by Jade Entien
While summer is almost over, I spent a lot of that time writing about the glamorous event that was Flame Con 2023. It’s hosted by Geeksout, a non-profit with the mission of “rallying, empowering, and promoting the queer geek community.” Flame Con was a two-day weekend soiree, but I was only able to catch Saturday since I had to move back into college the next day. At the Sheraton Hotel, I met a remarkable cluster of geeks, nerds, and icons who granted me the time to interview them about video games.
At around 11 a.m. on Saturday, I made my way to the Sheraton, an absolutely gorgeous building. That’s where I met Mike Moon, the marketing chair who made the press experience so welcoming. I got my press pass and headed to the press room to settle down. While there, I also met other members of the press who were slowly trickling in. With my newfound friends in the press, we headed to the opening ceremony of Flame Con where President and Vice-President of Geeksout, Nic Gitau, and Kevin Gilligan, gave a heartwarming speech while also quoting the iconic Nicole Kidman monologue that promoting the AMC movie chain:
“WE COME TO THIS PLACE FOR MAGIC. WE COME TO LAUGH, TO CRY, TO CARE. BECAUSE WE NEED THAT, ALL OF US…”
After a while of mingling, it was 1 p.m. I decided to get to work on interviewing video game fans. During a comic convention, you may be wondering? Of course! Geeks and gamers of all shapes and sizes were present, I wanted to interview everyone I saw! I was able to get around to a few amazing folks in the ballroom (I won a gorgeous giant D20 while I was there) and I happened to swipe a few more folks from the “Gaymer Lounge” hosted by NYC Gaymers, a non-profit organization that strives to make the gaming world inclusive for queer marginalized gamers.
Below are the transcripts of how each interview went. I asked questions like what were people’s favorite games, what they learned from video games, and of course, what their favorite things about video games were.
SEAMUS as SHATTERSTAR
Jade: What is your name, your pronouns, and where are you from?
Seamus: My name’s Seamus, he/ him, and I’m from Fergus, Ontario.
Jade: What’s your profession?
Seamus: I am a legal clerk.
Jade: So my first actual question is, what is a video game that you enjoy playing?
Seamus: I was just playing the remaster of Tactics Ogre on the PC. Oh, and I’m also playing, uh, Animal Crossing New Horizons.
Jade: I love Animal Crossing! So what do you enjoy about video games, and what are you looking for when you play them?
Seamus: I like story and character, mostly, when I play video games. Um, it’s just, yeah, like, just sort of, like, immersing myself into the fantasy world that they’ve created. Getting to know the characters and, you know, ideally in like a role-playing game of thing, getting to make choices that make me feel like I’m playing a character as well.
Jade: Of course! Now, what is something that video games have taught you?
Seamus: Oh, gosh. Um… I’m gonna say, maybe sort of anger management, in a way. When you’re playing something, like, quite difficult, like Elden Ring or that sort of thing, you really do have to sort of learn to, like… Let a frustrating death go. Like, because it’s supposed to be fun. Like, you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself.
If it’s making you mad, you just have to either step away from it a bit or, or just, just try and be a bit zen about it and, and let it go.
Jade: Definitely. And my last question is, what is a word you would use to describe video games?
Seamus: I’m gonna say immersive, I think, just because, like, unlike something like when you’re just watching a movie or a TV show, you’re, like taking part.
Like even if it’s not a game that has a rich story, like, you’re still controlling a character’s actions, and so it helps you sort of feel really part of the story.
ANTHONY as an ORIGINAL CHARACTER
Jade: Can I get your name, your pronouns and where are you from?
Anthony: Well, I am from Deer Park, Long Island. And my name is Cosplay Savage Seven, and, uh, what else was the question? Oh, my pronouns. He/ Him/They.
Jade: Thank you so much! If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your profession?
Anthony: Um, pretty much I’m a welder, actually.
Jade: Welding! I love that! My first question for you is, what is a video game you enjoy playing, or what are you currently playing?
