Gays and gaming find a place in the Valley

Gays and gaming find a place in the Valley
By: Jesse Tannous,

As gamer and geek culture has grown more and more popular within main stream America-it has become easier for game fanatics to find social groups who share common interests. But it took a couple of determined local gaming fans to bring the Valley’s gay and nerd communities together.

The founders of Phoenix Gaymers Shane Blisset and Russell Hawkins set out to make sure that game lovers within the gay community can find that social extra of gaming which will include a comfortable and fun environment that allows gay gamers to be themselves.

“The big motivation was finding a place where gay people who didn’t necessarily fit the norm could go and feel at home,” explained Blisset, “Over the years we’ve had a lot of people who don’t exactly fit the norms even within our gay community, and our group is great for that.”

With humble beginnings and only word of mouth advertising Blisset and Hawkins successfully brought individual groups together and began to cultivate a fun and accepting community for gays.

“When I first joined I wasn’t very outgoing, I’m still kind of deathly afraid of people,” laughed Hawkins, who quickly added, “But I’ve gotten a lot better, the group has put me into situations where I have to talk to people and be there for them.”

“Taking the group public was a hard step in some ways, I wanted to make sure it was the right thing, but after talking to some of the core members we decided to get the word out there more,” explained Blisset, who paused and added, “The one thing I’m most proud of is, within the gay community there is an idea that when you get a lot of gay men together in one group you have the propensity for drama to happen very quickly. Since 2005 there have only been two people I’ve had to ask not to return to the group in all these years, and to me that’s an amazing thing.”

Co-founder Hawkins expressed how difficult it can be for gay nerds to find a social group that caters to their interests, “Just like within the straight community there are nerds that are a subset of that community. In the gay community it’s the same thing, just like there are fewer gay people, there are even fewer gay nerds but there out there, and that’s why we have the group to draw people in and connect them together.”

The Phoenix Gaymers now maintain an active Facebook page which helps them coordinate their weekly events which include game nights, dinners at Dave and Busters, card and movie nights, and the occasional club crawl.

As Phoenix Gaymers membership continues to grow aspirations about the clubs involvement within the gay community grow as well.

“I think it’s pretty inspiring that last year in Toronto or Montreal their gamer group marched in their gay pride parade,” explained Hawkins, “I think that would be a good goal for the future to grow our membership and participation for people who might want to do that for the Phoenix Pride Parade.”

Regardless of their larger goals their fundamental purpose is providing a place for locals to meet up and enjoy games and events together. “It’s about family,” explained Blisset, “A lot of the people in our group have become best friends, were very close, we call each other up, we depend on each other when we need help, and to me that’s made it well worth it.”

Blisset sent out this invitation for anyone who may be reluctant to attend an event hosted by the Phoenix Gaymers, “Take a chance, come check us out, we have people from all ages, all styles, nobody judges each other.”