Streaming is increasingly becoming a more welcoming place for us gaymers, thanks to streamers and teams creating safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community to play games and support one another online.
The recently expanded Rainbow Arcade aims to be an all-encompassing LGBTQIA+ Twitch team, with a big focus on diversity – both in its content and its members.
We spoke to its ambitious founding members Justin and JohnJohn about what makes their team unique, the importance of Twitch teams, and whether allies should be allowed to use the LGBTQIA+ tag.
How long has the Rainbow Arcade team been running and why did you both decide to set it up?
JohnJohn: It’s officially been out since the middle of January, but Justin and I started planning the team about a year ago. From our experience, there hadn’t been a specific LGBTQIA+ stream team on Twitch. There were definitely LGBTQIA+ friendly teams and we love and support them dearly, but we decided we needed a team built specifically around supporting other LGBTQIA+ content creators. It was a space we felt was missing.
Justin: We wanted a place where everybody could feel heard and feel like they belonged, be sounding boards for each other and hype each other up. And so far that’s what’s been happening! We’re both really proud of it and excited for where it’s going in the future.
How many members are in the team and how did you decide membership?
JJ: I think it’s 52 to be exact. We wanted to keep the team small from a management perspective and to make sure we’re building a family, as we want everyone’s voice to be heard.
J: The big thing for us was diversity and inclusion as we wanted to be intersectional. It’s something that comes up quite often in LGBTQIA+ discourse regardless if it’s gaming or not: do we do enough for people in our community who face racism, or who face different struggles that maybe a cis white person doesn’t face?
We want everybody who’s on the team to be a voice for the community. For that you need to create communities and be somewhat consistent about streaming, about being active and engaging with the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.
What’s your main goal for the team in future?
J: As a community on the platform, we need to continue fighting for a seat at the table. I think a lot of the people on the team have faced considerable barriers to growth and being a voice and we want to come together in a way that Twitch doesn’t really have at this point. As a family we can do more to create those spaces and understand the struggles of others.
And it’s for viewers as well. If they come to Rainbow Arcade and they want to find somebody who looks like them, who represents them, they can find that there too.
JJ: That’s part of the reason we went with the name Rainbow Arcade. If you walk into an arcade you’re going to get any kind of game possible, you’re going to get the experience that you’re hoping for. We’ve got everything! You’re going to find something that will resonate with you.
How does the team support its streamers?
JJ: The first thing we set up for our members was a Discord server for our team to kick their feet up and relax. We use it to plan everything out for the team, on top of the Twitter that we use publicly, but also to spend time together outside of streaming. As well, we created a section for stream improvements, it’s an amazing resource. So the Discord is our own little private sanctuary where we can be friends. I really think it strengthens bonds.
J: We wanted it to be that there’s no hierarchy. No one has a voice over someone else. We really look to everybody on the team as being leaders, to speak for their communities as well. During Black History Month a lot of the planning wasn’t done by us, but we were there to support as needed. JJ and I really see ourselves as founders rather than leaders. Everybody who’s on the team really brings something and we really benefit from that.
What differentiates Rainbow Arcade from other LGBTQIA+ teams?
J: Our purpose in keeping it small was deliberate: it was to make sure everybody on the team is a team leader. I believe that’s a unique take on how teams function. And at this point there isn’t another LGBTQIA+ team that’s all-encompassing for the community. We’re trying to be broad to fill that void where we saw nothing previously.
JJ: Other teams don’t have that tight family feeling to equally uplift all content creators. It’s not about numbers, it’s about bringing visibility to the LGBTQIA+ community as an entire encompassing community.
It’s visibility on other social platforms too. It is primarily a Twitch community, but our goal for the team transcends Twitch. And it’s something we want to celebrate year round, which is a major point that’s been brought up not only by our team members but by other people on the platform and on Twitter. When Pride month ends in June, everything just disappears and stops being a thing and that’s not something we’re going to stand for. We’re going to celebrate year round.
J: It’s so important that everyone’s stories are told. Just like any other LGBTQIA+ issue, even though we’re in the gaming space, it goes way beyond that, beyond just Twitch.
Why are LGBT Twitch teams important?
JJ: I think the answer is visibility. Growing up I never saw myself in media. And I think that it’s super important that if you’re open and comfortable putting yourself out there and branding yourself as such, you can do so much good. We’re out and proud gay men playing video games and we’re like “let’s do this!”.