Anthony: Ugh. Well, I’m currently playing, right now it’s on my cell phone, it’s called, keep on forgetting the name of it. It’s such a long name. Well, not that long, but it’s, it’s an amazing game. Okay, if I can get to it. It is called, uh, Eternal Evolution.
Jade: So what do you like about Eternal Evolution?
Anthony: So, they got a lot of sci-fi characters that are, you know, non-gendered and whatnot. And it gives out like this action sci-fi, like, graphics, and I love that. Awesome! And, um, the storyline is amazing. I love the missions. It’s easy. It’s cheap. Like, some of this stuff, the cheat codes are cheap. So I’m really interested in that. The characters they have are very, very interesting and very, very well done.
Jade: My next question is, what do you enjoy about video games and what do you look for when playing them?
Anthony: Getting to know my character and then to actually see my characters involved.
You know, like see how many stages that they can go. See if they can go past their OP limit and stuff like that. And I just love when you play a game, these games on your cell phone. They got like Legends, Legendary, Mythic, and then… Immortal and stuff like that. And it goes high. And above and beyond, you’d be like, Oh, snap.
I could keep going. So that’s, that’s about it!
Jade: Rare, super rare, legendary I get it! Next question for you, what is something that video games have taught you?
Anthony: It taught me how to, like, literally see what other people see in characters and what they visualize and what they would like to see. As, you know, as a gaming preference of a good storyline to have in the outer world of our world or in, in like mythical gender mixed, uh, planets and stuff like that.
Jade: Of course. So you mentioned characters a lot and I’m so interested in hearing what you have to say. Who’s your favorite character in like video games?
Anthony: A character I’ve at least created or cosplayed out of myself. Of course. Or I can see myself as any other characters in video games or in, like, comic books that I read. Anything like that. Like, anything I could, like, put my mind to. And see if my, um, my figure can match their figure.
Jade: that! Okay. And I guess my last question for you, is what is a word you would use to describe video games?
Jade: Savage. Alright!
ANNI AND DANA as PHOENIX WRIGHT AND MILES EDGEWORTH
Jade: Okay! So names, pronouns, and where are you from?
Dana: Okay. Okay, okay. My name’s Dana, and I’m from Philadelphia. My pronouns are she, her, but I mean when I’m in cosplay people are gonna like call me by my character’s name, so I don’t really care that much.
Anni: I’m Anni, usually she, they, but when I’m in cosplay, I usually just go with the pronouns of the character.
Jade: Thank you guys so much! And if you don’t mind me asking, what is your profession?
Ann: I actually work in education. I’m a Japanese teacher.
Jade: Love that!
Dana: I work in public transit. I do, um, benefits for other companies through the public transit agency in Philadelphia.
Jade: My first question for you both is, um, what is a game you enjoy playing, or what are you guys currently playing?
Ann: So currently we’re cosplaying from a video game called Ace Attorney.
Dana: That’s pretty much like the only video game I’ve ever really gotten into, except recently I got into playing like rhythm games, so I also really like, um, Project Diva, Project Sakai, like Vocaloid rhythm games.
Jade: Of course! I love me a good Vocaloid game or song.
Ann: I like, uh, 16 bit Japanese horror games, so like Ib and Sorry.
Jade: Oh my goodness! I like Ib too!
Ann: I love it. So like Ib is one that I really enjoy, a lot of kind of indie games.
Jade: I was a big fan of Madfather. I literally cried.
Ann: I never finished that one. It was too scary. Yeah, I played like Mermaid Swamp, Witch’s House, Witch’s Heart.
Jade: Witch’s House is scary too. As soon as, you know, a big teddy bear comes out of a door.
Ann: Yeah. Goodnight. Yeah.
Dana: Yeah, I’m a weenie. I never play horror games.
Jade: I used to be the same way, and then I was like, oh, that’s what people want to see! Another question I have for you guys is, what do you enjoy about video games, and what do you look for when playing them?
Dana: I think for me, because I’m not really that good at like, technical parts of video games, like, like shooting and stuff like that, I look for a game with like, a compelling story, that’s why I like visual novels like, Ace Attorney, because it’s like, it’s more about like, thinking and stuff, and figuring out where the story’s gonna go rather than having to be good at shooting people.
