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trying to make my way into a place where I can both feel comfortable while I game, and play something that isn’t years out of date.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social relationships, seeing as how we can talk about something current and relevant–instead of a game that’s years out of date.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!