Life as a Broke Queer Gamer: Why I’m the last person on earth to buy Minecraft

It’s no secret that the gaming landscape is changing. I find myself a gamer in an uncertain world, trying to make my way into a place where I can both feel comfortable while I game, and play something that isn’t years out of date. I recently purchased Minecraft for my partner and myself, and we’re taking up residence on the Skyfall server. The recent* phenomenon of LGBTQ friendly gaming communities, guilds, and servers is great. It’s always nice to know that we have somewhere to go where we’ll be treated to a safe environment to game in.

*Edit: it was brought to my attention that LGBTQ friendly gaming really isn’t a new thing. GLBT Star Wars groups have existed since 1997, and LGBTQ friendly EverQuest servers have since around 1999…So the use of the term ‘recent’ there was incorrect. Wanted to share this with you.

That’s not the point, as great as it may be. Minecraft for two clocks in at about $65 USD. That’s no picnic. To many queer gamers, it’s actually a lot of money. A lot of gamers just don’t have the money to pay full retail price for a game, much less a console or gaming PC. This holds doubly true for LGBTQ gamers. The Task Force reports that 1 in 5 transgender youth are homeless, and other service providers claim that as many as 20-40% of homeless youth identify along the LGBTQ spectrum. Youth of color are significantly more likely to experience trauma at home and at school, and more likely to face an unstable living situation when admitting their sexuality to family.

However, there is hope. How we access games is changing by the day. Steam sales, Humble Bundles, direct access from developers…There’s a lot of ways to get a game for cheap. Steam sales can see full price games slashed to often $3-$10 per game, and Humble Bundles offer a name-your-own-price option. The advent of the Steam Sale, Amazon Video Games, and free-to-play MMO’s offers LGBTQ gamers a chance to play games that are current with friends. This gives us a chance to have conversation which helps to build social relationships, seeing as how we can talk about something current and relevant–instead of a game that’s years out of date. Having a community to support us is wonderful, but if we can’t access the games that community is playing due to their price points, we’re back at square one.

The Steam Summer Sale has your back, for those of us on a budget. If you don’t have regular computer access, some internet and gaming cafes have Steam–So you’d be able to access the sales from there. I picked up four new games for under $10. Castle Crushers was $3.74 (and its DLC only .24 cents per!), Organ Trail (the zombie apocalypse equivalent of The Oregon Trail) was only $1.24, Sequence was $1.99 (an interestingly executed rhythm game.) and Terraria (Minecraft on 2D Steroids mixed with an RPG) was $2.50. I was all over that. I got gifted a beautiful game called Dust: An Elysian Tail (Similar to Tales of Mana), and that makes it technically 6 games for under $10. Add to those Wishlists, you never know who might get you something to brighten your day.

There are a load of Free-to-Play MMOs out there, such as Rift (which went F2P back in June), Dungeons and Dragons Online, Neverwinter Online, League of Legends, Ragnarok Online II, etc. If you really want to support your indie game developers, check out GamersGate and Desura. There are lots of wonderful (and often cheap) games on the Steam-Alternative distributor platforms.

Which brings me to another point. Marketing. I know a lot about marketing, especially for the gaming industry. I do it for a living, as a matter of fact. Most of the advertising that I see caters to the upper middle class. The ones with expendable income. As it very well should, from their standpoint. Why market to an audience you know can’t afford your game? Simple. Those people might end up being lifelong fans, and support your franchise long after the more affluent (and possibly more fickle) fans have left your games in the dust. Rather than finding your game in a bargain bin, a devoted down on their luck gamer will scrimp and save to afford your products at full price if you make them feel valued. There is a certain amount of elitism in the gaming and marketing industry, especially for AAA titles and console producers such as Microsoft and Sony. Products like the Ouya faced some backlash when their Kickstarter backers had yet to get their consoles, but the android-turned-console concept is huge. It allows gamers to access a console that might be within their budget, as opposed to $400 for a PlayStation 4.

LGBTQ gamers have it hard enough as it is. From facing verbal slurs in multiplayer games, to marginalization or outright creepy stereotyping in AAA titles. (Token lesbians for white male gamer enjoyment and no other purpose, typical female tropes, etc.) Being able to afford games should be the least of our worries. Hopefully, technology will continue to improve and allow gamers that are in a less-than-ideal financial situation access to any game of their choosing. Is gaming an elitist hobby by nature? I welcome your thoughts in the comments below!

  • RevCleo

    While gaming is a pretty elitist hobby by nature, I bought minecraft when it was in beta (or maybe alpha) for £8 which isn’t much in the UK, and there’s plenty in the steam sale for twice that much. I’d say the main elitist component is being able to run loads of high level games at high quality. Not everyone can run skyrim at max settings. Also we have a different class system to you, so I’ll say everything does tend to be aimed at people with a higher income, but it also depends on the games. Indie games can be free on some sites (like desura or games made by universities). So it all depends on the start up costs really. Consoles can be bought super cheap from a friend who is getting the latest gen, or from a pawn store or anything like that. So maybe if you buy a second-hand console and used games then you’re gonna be able to play things cheaper. Computers still cost more than consoles in general.

    Plus tbh who buys two copies of something ordinarily? Yes I bought a copy for my partner as well (also back in beta, they never play though) but yeah with most games you’re not gonna buy two of them, and with a lot of games at the moment you can buy them cheaper in alpha/beta too.