Ann: I’m there for the same reasons. I like stuff with a good plot. I like stuff with like plot twists and stuff that makes you think. So like with Ib, kind of like having the different endings, I really enjoy because you get to kind of build your own story.
Jade: Alright. Um, what is one thing that, what’s something that video games have taught you?
Ann: That’s a good question.
Jade: Take as much time as you need.
Ann: I mean, I use it literally. I use it to help with my language skills. I will play video games in Japanese to practice, of course. So even just getting that, um, connecting logic, I think worked well.
Dana: Yeah. And I would say also, I mean like I’ve bonded with a lot of friends over it. I would say, I guess that you can never really guess what people’s interests are and stuff, you never know. That, like, walking by someone, like, I don’t think you’ll be able to tell that I’m, like, much of, like, into video games and stuff in my day to day. I don’t dress like this normally, so, like, sort of like, there’s always a way to connect with someone and people of unexpected interest.
Jade: And my last question for you guys is, what, what is one word you would use to describe video games?
Ann: I think it just gives a lot of possibilities to people. Like, you get to explore this world, um, more so in different games than others, but even if you can’t, like, physically, virtually explore the world in the game, you can interact with other people and kind of create your own stuff from that.
Jade: So, possibilities?
Dana: That’s a good one, thanks. Sorry. Um, I would say creativity, because like, I think that they, I mean obviously they’ve inspired me to create a lot and stuff like that, so I enjoy that, and like a lot of games do, and like put an emphasis on creativity and stuff.
Jade: Alright, thank you guys so very much!
RACHEL as HARLEY QUINN
JADE: What’s your name, pronouns, and where are you from?
RACHAEL: Sure. My name is Rachel. My pronouns are she/ her, and I am from Rockland County.
JADE: And what is your profession?
RACHAEL: I’m an assistant.
JADE: Awesome. And my first question for you is what is a game you enjoy playing or what are you currently playing?
RACHAEL: So, I’m currently playing, uh, Dead by Daylight and Animal Crossing.
JADE: Who do you main in Dead by Daylight?
RACHAEL: Um, right now, I’m kind of… Oh, who do I play? Oh, I play the Doctor, so I’m, like, going for, like, a killer streak. But I really want the Legion, because I like one of the costumes that they have.
JADE: I really want the Silent Hill skins for them. But I am a Ghost Face and Plague main.
RACHAEL: Yes, I want Ghost Face so bad. He’s amazing.
JADE: He’s perfect for jump scares. And my next question for you is, what do you enjoy about video games?
RACHAEL: Well, I enjoy like, the escapism part of it. So like, whenever I’m having a really stressful day, I know I can go to this other world and like, well, not be a killer, but like, be a totally different person. And it’s enjoyable, but I definitely look for good graphics, good storyline, but like, it has to have depth to it. I know a lot of people like playing, um, what’s the cutting fruit video game?
JADE: Fruit Ninja?
RACHAEL: Yeah, I know a lot of people like that like that I can’t, I can’t play. There’s no depth to it.
JADE: And my next question for you is what is something that video games have taught you?
RACHAEL: Time management? Of course. When I first got into video games, I would stay up until 1am and then realize I had to go to work, or school, and I realized, I can’t just play video games all day. So, time management was something I learned.
JADE: Also, I didn’t tell you, I love your Harley Quinn cosplay.
RACHAEL: Oh, thank you! I love it! I’m looking for my Ivies here. I have not seen any. Which is so sad.
JADE: I know! I’m currently listening to this Batman audiobook on Spotify. It’s so good and Harley is an icon in it.
RACHAEL: Of course.
JADE: And my last question for you is, what is one word you would use to describe video games?
RACHAEL: Oh my god, I’ve suddenly forgotten every word I’ve ever learned. Oh my god, I have no idea.
JADE: Take all the time.
RACHAEL: Oh, I don’t have a single word. They’re very like, joining, I’ve met a lot of friends through video games, so they’re very like, Connectiveness. Yes. They’re connecting.
