Saturday, March 2, 2024
EventsSocial Gayming

Social Gayming: NYC Gaymers – Pride Special

World Pride is taking place throughout the whole of June in New York City, culminating in a huge Pride celebration this coming weekend around Manhattan. Joining in with the Pride action was NYC Gaymers who organised a special Gaming With Pride event this past weekend (June 21st).

NYC Gaymers partnered with Samsung 837 to celebrate gaming, pride and the intersection of our culture in Samsung’s amazing space in Manhattan.

Guests got to network, mingle, and listen to influential members of the gaming and LGBTQIA+ community including drag performers, Twitch streamers, and community activists. People could play and compete with one another throughout the night on select Samsung gaming devices including the Odyssey Z, Galaxy S10+, and Tab S4.

To find out more about their Pride event and to learn more about NYC Gaymers in general, I chatted with James Nieves.

Robin: Hi James! Thanks for joining me, how was your recent Pride event? It looked amazing!

James: It really was something special! I honestly had no idea what to expect. Samsung 837 reached out to us sometime ago with interest in highlighting NYC Gaymers as part of their World Pride events. I was very surprised at how they listened to our concerns and address some of our needs and requests so quickly. I coordinated with them on guests, catering, entertainment and programming.

We had appearances by four drag performers, two of which were AFAB – assigned female at birth. We also had a showcase of queer-developed games by NYU Game Center students which had visibility of identities across the spectrum. Landon Podblieski, a friend and aspiring ally, saw his creation Duck Game played on a three-story array of TVs.

With the help of with GaymerX, we surprised Destination Tomorrow with a gift of a Nintendo Switch for their queer youth game night. And to my own surprise, the group turn the tables on me to acknowledge me with a very thoughtful gift. I really didn’t expect it. Was very humbled by it.

Samsung 837 originally expected us to bring in 30-40 people. I was determined to show them how awesome and great our community was so we did our best to pack the house. The result was 432 RSVPs to the event. It shocked us both. 

Tell me more about NYC Gaymers.

NYC Gaymers started as a Facebook group in 2012. It was initiated by GaymerX as a way to get local communities connected and learn more about their old platform, Gaymer Connect, a forum that was a hub for queer gamers looking to, well… connect. It was also a way to raise awareness for their convention. Control of the group went back to the community once they had their plate full with the expo and the founding of MidBoss. 

We also started running the Gaymer Lounge for Flame Con, coincidently enough, because of GaymerX. When they were tapped by Geeks Out to organize the space for the first Flame Con, they enlisted our help to table and run activities for the room.

Now it’s something we do on our own and it’s been a labor of love and passion. Unlike gaming rooms at other cons, our lounge is full of queer-oriented programming. If you enter our space you might find a drag performer moderating a game of Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow or folks delivering “extra” shade in a game of “The Ultimate Clapback.”

We try to find games that showcase intersectionality, queer themes and other cultures reflective of our city to create representative, fun and inclusive experiences. We’ve also been very inspired by the efforts of amazing metro “gaymer” groups, like Toronto Gaymers and Seattle Gaymers.

Photo by Patrick Sison
How long have you been involved with the group? 

I came to the group in 2014. It was a couple months after GaymerX 2 and I felt a longing for the same affirmation and sense of community I experienced there. A friend connected me to Shane Cherry who ran some events at bars in the city and was an admin for NYC Gaymers.

What’s the group’s main aims?

In 2015, Shane and I started a tabletop event at a bar in Hell’s Kitchen. It was a narrow space with a cramped back area and just 3 tables. We still managed to bring in 30 people regularly but the bar staff complained when two of our non-alcohol drinking patrons would only order water and they decided to end our event. That experience made me realize bars, even queer ones, are exploitive and not the best or safest place for us to meet. They are also very centered on the monoculture of one identity and lend themselves to problematic behavior. This created a need to diversify our spaces so that folks didn’t feel pressured to drink and felt safe as they gamed. 

