Gaming in Color: An Interview with Director and Producer Philip Jones

“Prepare to have your assumptions and comforts challenged a bit, and remember that queer people are a part of your human experience,” Philip told me when I asked them what they wanted their non-queer viewers of Gaming in Color to take from the film. Of course the film, which focuses on the experiences of queer gamers in video games, from developers to simple fans, is meant to be about educating others. Philip wanted there to be an easy to consume resource for those who may not be able to influence every gamer they meet to understand the issues queer gamers face.

“Your gaming tendencies will probably feel a bit poked at and criticized, maybe even deconstructed in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. But that’s often how queer people feel just getting past the hurdle of even turning on a game, assumptions are made and questions are asked and you’re never allowed to just exist in a culture that is hostile or at best neutral but aloof to you.” As Philip states here, gaming is not always perfect when it comes to dealing with queer characters, let alone dealing with queer people within gaming experiences. However, not everything is negative when it comes to the intersections of identity and gaming.

Gaming in Color focuses on both the negatives and positives of being a queer gamer (or as some call themselves, Gaymers). There isn’t a movie like Gaming in Color in existence currently and Philip saw an opportunity to change that by providing an important resource. Originally, when Philip joined the GiC team, there was no clear path or purpose.

“By the time I joined the film, we weren’t really sure what the film was or what it could be, or should be. At that point all that had been filmed was the first GaymerX convention, basically about the last third of the film give or take. We always knew that GaymerX was historic and preserving it on film was important, but we had time to reset and wipe the slate clean and consider how broad we would go. I’m very happy with how much we expanded into covering so many different queer issues, even beyond games a few times. We go over the use of slurs, and microaggressions, and harassment and struggling to fit in in a society as someone who’s different. These are all things that can resonate with people who aren’t gamers, or maybe people not even queer, but they always exist in context of how they can be applied to video games. People who watch Gaming In Color will learn how to be better gamers, but they’ll also learn how to be better at showing respect to the queer people around them.”

Unfortunately, the gaming community is not always so open-minded to accept better ways to accept those that they game with. For example, Gaming in Color was shown on Twitch there were the expected slurs, the expected questions and while some people did their best to try and educate those around them as to the reason and purpose, there were those who would have none of it. “There still is a disconnect between that and diversity in games in their mind, because they don’t value it. If they don’t value it, they don’t want to see it change.”

Gaming in Color focuses on drawing on the issues in gaming surrounding queer people, but it also highlights those who have found themselves in various ways. It showcases queer pieces of art such as Dys4ia created by Anna Anthropy while people talk about how these games have not only touched their lives, but influenced them as well. There is balance between the negative, just as there is in gaming. Not everything is negative, not everything is a problem and Gaming in Color strides to show that queer gamers, just like their non-queer counterparts, see gaming as an integral part of their lives. Gaming is something they love to do, and Gaming in Color is a way to show this while also showing that gaming does not always have a place for them, no matter how much they love games. “There were people there who changed their minds on the issue, and for many it was the first time they’d considered anything like it. By the end of the first screening, there were people in the chat exchanging email addresses and twitter names just because they’d never met another gay person to play games with, and they were excited to finally meet other people like them”

“Last July I got to show the film and speak with the queer youth tech camp that Maven put on. It was really great to meet a group of young diverse people who were interested in getting into tech or games, and I just hope that seeing that there are people who want to create a space for them in the industry inspires them to continue.” Gaming in Color is a light to some, just as the historic GaymerX (now renamed GX to be more inclusive of the trans, bisexual, and other queer gamers) con was and continues to be. If there was not a belief that there could be change and support, the movie would not have been made. As shown by the Twitch chat events, there are people who wish to learn and grow, even among those who want the opposite. As gaming becomes more and more accepted as a mainstream identity, hobby, and fact of life, there can only be progress. But all progress comes with its hiccups.

When discussing the downfalls of queer representation in gaming, there was a mention of GamerGate. Philip has had their fair share of run-ins with those who support this movement. Philip described these people and their selfishness and apathy towards others as something that has existed in the gaming community for years. “I think the only way we’re going to see progress happen faster is when gamers as a whole stop reacting so incredibly angrily and negatively to calls for more diversity. I really do. I think it matters a heck of a lot more than we want to believe.” I was told. “The lengths that these gamers are going to, flailing violently in their own ignorance, its hurting people. No one wants to get targeted, and it’s scaring people out of the industry. 2013 and 2014 were particularly good years for queer diversity in games, but I could see us taking a giant step back by the end of this year due to that alone.”

In this year of remakes and sequels, I asked if there was any plans for a second Gaming in Color, one that covered the flaws of the first (such as a lack of racial diversity and a lack of emphasis on trans issues). Unfortunately, there is not a Gaming in Color 2 in the books quite yet, as Philip does not believe Gaming in Color has met its full stride. However, there are several films that were name dropped such as Trans Geek Movie, which is about trans people in tech and games and comics, geeky industries. Other documentaries being made and releasing soon that talk about diversity and harassment and feature queer people in them are: GTFO: The Movie, GameLoading: Rise Of The Indies, No Princess in the Castle, and She Got Game.

None of these films, besides Trans Geek Movie, focus on queer issues within gaming. Gaming in Color allows for a comprehensive, albeit introductory, view at queer issues within gaming. This is not to say that those with experience or knowledge have nothing to gain from a view. “If you ARE queer, I strongly believe that there’s something in this film that you can connect to. Even if it goes too far, or doesn’t go far enough, know that this film was made for the betterment of queer gamers everywhere. We all want to be more inclusive and welcoming, and everyone needs to learn more about how to respect others better. A lot of the film is very bleak but there is one undying fact: you are not alone, and many of us are dedicating ourselves to creating a better future and world that everyone can enjoy with no fear and no hatred. I hope Gaming In Color will be a historical stepping stone in helping us get to that place.”

You can currently purchase Gaming in Color on Devolver Digital films. It will also be launching May 19 on iTunes, Amazon, PlayStation, Xbox, and Vudu.

Philip Jones is not only the director and producer for Gaming in Color, but also the lead scripter and assistant writer for upcoming MidBoss game, Read Only Memories which is to be released on August 18, 2015 and has a currently playable demo. Philip also is an exhibitor director for the queer-focused game convention GX (originally GaymerX). You can follow them on Twitter @probearcub.

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