Pride Month: Connecting Through Video Games as a Veteran Gaymer
By: L. Sahara McGirt (DarthSagaSwag(
Many might wonder what does me being a gaymer have to do with Veterans? Especially when blogging about video games for Stack Up. To answer that, my identity as an out and proud gaymer is inextricably linked with my time in the Military.
To begin with, if you read my piece yesterday, you'll know that I started gaming 27 years ago. As I grew up, games and the content and stories they contained changed over the years. With each new story, I discovered more about myself as I aged. I realized that my intense desire to save princesses from bad guys like Ganondorf had a little more to do with the person I wanted to become and who I would prefer to spend my life with.
As a teen, the discovery of the Sims began a lifelong love affair for the game and dream life I could create using the game's assets. With each iteration of the Sims came more and more progress for what is possible for same-sex relationships. Society was changing in much the same way, with the Sims reflecting that and, in some ways, going one step further in progressiveness.
As I grew up and progress in society moved forward, I eventually joined the Military, knowing that though Don't Ask, Don't Tell was still in place, by September of 2011, I could be out and proud. This is where video games, who I prefer to love, and being a Veteran all intersect. The summer of 2011, I discovered Mass Effect. A game that blew me away by how much it offered in terms of queer love story at a time when video games were realizing it was a direction that could be taken.
While there are some out there who label any game inclusive of identities outside of the norm as "political" or "woke," for me, a game like Mass Effect was more than I could have imagined having at the time. I grew up on science fiction and space operas, fantasy and speculative fiction. With Mass Effect, I could put myself into the shoes of a hero central to saving the galaxy, and I could have that hero start up a romance with an alien from an all-female race. For some, this doesn't matter so much. After all, "who cares about someone's sexuality?" But, when you grow up starved for content reflecting a part of you, it's a gift to be savored. Savored it, I did.
As gaymers, we're often faced with vitriol within gaming communities, but what's wonderful is when we get to connect with other gamers who love similar games, and none of that matters. After all, that should come first within gaming communities, right? As a Sailor, I connected with other people who loved video games, and even people who never played video games would sit down and watch me play in the barrack's common areas. The ability to share and connect across stories and enjoy games with other Military members regardless of identities is an experience I will always treasure.
Whether I was sitting in a common area with a game while others watched, talking about the latest game to come out, or taking the day off to pick up Skyrim the day it was released, gaming connected me to other service members. Nobody judged me for romancing Liara; many of the guys (and girls) did the same. To them, when discussing games, I was just another Sailor who enjoyed video games, maybe even a little bit more than they did. I could share games like Mass Effect, Saints Row, Skyrim, Call of Duty, Battlefield, and more with gay and straight Military members.
Post-military, it took me a long time to find my way into a gaming group that I feel a connection with. A lot of my gaming habits have focused on the single-player experience. When I did play online, it was either with family, long-time friends or in complete silence with randoms on my team. Now, though, I find myself a little more comfortable being able to play online within the Stack Up community. I was not meaning for this post to end up plugging Stack Up Game Nights when I started writing it, but after playing with the community and having such a good time, I realize just how much gaming within a community can be a great vehicle for connecting with other Veterans. Especially Veterans who may not share in my experiences as a gaymer.
While playing Fortnite with this group of mixed civilians and Veterans, all that mattered was that we were having fun. The couple of victories we had were just bonuses. Even as PCs crashed and people got frustrated at their ability to play, we were still helping and talking each other through things. All that mattered was the game. Not unlike in the Military, where all that matters is the mission and that we have each other's backs. Something I often miss from my service. It's experiences like that that make me proud to not only be a gaymer but be a Veteran as well.