    So while I get the concept of this article of “quiltbag people are generally poorer than the rest of the population” and “are games elitist because they cost so much?” it still isn’t a very good one. Personally I think games advertise to: straight, white, cis males. Generally between the age of 15-21, and this is regardless of money. You don’t really have the same classlines that we do here, so I can’t say anything towards that as it always ends up in thought pattern like spaghetti, but the people who video games are marketed to seem much more than just “do you have money” because people know that people can scrimp and save if they really want something and have any money at all left over from their daily life. Adverts a lot of time give a fantasy anyway, so they will always show a group with more money, even if they know that the people who buy their product are poor.

    So instead of the view of “why are games advertised with people who have money” it should be “why are games advertised to so few types of people” apparently a higher percentage of POC play video games than white people, so why aren’t more protagonists and adverts featuring POC? There’s a few for the Wii which have featured POC and the like, but there’s so much more that needs to be done.

    Also sorry if this isn’t completely coherent I tend to get quite distracted at times, and the heat here isn’t helping much.

    • kaylith

      Catherine here–

      I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here. I absolutely think that games need to be advertised better. Until we (those in marketing in the gaming industry such as myself) change the status quo about how/who we market games to, nothing changes.

      I know that my company sells games which feature LGBTQ characters without making them tropes, but we don’t advertise it in our selling points. Why? Because that’s life. Nobody walks around going, “Yay I’m queer, buy my stuff because it’s also queer.” It’s not a selling point I focus on in my marketing strategy. I want people to buy the game for the story, not because we have LGBTQ characters in it. If people want the game because of that, great…! However, I’m not going to market the game toward LGBTQ people specifically or straight people specifically. Gaming is for everyone, and should be treated as such. However, I think that if we WERE to market the game toward an LGBTQ audience it would be interesting to see if sales increased. I just don’t feel comfortable doing that.

      As for POC and gaming ads, I’m not qualified to speak on that one as I’m not a POC, my partner is, however. I can’t speak to their struggles in the game industry, which are numerous I have no doubt. I know my partner has struggled getting into game design/art as a queer POC in the gaming industry. I’m just a queer white girl that works in marketing–so I’ve got no credit there. I can say that I think that it’s something that needs to be addressed, definitely.

      Yes, games are absolutely cheaper in alpha/beta phases, and consoles can totally be found at secondhand stores. I didn’t mention that in the article, but friends are always a good place to look for systems. I know someone that got a 3DS for $75 USD a while back.

      You brought up some great points, and sorry if mine suck. It’s hot as blazes here, too.

      • RevCleo

        I’d say things could just be more inclusive on the side of the people who’re seen as playing the games, such as in magazines. And maybe as part of advertising including people who aren’t the straight, white male default as some of the screenshots or artwork. I’m officially a white POC as I’m mixed race but look white and generally pass as white, but I’ve had racist comments about my family and the like. I think white people should still speak up about POC issues, but the issue is that people shouldn’t speak for POC, there’s a big difference between saying, “Where’s all of the black protagonists?” and “My experience as a black person is_”. Nevermind a distinct lack of asian (this refers to west asian in the uk) people who are not considered ‘bad guys’ I can only think of Altair, and the Prince of Persia, and he was massively white washed in the film. I’m slightly forgiving towards more east asian games, as they have their own massive industries, but I can’t immediately think of any east asian characters in western games.

        With the current climate it’s a great idea I think to put extra pressure on QUILTBAG issues, especially because currently people are highly divided. You’d get a lot of exposure from people who’d both hate and love it. But a very simple thing would just be to have a non-standard family playing the game in an advert, or someone who looks non-average.

  • Tony GarretSidzaka

    minesworn also has a no-hate policy. if you use hatespeech you are banned. normal swearing is allowed. we gots tons of LGBT and bronies too 😛
    there is no room in this world for hate, anymore

    • kaylith

      Minesworn huh? 😀 Ooh, we’ll have to check that out! Yay bronies! I’m a proud pegasister. 😀

  • Skywise

    An elitist hobby? Are you out of your fucking mind? You even explained in your own post how little sense that makes. I don’t think there’s a common form of entertainment that’s this CHEAP. Why? Because you get so much time for the money. Even in an average, 10-hour game on Steam, for about that many dollars — you’d pay more than that to see a 1.5 hour MOVIE. Game stories too long? I don’t know… do you read books? They’re about the same length. Popular multiplayer games can be expensive, but they’re also expensive to make — they take a full development team (you know, full-time employees) months or years to make, and they require servers, software upgrades and patching. The more popular they are the more it takes just to maintain them, and I guarantee you most of those employees aren’t making a tidy sum. You get innumerable hours of entertainment for the price of a couple dinners and/or drinks. Elitist hobby my ass.

  • Skywise

    The amount of entitlement here is staggering. You have huge dev teams getting paid breadcrumbs to create the most cost-effective form of mainstream entertainment. What are you even comparing games with? Movies? Dinner out? Some beers? A play? A concert? $12 for 1.5 hours at the cinema? $12 can get you several great 10 hour games on Steam — do the math. The only thing that even comes close to equal value would be books. You’ll spend more money on a couple dinners out than Minecraft at full price (which, by the way, was a fraction of that price for those of us who supported this indie dev when he was starting out). And these devs are getting paid BREADCRUMBS. I totally agree that a lot of people (not just LBGTQetc.), if underemployed, can’t afford full retail price for games, but there are so many available and sales are so common that there’s basically not point to DO so, except perhaps for multiplayer releases — but then again, considering how much it takes to maintain the servers, software updates, and account management of such games, frankly I think it’s fair. You can’t play all the ones that come out, so it should never be that big an expenditure.

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