Historically, games and gaming were targeted toward young white men. However, since the release and monumental success of The Sims in 2000, a game lucratively marketed towards all demographics, the potential to tap into multiple markets has been realised and subsequently exploited by games manufacturers. And now games are even targeted at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, with games like the Lego Harry Potter Series easily accessible for young girls.
Where gaming succeeds over other creative industries is that it offers an immersive experience without any limitation on what it can achieve. The nature of the worlds they create, which do not have to be based in any tangible form of reality, means that creativity can abound from designers and players alike. Essentially, players can become whomever they want to become and in games that allow you to create or customise your avatar, they can offer an almost experiential escapism from your world outside the game.
For many in my generation, the age they were when they first bought into gaming came at a similar time to when they were coming to terms with their sexuality, so what these gaymers want to play - and how they play them - will probably be influenced (in some way, at least) by their sexuality. Games that offer an alternate reality, away from real life, can be a crutch to some LGBT people, especially when coming to terms with who they are. And now that games sometimes offer the option of playing as a gay character, that can only be on the increase.
Nick went on to explain about how some games can also offer the option to live out some fantasies within the virtual world. "I wouldn't believe any gaymer who played The Sims as a teenager and says that they didn't create that hot straight boy from down the road, who you could then meet in virtual reality, kiss him, move in with him and have his babies. We all did that."
But while The Sims offered the option to recreate and manipulate your own world, many games' success with the LGBT Community comes from their sheer distance from reality. Fantasy and sci fi have long been popular amongst gay people because they offer worlds so completely removed from our own. Projecting themselves and their "difference" onto these characters, their plights and struggles become all the more recognisable because of the personal experiences of the player.
In the 1990s, the Final Fantasy series became a cultural behemoth because it pushed the boundaries of what gaming could be. Offering this pure escapism that many young gay people craved, there is no doubt that the emotional investment many people made in these games created and shaped their expectations from gaming. As a result, many gaymers in their late twenties/early thirties seem to be far more interested in immersive stories than skills based fighting, driving or sports games. Placing these stories in worlds without limitations can arguably mean that the gamers' personal projections onto them hold less subsequent restraint. Which for a LGBT person, can only make them more attractive.
But while there are now many games that provide the option to play as a gay character or avatar, there are yet to be any that pre-ascribe it. There is yet to be an RPG that openly focuses solely on the story of a gay character. But with straight males still a predominant portion of the audience for most RPGs, is this going to happen any time soon? Maybe not. But if they can buy into playing as a woman like Lara Croft, why shouldn't they buy into playing as a gay man too?
Gaming promotes a very strong social aspect to its playing. From co-playing with friends, both in the flesh and remotely, it can often provide an opportunity to make new friends from all over the world. Just as people in real life make friendships with others from a similar demographic, so too do many gamers group together and form social clusters. Search social networks for gaymer groups and you will come across countless factions that link gaming and their sexuality, as well events like Gaymercon in San Francisco. But while there are some that fetishise and link gaming to sexual practice, many others remove sex deliberately from the equation.
Nick is an active member of the Bearfaced Gaymerbears community on Facebook (he's allowed in because he has a beard) and their rules are strict toward sexual content. "This isn't Tumblr," they say in their description, "so if you wanna see pics of hot bear dudes, then go to that site and keep it off here." Gaming here is the sole focus, not flirtation or sexualisation of its players. So if that is the case, I asked Nick, what exactly is the point in its existence?
So with the world of gaming catering more toward the LGBT Community than ever before, both in its representation and its social elements, are there actually more gaymers now? It seems to me that, like the rest of society, the playing field has just been levelled. Proportionately speaking within their communities, there are probably as many gay gamers as there are straight, but they've just become more visible. The gaming sub-culture as a whole has become more prominent in recent years, mostly through the rise of social media, so as a result, so too have gaymers. So while Nick screams at Bloodborne for the thousandth time, I'll know he's not that peculiar for a gay man after all. There's gaymers everywhere, it would appear.