JADE: Thank you. Perfect. Awesome. You know, meeting people through video games is just amazing. So, I wanted to ask you, you’re dressed up as Harley Quinn.
RACHAEL: I am.
JADE: Have you ever played any of the Batman games, like Arkham Knight or… I don’t know any other Batman games. I just got Arkham Knight, so it’s the only thing on my mind.
RACHAEL: I actually haven’t. I’m, um, cosplaying the Harley Quinn from her new show.
JADE: I love that show.
RACHAEL: So, I haven’t personally played the Batman games, but I did know someone that played, I believe, the one that you just talked about, and it was very interesting to watch. Like, I just watched him play Batman and beat up people all day.
JADE: I love that. Like, I’m… The only reason I got it, I’m a DC fan, but I haven’t, if you ask me about a comic, I’ll zone out. I got it for Scarecrow. Like, he’s literally, like, I just love everything about him. He’s goals, of course. But thank you so much, Rachel.
RACHAEL: Of course!
CARLOS from the NYC GAYMING LOUNGE
JADE: All right. So, can I have your names, pronouns, and where are you from?
CARLOS: Hi, I’m Carlos. My pronouns are he/ they, and I live in Brooklyn, Crown Heights right now.
JADE: If you don’t mind me asking, what is your profession?
CARLOS: I’m an attorney. So, yeah. I’m an ace attorney, literally. I’m not saying it’s not as fun as Phoenix Wright makes it seem. I know. Like, when I try to like, yell about like, psychics, they’re like, why? Like, this is not the time or place. So, sadly.
JADE: But it’s, you know. I remember seeing this video. It’s like a lawyer reacts to Ace Attorney. I was like, man, she already commented on Mia’s outfit. I’m done.
CARLOS: I’m asleep. I remember playing, I think it was like, one of the, when they started doing the Psychic Walk games, And I’m like, this is actually hard. This was harder than me studying for the bar exam. I forgot this, like, no, this is complicated.
JADE: Oh, so my first question for you, and I’m pretty sure you already answered this. What is a game you enjoy playing, or what are you currently playing?
CARLOS: Well, obviously Ace Attorney was always something that I used to play growing up, because just like the silly, um, challenges and adventure stuff. Right now, I’m playing, Marvel’s Midnight Suns. Because I grew up also loving playing the, obviously, X-Men, the, the show, but also they had the… X Men Legend games.
JADE: Of course.
CARLOS: So like, I’ve been wanting that like, Marvel X Men for so long, and so this game kind of has the same thing. It’s not the same, like, it’s more oriented to the Avengers, but really it has, if you make it gay enough, and you can change their outfits, so it’s gay enough for us like, get X Men’s angle.
JADE: My next question for you is, what do you enjoy about video games, and what do you look for in playing them?
CARLOS: So I do love like, the storylines of games. It’s kind of like, not to say, like, it’s a movie, but yeah, it’s kind of like having that scheme of, like, feeling engaged in something, and one of those things is, instead of you’re just zooming, scrolling on your phone, you’re doing what you’re doing with the controller.
I would say when I’m looking for a game, I want that, I, I’m not really a fan of, online or open world ones, because they’re too big, they can be kind of anxiety-inducing, there’s so much to do, and there’s no real end to it. So I tend to lean more on when this storyline, adventure, it can be battle. But sometimes I do appreciate when it’s simplistic in terms of like just turn-based. So it’s something that you could enjoy but also take it at your speed.
So there’s sometimes that’s one of my I know people love Pokémon Acarus But one of the main things I hated at the beginning where it’s like, what do you mean the Pokémon can charge at me? We have been 20 years knowing that you just like, look at them or something and you’re fine and suddenly they just like, can attack you?
JADE: We’ve never done this before. No, no, no, no, no.
CARLOS: What do you mean I’m jumping off a cliff now? I’m dying. No, no, no, no. This is too much. So yeah. It’s kind of like, it’s a way that like, not that it has to be lazy or just relaxing, but just like something that you can still achieve, like a goal.
JADE: Of course. My next question for you is, what is something that video games have taught you?
