Saturday, July 13, 2024
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How IRL Gayming Groups are coping in the COVID-19 crisis

For LGBTQ+ gamers, having a community, also known as gayming groups to some, is essential. It’s how we support one another, providing friendship and escapism in times of need, as well as a chance to play some online multiplayer. Mario Kart anyone?

But what happens when you can no longer meet up IRL? 

There are multiple gayming groups on both sides of the Atlantic, with a lot of major cities having communities to join where you can find like-minded people and play games together online and in-person. But in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, groups can no longer provide the IRL meet-ups that are so integral to their communities.

“Our founding principle was to bring together LGBT geeks and gamers who might be struggling with loneliness or making friends, so being unable to host our events is obviously challenging for us,” says Chris Fox, Admin of London group Gaymers iNC.

Kat Welsford, Women and Non-Binary Admin of London Gaymers, is also in the same boat. “It’s been tough, we’ve had to cancel our regular events like LFG at Escape Bar and Welly Fridays as the safety of everyone in our community must always come first.”

She continues: “We’re very lucky to have a great online community already on our Discord channel with daily & weekly events, as well as dedicated channels for women & non-binary gaymers. We’re incredibly proud of our welcoming community and how well they’re doing in this difficult time.”

The Las Vegas Gaymers group has also had to cancel their meet-up events, including drag performances and gaming tournaments. Just like London Gaymers, Creative Director Mike Chen states that “the Las Vegas Gaymers puts a huge emphasis on hosting public events so that queer gamers can come out, socialize, and have fun with like-minded people with similar interests! As a result of recent events, we have had to cancel all of our meet-up events and we have put all projects on hold until this crisis can be contained.”

For Gaymers iNC, focus has shifted to their thriving Facebook group to “help people connect with others who like the same games and play on the same console, so they can find new people to play with online,” says Fox.

For other groups, including the Gay Geeks – an online community from all over the world – Discord has been a key solution. “We see a bunch more members coming in and taking advantage of our chat on Discord to be social while under quarantine or unable to leave the house,” Chris Beisenherz, Admin of Gay Geeks, tells us.

One particular Discord server, Operation Rainbow Road, is bringing together multiple IRL gayming groups. There you’ll find opportunities for online play, as well as links to various other Discord channels.

Chris B notes a further importance of Discord – discretion. “Groups are important on Discord, because people feel better and safer than expressing on Facebook, due to family or other personal reasons,” he says. “I often hear as feedback that people are grateful to have a community that they feel safe in to share their fears, emotions, and passion for gaming.”

Gayming Groups

For some gaymers, simply playing games online with others is providing solace, but many IRL gayming groups are hosting themed nights to keep their communities entertained. The Las Vegas Gaymers group is hosting a “Quaran-Stream” party in place of their usual board/card game night, while London Gaymers are turning their in-person events online – WoW, FFXIV and D&D are already established, with Jackbox Friday, online quizzes and online Carcassonne joining the line-up.

No matter how they maintain communication, all these groups agree that community is especially vital right now. “[It’s] really important to keep that sense of normalcy and companionship – a lot of people are heading home, or being isolated away from friends and family,” Welsford from London Gaymers, tells us. “Keeping regular WoW raids and replacing our regular events online has helped keep a bit of schedule and order to this.”

She continues: “Gaymers, in general, are a group at high risk of being segregated and alone if they don’t get the support and friendships they need, and at this time it’s even more important to maintain those friendships.”

All the groups we spoke to are incredibly proud of their members coming together to support one another. It’s also incredible to see their communities continue to thrive in such trying times.

“Isolation can be very tough on your wellbeing and we encourage everybody to speak to friends regularly, whether that’s on video chat or through a video game,” says Chris F. “If we’re going to spend the next few weeks indoors, there’s never been a better time to brush up on your gaming skills and make some new online buddies.”

As Mike puts it succinctly: “These are scary times, but it is always easier with a few video games and some friends.”

If you’re feeling isolated and want to chat, come join the Gayming Magazine Discord channel!

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