Saturday, April 13, 2024
Social GaymingSpotlight Interviews

Spotlight on… Raymond Lancione, Qweerty Gamers

Qweerty Gamers began life in 2015 as a Facebook Group for LGBTQ Minecraft players. Since then, it has grown to become an LGBTQ Gamer Nonprofit with the goal to champion the inclusion and visibility of LGBTQ Gamers into the broader gaming world.

Now Qweerty Gamers provides a safe platform for both developers and LGBTQ gamers to connect, offering a unique opportunity for mutual support, development and insight to help shape new diverse games.

I had the pleasure of meeting Raymond Lancione, the Board President & Chief Executive Officer of Qweerty Gamers.

Hi there Raymond! Let’s start off with you introducing yourself to our readers. 

Howdy! My name is Raymond (Raytings) Lancione. I’m Board President & Chief Executive Officer of the nonprofit Qweerty Gamers.

How long has Qweerty Gamers been running for? 

Qweerty has been a 501c3 nonprofit for over two years and has been a community group for roughly 6 years.

What’s its mission? 

We champion the inclusion and visibility of LGBTQ Gamers into the broader gaming world. Qweerty Gamers provides a safe platform for both developers and LGBTQ Gamers to connect and learn from each other. We offer developers access to the unique perspectives of dedicated LGBTQ Gamers, consultations on queer representation, focus groups on game development, as well as programs and workshops to develop skills and prepare LGBTQ Gamers for careers within the industry.

How many members do you have? 

Qweerty has 5 board members, a few dozen volunteers, and a few thousand members throughout different social media platforms like Facebook Groups, Discord, Twitch, and more.

What inspired the formation of Qweerty Gaymers? 

Qweerty started out as a private Minecraft Facebook Group in 2015 for LGBTQ gamers so we could have a conducive and stress-free environment to discuss and collaborate.

In late 2017, a need for a more diverse and inclusive LGBTQ Gamer environment was needed to include BIPOC, Transgender and Cisgender Women, and others. Qweerty raised money for nonprofits like the Translatina Coalition & the National Center for Lesbian Rights. A community member offered to assist us in becoming a Nonprofit from Paul Hastings and in September of 2018 we became a 501c3.

What have been some of the group’s biggest achievements? 

I think the most important achievements are the stories you might not know about unless you listen to your community. Folks of all different backgrounds have said we’ve validated their hard work. Folks have told us they didn’t know where they belonged until they made friends within our community.

What programs do you have? 

Our most prominent program is the Victoria Kennedy Microgrant Program. We invite content creators, video game developers, and other creatives to apply for microgrants. 30% of our budget is allocated per yearly quarter. In addition, we try to support those recipients as much as possible with signal boosts, networking, etc. Folks can apply the first month of each quarter.

How important is it for LGBTQ gamers to have groups like yours? 

Digital and physical groups are important to LGBTQ Gamers because it provides a place where they can come to decompress and know that someone will understand and/or be empathetic to their struggles. It’s also important as there are many forces that do not wish our stories to be part of mainstream media, despite the video game industry eclipsing all other entertainment industries.

What do you do outside of Qweerty Gamers? 

Besides playing video games on and off-stream, I enjoy gardening. Right now I’m growing broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, oranges, grapes, and I just accidentally killed California Poppies, cat grass, and cilantro that recently germinated. I also take care of three cats and take care of my father.

How did you get started in the games industry? 

In 2015 I joined an LGBTQ Gamer Group in Los Angeles and a member shared a job opening at Red 5 Studios. I applied and got my first job as a Quality Assurance Tester. I worked at several other studios and developers thereafter like Pearl Abyss and Playtika.

How do you find being LGBTQ in the industry? 

From what I can remember, being in the industry as a queer person, I never ran into issues. This is thanks to the large efforts from those who came before me, in and outside of the game industry. I’m empathetic with those who have, especially those who didn’t feel safe coming out as LGBTQ.

What more should the industry be doing for LGBTQ people? 

Large developers and publishers need to start donating money directly to both large and small LGBTQ nonprofit organizations. They need to be engaging nonprofits directly on how they can uplift young professionals. Posting to Twitter every time there is a tragedy isn’t enough. A great example would be The Pokemon Center’s donations to Black and Asian organizations.

What does the future hold for Qweerty Gamers? 

Qweerty will continue to seek out new ways to reach out to LGBTQ Developers, Gamers, and those who would like to join the community to provide validation, tools, and education, and a platform to share their thoughts and ideas. Qweerty grows organically when we see a place we can grow.

How do people find out more? 

The best place to go is our website at www.qweertygamers.org or checking us out on almost any social media platform.

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.