CARLOS: That’s a curious one. That’s actually a hard one. Well, obviously it taught me to want to be an attorney. Of course. It didn’t exactly teach me to be one because, you know, I can’t really, like, bring up my psychic mentor in the middle of an actual case. But yeah, I think it has to do, like, in terms of engaging, in terms of, um, I guess it’s very silly to say, like, problem-solving, because, you know, like, same with those games where you have to, like, solve the puzzle, or find out when the dialogue, which dialogue gets you the most points.
It’s the same thing with people. It’s like, will this dialogue get me, uh, bonus points, or will we break up? I don’t know. It’s like, it’s the same thing, you know, type of thing. And it does help you, in a way, priority, because obviously when you have games you have the main mission, the side mission, like what do you want to do first, and then you realize you can just like, can I just avoid the main mission and just do side mission, and you can. But it just depends on what your main mission is.
JADE: Aww. Okay, my last question for you. What is one word you would use to describe video games?
JADE: Intricate? Awesome. Okay. Thank you so much!
MAURICIO from the NYC GAYMING LOUNGE
JADE: Could I get your names, pronouns, and where are you from?
MAURICIO: Um, Mauricio Lopez. I’m from Bridgeport, Connecticut. He/Him.
JADE: I love that. If don’t mind me asking, what’s your profession?
MAURICIO: I mentioned I work in a hospital, so I work in food and nutrition as a supervisor.
JADE: Slay. So, my first question for you is, what is a game you enjoy playing or what are you currently playing?
MAURICIO: Uh, currently right now I’m playing Final Fantasy XVI. Yeah, it’s a RPG.
JADE: A lot of people are seeming to enjoy the Final Fantasy series.
MAURICIO: Yes, a lot of fans.
JADE: A lot of friends are telling me, Oh my god, you should play the MMORPG. And I’m like, there’s so much going on. Yeah. But then they’re like, character customization, and that’s how you get me.
MAURICIO: Yes, that’s very, character design, um, you personalize them.
JADE: Exactly. So my next question for you is what do you enjoy about video games and what do you look for in a game?
MAURICIO: Well, I enjoy video games. I feel like it’s an escape from reality. It’s like calming, it’s something I can do that kills time and like I enjoy the world.
It’s basically, it’s almost like reading a book but you’re more immersed inside the story of the book. Definitely. So, I like enjoy, I like immerse myself into the new world and just like. Absorbing everything, reading a story, or watching a story while I also feel like I’m part of the character, you know, as I journey through the game.
JADE: Alright, awesome. So you were playing Smash Bros. earlier. May I ask, who were you playing and do you really like that character? Like, tell me about it.
MAURICIO: I main a couple characters. I was playing Fox, I was playing Kirby. I played, multiple characters. I do enjoy most of the characters I play with.
JADE: Alright so my next question is, What is something that video games have taught you?
MAURICIO: Um, taught me a lot of lessons, honestly. Like, it taught me how to be patient, taught me how to, like, never give up Yes. I’m always constantly, like, you know, when things get tough, always try to, like, um… I think Zelda taught me the most is, like, usually when… The road gets a little tougher, like, especially through mazes. Like, those usually, that means you’re going on the right track. So, like, if you’re, if you come across an obstacle, usually that means, like, you’re on the right path versus going on the easy road. If you go on the easy road, you usually get lost. But if you’re going on the harder road, that means you do something good at the end of it.
JADE: Okay, slay! And my next question and last is, what is one word you would use to describe video games?
MAURICIO: One word? Entertaining.
JADE: Of course! Well, thank you so very much!
MAURICIO: You’re welcome.
TRACILYN as GIDEON THE NINTH
JADE: Alright, so can I get your name, pronouns, and where are you from?
TRACILYN: Um, my name is Tracilyn. My, um, pronouns are she, her, and I’m from Richmond, Virginia.
JADE: Awesome. And if you don’t mind me asking, what is your profession?
TRACILYN: I work in marketing.
JADE: Okay. Awesome. I used to intern at Rockstar for marketing. It was super fun.
TRACILYN: Yeah, yeah. Like the creative fields.