To be in that space and give visibility to someone who may not feel comfortable being there, being in their own skin, but is able to see someone who is, that’s going to inspire your journey – that’s so important for us. If you don’t know there are resources for you it can be a really tough road, but we’re going to change that as much as we can.
How do you find being an out LGBT streamer?
J: I don’t think it’s really a matter for us of “do we need to do this”. This is just who we are and we want to be proud about that. But with Twitch and any other streaming service, the LGBTQIA+ community still needs to fight for a seat at the table. And it’s even harder for those of us who are LGBT and also have intersectional issues of being another minority. We’re super proud to represent the community in our own ways, but also very aware of the struggles for our community and having a voice on Twitch.
Should allies be using the LGBTQIA+ tag on Twitch?
JJ: We both believe that the LGBTQIA+ tag shouldn’t be used by allies. I understand their argument which is to say “this is a safe space”. But in my opinion demonstrate that, show me through your actions. As a viewer, I’m not selecting the LGBTQIA+ tag because I want to find a heterosexual streamer who’s going to say “go gay!”, I’m looking for someone like me who’s going to understand the struggles I’ve had to experience. Our team is looking to combat that too.
J: I also think the LGBTQIA+ community is the one that gets to say you’re an ally as well. Just being a good human is the base level. I love when people support us but it has to be more. Are you out there being vocal about our struggles, even beyond gaming? Are you fighting for our representation in video games as well? We already have such a small part of the table and it’s almost like they’re taking that little bit from us. This is a space that’s supposed to be for us.
What more do you think the industry could be doing to make video games more welcoming for LGBTQ people?
JJ: I’ll give you a perfect example. I saw Tem Tem release a couple of weeks ago and when someone told me there were gay storylines in there and the first option you get is to choose your pronouns and there’s a they/them option, I purchased the game on that alone. That is a step in the right direction and in my opinion that deserves to be supported. I think that companies have started to slowly make changes and include storylines and characters that aren’t just there for some fun comedy or a quick moment to say “oh we have a gay character”. They’re starting to be normalised and celebrated.
J: My hope is that the gaming industry starts working with our community. I think a lot of times gaming studios, developers, media outlets, they don’t do enough to make sure the stories that they’re telling are built around the communities that they’re for. You can’t build stories around something that you don’t understand. In the past we’ve been tropes or caricatures and I don’t think that’s good enough any more. We can’t just be this thing that you add to hit a quota for diversity. It’s got to go well beyond that, in a way that truly uplifts us and does more for us as a community.
What advice would you give to gaymers wanting to start streaming?
JJ: Do it! The last year of my life, it’s just completely changed. I took the fact that I’m super proud of being out and gay and married it with my love of video games. I’ve got friends all over the world now. It’s a slow start, I won’t lie to you! But if you can not get discouraged and you’re really in it for the right reasons, I think you’ll find way more success than you think!
J: I know I was scared the first time I pressed the ‘go live’ button. Especially if you’re LGBTQIA+, it’s scary. Once I left my safe bubble of my daily life, I knew I was going to get all this hate thrown at me. And of course it happens. There is this tough skin that you need to have. But the good outweighs the bad! You have this family of people who are like you, that’s there for you unconditionally all built around video games. And things are changing so quickly, we’re feeling safer and more loved and supported. It’s a beautiful thing!
What games do you prefer to stream?
JJ: Anything with a story captivates me. It’s fun to go and get out of your head into someone else’s. It’s a nice escape. I’ve been playing video games my entire life and it’s always been something that has been consistent throughout my life. So I will play anything with a story, a little bit of survival horror and some community games too.
J: It’s the same for me. The games I gravitated towards growing up were Final Fantasy games, starting with IX which I fell in love with. I’m very excited about FFVII Remake! A little bit of survival horror too because they often have really good stories attached to them.
What games are you most looking forward to this year?
J: For me it’s FFVII Remake, absolutely! I’m very excited about The Last of Us Part 2. And Animal Crossing which is just around the corner!
JJ: I would tack on Resident Evil 3 and Silksong, the Hollow Knight sequel. Hollow Knight was the first game I streamed!
Lastly, Justin, will your new puppy be featuring more?!
J: Oh absolutely, he’s already featured! But he’s still a puppy so I’m worried that, coupled with my horrible cable management, he’s gonna grab a cord and yank it out while I’m streaming!