Every person has a right to belong and feel welcome.
Belonging is an important, difficult concept. Sometimes it means being a part of something. Sometimes it means loving something. Sometimes it means creating something.
Often, in my experience, it means creating something.
As a queer gamer and game developer, for many years I was happy to simply exist in various spaces online. Through different modding communities I met people who were like me, who spoke my language, who accepted who I was and helped me learn to celebrate it. I went on to help curate and grow some of those communities, and even met some of my online friends in real life. Some of them I’m still close with today, despite living in opposite parts of the world.
Being a part of these communities gave me a sense of belonging. There were people I loved, people who liked the same things I did, who laughed at the same things I did. And this was great! For a long time, that was all I needed. I belonged.
As I started to grow up, learn who I was and understand on a deeper level just how different I was to the majority of people, that sense of belonging faded. I still loved those communities, but what was once all I needed suddenly left me parched.
I became more involved in the local game development community when I moved to Melbourne in late 2012, early 2013. They were wonderful. I had found my people, the people I wanted to work with, spend my time with, share my passion with, but few of them were like me. I belonged, again, but something was missing. I began to realise just how underrepresented I was in the media I consumed and was helping to create.
I started to realise just how underrepresented some of my friends were. My trans friends, my non-caucasian friends, my disabled friends, and even my women friends. Women, who make up 50% of the population, were horribly underrepresented in videogames – and when they were represented, a lot of the time it was awful.
Was this something I wanted to belong to? As my horizons expanded and I learned more about diversity, how privileged I was, and just how little understanding there was about diversity in the broader tech community, I realised that I could help change that. I had a voice, I knew a bunch of people, and some people even listened to me. I could use that voice to try to help other people come to their own realisations, and more importantly, as a way to draw attention to the voices of others who might not have been as loud.
I resolved to start creating my own spaces, to help others create theirs, and take more agency in the communities I involved myself in. I work hard to help make Australia’s game development community more diverse, and do what I can to support diverse people in our community. I try to listen and understand, and actively empower other people to speak up and do what they want to. I’m not always great at it, but I try, and I hope it helps.
This year I am so proud to have helped bring into being the Representation Award at the Australian Game Developers’ Awards, which will be announced later this month. I’ve had the opportunity to be Event Manager for Game Connect Asia Pacific, Australia’s largest game development conference, and help ensure it’s as diverse and welcoming as possible.
Next year, 2016, I’m working with Joshua Meadows of Sydney Gaymers to bring GaymerX to Australia, with GX Australia. It will be happening in Sydney, February 27-28th at Australia Technology Park. We are hugely excited and terrified, and we are launching our Kickstarter during Melbourne International Games Week – next week. I hope you can contribute and come along!
Diversity is a way of looking at the world and realising you aren’t alone, and that nobody should be alone, and everyone – everyone – should belong. Realising that you can help create spaces for people to belong, and influence the spaces you already exist in is incredibly powerful.
Everyone has a right to belong. Whether gamer, game developer, casual, hardcore, gay, bisexual, asexual, straight, trans, non-binary, disabled, black, latino, Indigenous Australian… Let’s help them feel welcome.
Image credit: GX Australia