• Corey Passlow and 'Tokyo" - two attendees at the GX Australia gay gaming convention. (Benjamin Riley)Source: Benjamin Riley
We went along to GX Australia to talk cosplay, video games and queer content with the gay gaming convention's enthusiastic attendees.
Benjamin Riley

1 Mar 2016 - 9:44 AM  UPDATED 1 Mar 2016 - 9:44 AM

“Hi, I’m Nigella Lawsuit, also known as Corey Passlow,” says the guy in a pink My Little Pony onesie.

His friend, who is wearing a purple Pokemon outfit, introduces himself as “Tokyo”.

Lawsuit and Tokyo have come dressed to impress to GX Australia, a video game-focused pop culture convention by and for queer communities. For two days in the middle of Mardi Gras, hundreds of fans and community members have come to Sydney to celebrate a shared love of gaming and geek culture.

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Asked why he’s here, Lawsuit says: “Our love of cosplay, gaming, pop culture—“

“Being homos?” Tokyo jumps in.

“Being homos,” Lawsuit agrees.

The two have both been to gaming conventions (“cons”) before, but never a queer-specific event.

“Things like this are always pretty accepting, it’s just fun to see something that’s more focused on our sexual identity," Lawsuit says.

While there’s an exhibition hall showcasing the work of developers and other industry professionals, the meat of the con is in the panels, which are a far cry from the kinds of corporate or celebrity-focused panels that dominate mainstream cons. Rather than simply serving as elaborate ads, these panels are engaging, even intellectual—a talk on identity and connection leads into another about representing relationships in games.

Joshua Meadows is one of the event organisers, and argues an event like GX Australia—modelled on the US con GaymerX—isn’t just about creating a safe space.

“I think you can make a space very welcoming while still not catering to a specific audience, and that’s what we’re trying to do with GX Australia: cater to a specific audience that doesn’t really get a lot of focus for events [about] video games,” he said.

“The traditional, mainstream gamer is pretty well addressed by events that cater to them specifically.”

The con runs smoothly for a first-year event, though numbers feel a little low in the cavernous Australian Technology Park. The panels get enough of an audience to prompt stimulating discussion, but the exhibition hall never quite feels bustling.

GX Australia’s organisers crowdsourced most of the funding for the event, and Meadows says that while there was some initial corporate interest from mainstream game companies, much of it didn’t materialise.

“When we came around and said, okay we’re going to do it can we lock you down for sponsorship, suddenly all of the support that they had had evaporated,” he said.

“The Australian indie scene really stepped up, and this event certainly wouldn’t have happened without them.”

Despite that lack of big-name sponsorship, between the support of the Australian independent development community and more queer-specific gaming communities the con is full of people passionate about why it needs to exist.

Some in the industry are even seeing GX Australia as a unique commercial opportunity. The con’s key sponsor is CG Spectrum, a Melbourne-based but online-delivered game design and digital animation college.

Staffing the school’s stall in the exhibition hall, CG Spectrum director Jeff Pepper says engaging with groups often marginalised within video games will make the industry better.

“As a school we definitely support diversity in the industry… we hear what it can bring to the table,” he said.

“What we can do is talk to more of the groups about coming into the industry and encourage them to join the field—there’s opportunities for everyone.”

Like Pepper, many stallholders are here to find a new audience for their games. But for other creators interested in making specifically queer content—or at least queer-inclusive content—GX Australia can connect them to a target audience who might not be as visible at a mainstream con.

Tristian Blake and her husband run Tyandae Games, a small indie team currently working on an interactive “visual novel” called Death of Magic, a game that will prominently feature queer characters and themes. Blake believes the community support behind GX Australia validates the work they’re doing.

“It proves that we have an audience, the fact that people have come here,” she said.

“The panels that I’ve gone to, when someone says there needs to be more queer content and everyone claps—people agree with this. People want there to be more things for us, and [want] to make that for each other.”