spohn is the Editor-in-Chief of AbleGamers & Outreach Chair for the Foundation. He is an expert in gaming with disabilities and assistive technologies and can be seen on MSNBC, CNN, G4 and more.

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