‘Gaming in Color’ review By Amanda Waltz of Steel Cinema
Gaming has made headlines recently, and not for the best reasons. Between Gamergate’s well-documented terrorism and the evident misogyny and racism within the industry, it seems as though the culture will remain forever toxic. But now comes Gaming in Color, a documentary that examines how the tides are turning toward more positive change.
Out of the closet and into the arcade! Gaming In Color is a full length documentary of the queer gaming community. On May 19, 2015, Gaming In Color will launch on iTunes, Amazon, PlayStation, Xbox, and Vudu with more major platforms to come.
The debut from filmmaker Philip Jones looks at the rise of the queer gaming, or “gaymer,” community and the emergence of LGBTQ themes in both big name and independent video games. Using statistics and commentary from LGBTQ game designers, journalists, and organizers, the film explores issues such as the stigma connected with being both a nerd and LGBTQ (“I came out as a gamer first,” explains one interviewee) and the continuing disregard for LGBTQ people by an industry that caters mostly to young hetero males. Even as companies release best-selling titles that feature gay or gay-optional characters, including Mass Effect, The Last of Us, and Fable 2, there’s still lack of diversity in a market where the vast majority of game protagonists are macho guy types.
Primarily, the commentary reveals how a pastime that once provided solace has become a hostile place where many enthusiasts are forced to battle bullying and ignorance. “Sometimes I just wanna game,” says gay Riot Game engineer, George Skleres, with genuine exasperation. “I don’t want to fight the fight.” His sentiment echoes the frustration of not just LGBTQ gamers, but all groups who experience some form of intolerance in the gaming world.
That’s where people like Matt Conn come in. With a PlayStation controller hanging medallion-style from a chain around his neck, Conn explains how GaymerX, a crowd-funded convention that started in 2013, was created as a safe space for all gamers and as a platform to promote LGBTQ awareness. Here the film comes dangerously close to becoming an advertisement for the convention (it should be mentioned that Jones works as a GaymerX organizer), but it’s hard to take issue with footage portraying a utopia full of adorable cosplayers and smiling RPGers. Also present are Joey Stern of Geeks OUT and Shane Cherry of NYC Gaymers, two organizations that, like GaymerX, demonstrate that fostering the gaymer community is not only helpful, but necessary.
Heavy on commentary and light on style, Gaming in Color is a straight-forward documentary that, at just 62 minutes, lacks the time needed to fully delve into its many topics. The minimalist soundtrack and basic graphics also feel lackluster in a film whose subject matter demands a more colorful, pixelated punch. However, that doesn’t diminish its role as an affirming, enlightening celebration of people who just want to play nice in a world full of hate.
Amanda Waltz is a Pittsburgh-based multimedia journalist and film critic. She has written for The Pittsburgh City Paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, and the Charleston Post & Courier, and also produced radio news content for the NPR member station WAER 88.3. Currently, she writes for the The Film Stage and covers Pittsburgh film events through her blog Steel Cinema. She also serves as the Innovation Editor for Pop City. Follow Amanda at @SteelCinemaPGH.