Competing Interests: How Love And Profit Are Driving LGBTQ Gaming
This past year, boyfriends Matt Baume and James Norris interviewed 52 queer gamers across the U.S. to figure out their common traits. The pair showed their collection of video and audio interviews during the first day of GX.
Baume — the author of Defining Marriage and host of the podcast Sewers of Paris — said, “At a certain age, many people realized they’re different. Gaming brought them closer to family and friends, but being queer set them apart.”
Over time, most of the gamers they spoke with felt they had to keep their queerness and their geekiness separate, feeling “basically closeted twice over,” as Baume said.
“The gay and game worlds never overlapped,” Norris said. “It became this subculture within a subculture.”
That’s why events like GX are so important, the two said: they bring the two worlds together while also acknowledging the value of diversity and awareness within both communities.
Later in the day, another speaker echoed their words — but in a different context.
“It’s not just the content you’re building. It’s the community you’re building,” said Peter Heinrich, an Amazon app developer.
Heinrich works with others developers to create and host apps. When he and Amazon broke down the data on successful app downloads, they saw how these apps outperformed competitors by tapping into communities like the LGBT gaming niche.
“The problem is, most developers stop at the game, the revenue and the customers,” Heinrich said. “Building a fan base is the next level. We need games made for players to become games made for fans.”
One way to create fans is to reward engagement like special skins or additional perks for game achievements and progression. Games and apps can also reward users by providing different methods for self-expression. Fallout 4’s polyamorous romance options, for example, provide distinctive perks based on your choice of companion and even rewards you for being an asexual lone wanderer.
“You show people how to succeed in the game and reward their success,” Heinrich said. “That’s how you start to monetize outside your game.”
While diversity in gaming and gaming communities deserves to be a goal in itself, developers can also leverage the subculture for real commercial value. Gaymers across the nation have personal stories tying their sexual and gender identities to the game worlds they often call home. If developers tap into their creative marketing skills, they can serve both their own financial needs as content creators and the needs of thousands of marginalized players.
The industry still has a long way to go to reach the still-closeted segment that Baume and Norris witnessed, coast to coast.
“Most developers don’t get into development for marketing,” Heinrich said. “But if you focus like a laser on a targeted market, it’s that much easier to build a personal brand and a personal catalog.”
(featured image via Janetandphil)