Saturday, March 2, 2024
Social GaymingSpotlight Interviews

Spotlight on… NYC Gaymers

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a wrecking ball to social bonds around the world, preventing people from safely meeting up. For gaymers, the online nature of many games has been a lifeline, allowing them to keep in touch with friends and engage in a shared hobby via competitive or co-operative multiplayer.

For many though, gaming is at its most social when it’s in person, which has been almost impossible over the last year. It’s also posed problems for LGBTQ+ focused gayming groups, forcing them to adapt to keep their communities together. One such group in NYC Gaymers, which found its plans to expand curtailed by the pandemic, right as they were about to take a major step forwards.

I got to sit down with NYC Gaymers’ leadership team to talk about their origins, successes in the face of COVID, and what the future looks like for the organisation.

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

We’re Mel (they/them/theirs), Vice President of NYC Gaymers; Robert Lopez (he/him/his), Treasurer of NYC Gaymers; Ben (he/him/his), Secretary of NYC Gaymers and Raffy Regulus (they/them/theirs), President of NYC Gaymers.

How long has NYC Gaymers been running for?

NYC Gaymers started as a social media group back in 2012, partnering with gamers throughout for regular meetups.  About four years ago, things started to shift in the way the leadership of the group was thinking and the groundwork was put in place for us to move toward being a full-on nonprofit.  We incorporated as a nonprofit in New York in January 2020… and then the pandemic put a halt to much of our momentum. 

What is NYC Gaymers’ mission?

NYC Gaymers Inc. empowers gamers across the intersections of orientation, identity, expression, race, and ability, in order to uplift and center our most marginalized community members through education, advocacy, and the creation of safer spaces. 

Our motto is: The Y in Gaymers means “You Belong!”

How many members do you have?

Our board of directors is nine at the moment. We are excited and want to intentionally reflect the communities that we want to serve. Our board is a majority of people of color. The President and Vice President are both trans and non-binary.

We have a membership on social media of about 3,000 followers.

What inspired the formation of NYC Gaymers?

A big piece of it has definitely been the relationships that we began to build with other gamer groups at conventions like PAX East, Nerdtino and Geeks OUT, the producers of Flame Con. Wherever we went, we strived to make spaces more inclusive. As time went on, we noticed that this was something we loved to do – gather stories, uplift the experiences of communities not represented in those spaces and bring on as many partners in building with us. At home here in NYC, we wanted to make sure that gaming spaces were as inclusive and diverse as NYC. We can’t guarantee safety but we can certainly improve upon the way things have been done before and make them better. 

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

Our proudest moment was when we successfully organized and established ourselves and incorporated as a non-profit in New York in January 2020. This was something we had desired for years, but it was a goal we had set and achieved officially, within one year of electing our founding board.

We are also very proud of our partnership in producing the gaming lounge for FlameCon, which we are currently in the planning stages with them for this year.

How have you adapted to the pandemic shutting down in person events? 

Great timing, soon after we became an official non-profit, right? Early March 2020, we transitioned to a fully virtual organisation, by boosting our social media platforms, and organizing what was our first annual Pride School Festival event that June. We uplifted many of our community members that were already streamers and community gaming organizers, and encouraged other community members to connect with one another, using our social media platforms as a “homebase.”

Has your membership grown by being virtual? 

Oh yes, and what’s been inspiring for us, is how many people who don’t live in NYC connected with us throughout the pandemic. Our inclusionary community agreements, and our motto of “You Belong” have acted as our platform’s motivation to connect community members across borders and boundaries. You don’t have to live in NYC to be a part of NYC Gaymers and what we are working to accomplish. 

What plans do you have for returning to in person events?

We’re not there yet! NYC is going to be returning to 100% capacity on June 1st and we are committed to waiting until 2022 before trying to do anything in person. We are also committed to having conversations with our community members as we transition back to in person events at a later time.

What are some of the big plans or ambitions for the future of NYC Gaymers? 

Obtaining our 501(c)(3) status is a priority. It was slowed and halted by our inability to fundraise. As a Board, we felt it was against our community’s best interests to fundraise throughout the beginning of the pandemic. With our upcoming virtual Pride event, Pride School Festival, as our biggest fundraiser so far, we are hoping that by the end of the year, we will be closer to that goal.

We want to build community within the gaming community. We want to support by training and developing teams that think about what they are putting out into the world. We want to celebrate the incredible BIPOC TGNC folks that contribute to developing games and who make gaming spaces hella fun.

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

The NYC Gaymers Board consists of nine LGBTQ gamers, who met one another through the Facebook group, working in similar career circles, and gaming events that had spaces intentionally created for LGBTQ people to network. We wouldn’t have found one another and shared our common interests and aspirations were it not for groups like ours. We want to thank the community that inspired us to organize, by amplifying its importance, and encouraging other collectives to mirror our model of “You Belong.” 

Mel: The NYC Gaymers Board is my family in NYC. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere until I met everyone in 2019. Unlike many of the other board members, I didn’t grow up in NYC. This group has been crucial in introducing me to safe spaces where I can meet other members of the community.

What do you do outside of NYC Gaymers?

Half of us work with non-profit organizations that support LGBTQ community members, specifically providing counseling and advocacy for LGBTQ survivors of violence. Many of us work in tech throughout its ever-growing fields. Our love of gaming connects us outside of NYC Gaymers. We also spend plenty of time practicing self-care and gaming with one another and others.

What’s coming up next for the group?

We are excited to continue our growing relationship with Geeks OUT and Flame Con! We’re also developing fun virtual events coming soon, so be sure to keep in touch with NYC Gaymers as we explore more ways for our community members to engage with one another safely. Acquiring 501(c)(3) status will open a new realm of possibilities for NYC Gaymers, and for gaming groups similar to ours, including those not in the United States.

We want to continue to strengthen the relationships that we have forged through the past few years and increase our ability to impact the gaming community in meaningful ways. Events will always be a way to stay connected both in person and virtually. We also want to continue to uplift the community by sharing what we hear on the ground and bring that to other gaming leaders and thought partners to enact change.

How do people find out more?

You can connect with NYC Gaymers via our website, and find our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Discord, etc) via Linktree. You can also learn more about our upcoming virtual Pride event, Pride School Festival 2021, at here.

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.