We also had to do better about visibility and inclusion. The group fundamentally lacked representation of anyone one who was not cis gay-identified. I reached out to other folks of intersecting identities to join as leaders for the group and it was the best thing we could have done.

Our discussions are better moderated and we have more engagement with those who aren’t just cis and gay. Our internal conversations evolved our understanding of harmful and toxic behavior, and allowed us to be better supporters of women, survivors of trauma, TGNC and folks in the aromantic/asexual spectrum, who are often overlooked in our spaces. 

Inclusion is our primary goal. I look back to how awful I personally felt when I didn’t have a group to belong to or was made to feel bad or excluded for being different. That is something we as queer folks need to be sensitive and empathetic to because we experience that marginalization on a daily basis. Things don’t correct themselves on their own. It takes actionable leadership and aspiring allies to create the change you want seen. 

How often does the group meet and what sort of events do you do?

NYC Gaymers is trying to get better about doing routine events and we have had several requests from event partners to collaborate. We’d like to find the rhythm of doing a monthly console gaming event with the help of VideoGamesNewYork and a monthly tabletop event.

Apart from that Shane Cherry, one of the original admins, hosts two events a week. A gaming and tabletop event at Rockbar in the West Village on Saturdays from 3pm-8pm and a console game night at Boxers in Hell’s Kitchen Thursdays from 9pm-Midnight. While not NYC Gaymers branded events Shane has been doing these events longer than the group has existed and is, in part the reason this community in New York City exists.

We also have plans to do panel discussions so be on the lookout for those announcements.

What’s been your proudest memory from your time involved?

Hearing from someone at a convention tell me personally how much they appreciated our intentions on visibility and advocacy for their inclusion. The first “I Game NY” pin we gave out for a donation at PAX East was an ace flag. It’s a much different group than it when it started. We had to fight against a sense of entitlement by some who felt our efforts to include others was tokenizing. Which I believe to be a feckless, reductive and exclusionary. You enable and perpetuate toxicity if you don’t have proximity to the folks who would be effected by it. Gaming can and should be a social and learning experience. You can improve your humanity as well as your gaming skills by diversifying the folks you play with.

What are your hopes for the future of NYC Gaymers? 

We’re on a path to become a 501(c)3 non-profit. It’s my strongest desire for the group to grow where we can actually have our own center/physical space to game, host panels and events, offer youth programs, coding classes, scholarships and awards for local game developers. It’s a tall list, I know, but for now I’ll settle on just getting enough bodies and funding to survive a PAX weekend at the “Diversity Lounge.”

What would you say to someone who’s thinking of joining? 

Don’t think of the “y” in our group to mean we are only a group of gay male gamers. We’re not. I’m gender apathetic, gray-asexual and panromantic. It may not be “gay,” but it is certainly queer. We have other admins that are women, trans/non-binary, bi, pansexual, polysexual and polyamorous.

Our admin Robert Tony Lopez, brilliantly stated, the “y” in NYC Gaymers means “you belong.” I loved it so much I made this cool animated graphic (below) which looped at our pride event. It encapsulates perfectly our feelings and intentions for your place among us.

What’s coming up next for NYC Gaymers?

NYCG-led events and more presence at conventions. We have plans to do more things with VideoGamesNewYork and we want to table at more conventions. We’ll be running the Gaymer Lounge at Flame Con again but we’re also looking into participating in spaces we’re not traditionally seen, like Folsom Street East or esports events like Defend the North.

How do people find out more about NYC Gaymers?

We have a websiteFacebook Page, Instagram, Twitter and Discord

The most active platform for us is our Facebook group. We ask anyone thinking of joining, to review our community guidelines first. We’re very intentional about facilitating inclusive conversation spaces. 

NYC Gaymers Gaming With Pride event album:

Robin Gray

[He/Him] Robin is the Founder of Gayming Magazine. He's on a mission to fly the LGBTQ flag proudly over the video games world and drive forward authentic representation in the industry, in the press and in the games we love.