JADE: So my first question for you is, what’s a game you enjoy playing or what are you currently playing?
TRACILYN: So, I have been playing Overwatch almost since it launched, which is hilarious that you brought up Moira with me, because I was like, I love Moira, she’s like gorgeous, yeah, she’s like my thing. But another game that I just started playing too recently was the, the most recent Final Fantasy.
JADE: Okay, awesome. A lot of people are telling me that they really enjoyed it. Yes. So, my next question for you is, what do you enjoy about video games, and what do you look for?
TRACILYN: Um, for, it depends on the video game, because I also recently, I like to play things across genres. So, I’ve played other games like Disco Elysium, which is totally different than Overwatch, like a first-person shooter. Part of it’s escapism. Other things… It’s entertaining. Like I just want to forget, you know, forget about life and other worries for a little bit. And video games are really, you know, it’s better than like drugs and stuff. Like, and it’s very entertaining.
JADE: So real quickly, back to Overwatch. Who do you main? Who’s your favorite character, if any?
TRACILYN: Okay, so, when I first started, like, every other person that came out of other shooters, I started with Soldier 76. I have the most time still on Soldier 76. I play almost exclusively in Mystery Heroes. So, I have a lot of hours across all of the characters at this point, but I think my top, my highest win rate, I literally looked this up like a few days ago, my highest win rate is with Lucio. But I also love Junkrat, because I play on console.
JADE: Awesome, I like Junkrat a lot but I don’t play. My next question for you, what is something that video games have to offer?
TRACILYN: Mostly problem solving. Attention to detail is another thing too. Even, I mean, you can gain a lot of lessons out of video games, depending on the video game too, the style, like the genre, things like that. It does also help in work too, especially if you’re in the more creative fields, like getting inspiration for different design, or like with Disco Elysium, because it’s very heavily text based. You know, getting inspiration for copywriting. Noticing, like, copy editing, noticing themes in games, like, there’s a lot of video games.
JADE: And my last question for you. What is one word you would use to describe video games?
TRACILYN: I honestly kind of wanted to say ditto, but I’m referring to the Pokémon I could use that too ditto. It really can be transformative. I guess transformative is a better word than ditto. Um, yeah, I guess transformative.
JADE: I’ll do ditto asterisk transformative just for you.
TRACILYN: Yeah, do a little, little cartoon right next to it.
JADE: Exactly. Alright, thank you!
Thinking about my own answer to the question, “What do I like about video games,” I would have to agree with Anthony and Seamus. For me, it’s characters who really make a video game a make-or-break deal.
PANELS AND EXHIBITION HALL
Of course, it wasn’t just all interviews. I took some time to enjoy the panels that were organized at Flame Con. There were multiple artists, writers, and game developers sharing important stories about their experiences as queer, POC, or unrepresented people in the business of creating comics, board games, and stories. Into the Tingleverse was one of my favorite panels, Chuck Tingle was a master of comedy. The room was packed full of fans that Chucks call his “buckaroos” and everyone was engaged asking him questions about his latest queer novel, “Camp Damascus.” Also, Depicting Race in Queer Comics, was great as well. The speakers Carlo “Mercury” Quispe, Bishakh Som, Jennifer Camper, and Sharon De La Cruz had so much to share about queer POC inclusion in comics, most they’ve written themselves.
I was able to catch, Demystifying Game Design; Homo Superior Podcast Presents: X2: The X-Gaymes 2; But Make It Queer: Turning Mainstream Universes Gay, From Gotham to Galaxies Far, Far Away; Smash Bros: No Items Omega Tourney; Into the Tingleverse: A Sexy, Spooky Q&A with Chuck Tingle; Depicting Race in Queer Comics – Your Own and Others; and the last few minutes of the Cosplay Contest.
I had a great time over at Flame Con and met a lot of amazing incredible people. I would 100% recommend grabbing tickets for the next year. Flame Con was hosted in an accessible building and has a COVID-19 policy still in place to protect the attendees, which was important since a new variant is on the rise. As a bonus for young people, they also have an annual Youth Day where anyone 21 years of age or under can attend Flame Con for free!
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