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May 8, 2015

Movie Review: Gaming in Color (2015)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed by Philip Jones

Gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender and questioning people – henceforth referred to as GLBTQ who play video games form a distinct minority. Gamers or “geeks” – a highly derogatory term in this reviewer’s term – “geek” was originally a term used to describe degraded sideshow performers specializing in biting the heads of chickens, such as in the novel and film Nightmare Alley (1947) – suffer from negative stereotyping, as do members of the GLBTQ community.

At first glance, the two stereotypes would be at odd with each other. Male homosexuals are supposed to dress well, take care of their looks, and form very sophisticated networking skills. Gamers, on the other hand, are seen as being antisocial misfit, neglectful of their appearance that lay into the Nintendo for several hours a day in their parent’s basements. A big part of the gamer community is GLBTQ, but this group feels marginalized. The readily available games to them have very few GLBTQ characters, and the gaming community at large, mostly straight males, are largely homophobic. “Gay” to these adolescent males not only describes someone’s sexual identity, but anything bad, ineffective or worthless.

The new documentary Gaming in Color touches on these various issues. Running a brisk hour and one minute, Gaming in Color looks at various GLBTQ members within the gaming multiverse. Contrary to what other may think, video games were many people’s introduction to social skills – partners playing remotely forming friendships. The interactive gaming world also introduced a lot of ideas and notions through the vicarious outlets offered by games. One interview subject says the only way she could enjoy certain video games, aimed at the “macho mentality” guys was in assuming the role of a male.

One complaint that gay gamers have is the lack of GLBTQ characters in games. This isn’t exactly so – the Wikipedia page on GLBTQ characters in video games runs miles long. It must be noted that the gay male characters in these games are rendered as stereotypical, effeminate villains. Lesbian characters in games typically pop up to fuel heterosexual male fantasies. Here again, many of the nonsexual females in rough and tumble games have a “lesbian vibe” to them. Lara Croft of “Tomb Raider” always struck this reviewer as a prototypical Riot Grrrrl.

As a documentary, Gaming in Color relies a little too heavily on talking head interviews. There is not enough footage of the games themselves, probably due to legal clearance issues. In addition, there are also some audio synch issues with the interview subjects.

The message behind the documentary is positive. Video gaming leads to friendships across all genders, races and sexualities and offers many young gay men and women a safe haven to explore gender roles. Ultimately, the makers of this documentary will see their dreams come true – with more games targeted towards the GLBTQ consumer becoming available. Unfortunately, this may lead to a plethora of poorly produced games in the manner of the many lousy, badly done GLBTQ direct-to-DVD titles that currently glut Netflix. Game on!  

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