Interview with Matt Conn and Philip Jones of GX3

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I recently had the chance to interview Matt Conn and Philip Jones of GX3, a convention currently being Kickstarted. GX, formally known as GaymerX, is the first known gaming and tech convention with a focus on LGBTQ geek culture. I wanted to talk to Matt and Philip about GX3 and Gaming in Color, the first feature documentary on LGBTQ gamers, which recently won Best Documentary Film at GenCon.

Matt Conn heads GaymerX, organizer of GX3, and MidBoss, creators of Read-Only Memories, which I’ve covered in previous interviews here and here. Matt cares deeply about gaming and creating a space where all gamers can enjoy and love games and do it without having to hide one part of their identity to “fit in” so to say.

Philip Jones is a self-described Texas-born queer with passions for video games, WWE wrestling, and social activism. They are the director of Gaming In Color. Phillip has also been the exhibitor director for GaymerX2 and the Community Manager for Read-Only Memories.

DHGF: How did you get involved with GX?
Matt: I went to E3 when I was 18 or 19, and to many kids, E3 was sort of the “disneyland” of video games or the oscars even – it was the biggest event in video games and the one that all the magazines talked about. When I first went there, I was sorta shocked by how..not for me it was. Tons of half nude ladies, all the parties were focused around being titallating for straight dudes, and stuff like faggot and other slurs were thrown around liberally. I wanted to create a space like that, but one that would be open and friendly to all gamers, especially queer ones like me!
Philip: I got involved shortly after the first GaymerX convention, through meeting Toni Rocca, the convention president, online. We had chatted for a while, and she asked me if I’d join on to help the team. I started as her assistant and progressed onto various roles on the convention team, which was often hard to define so we just called me the professional bear cub. Eventually I took over leading the Expo Hall and Indie Alley for GaymerX2, which was a perfect fit, and I had a really good time.

DHGF: What does being the creative director entail?
Matt: I am the creative director, as well as the “producer” so to say, so I help with the planning and logisitics of the convention. Toni, our con president, handles more of the at-show stuff like panels and events.

DHGF: What does being the exhibitor director entail? About how many exhibitors has GX seen so far, and what does it look like might be the outlook for GX3?
Philip: Being the exhibitor director means I am in charge of organizing and handling the convention’s Expo Hall and Indie Alley, where we had a big ballroom full of vendor tables and sponsor booths. We had indie games to play, jewelry and crafts to buy, clubs and guilds for people to join, artwork and comics and charities, and big game stations from Ubisoft and 2K and Gearbox. It was a really successful expo and the vendors were really happy with the show. I’ve been to a lot of conventions before, and knowing a lot of vendor friends, I knew that having an organized and well managed space was really important to having a good convention. I mostly stayed in the same room all 3 days of the con for 10 hours or more just so all of the exhibitors would have a dedicated person available to them to help with any issues that may come up. You never know what’s gonna happen! I’d never done anything like this before either so I didn’t know what to expect, but it helped a lot and I’m glad the expo was such a strong part of the convention.

DHGF: What does GX mean to you? What has it been like being involved with GX?
Matt: It means a lot! I really am excited being able to provide a different space in the gaming world – even if you don’t feel like there’s any issues in the gaming space and just wanna play games with other people, we take pride in creating a gaming space that is totally different in terms of the vibe and culture than anywhere else!

DHGF: What do you see GX’s place in gaming culture being?
Matt: We want to be both a different take on gaming, something that attendees have never seen before, while also being a safe space for all gamers to hang out, meet one another, and share their love of gaming.

DHGF: How have attendees responded to GX? Do you have any stories you’d like to share?
Matt: We’ve had a few proposals, and a lot of attendees have shared how awesome it has been to be able to play games with other people and not have to pretend to “act straight” or have to lie about their gender. It’s super cool to know people feel comfy and willing to be open about themselves and enjoy gaming even more!

DHGF: Some people have taken issue with the name change from GaymerX to GX: Everyone Games. What has been the response of the staff to these criticisms? How do you feel about the name change?
Matt: We’re still GaymerX, the event name is just GX – this is mostly due to the fact that we had about 40% female gamers, and many of our attendees are not gay or even queer. We’re mostly run by queer folks and the space is a queer space where respect and love are paramount, but we also want to show that this space isn’t exclusionary, its inclusive!

DHGF: Tell us a bit about Gaming in Color. What was the inspiration for it? What was the process like?
Philip: The inspiration for Gaming In Color was largely from the first convention. The Kickstarter for the film ran before GaymerX1 took place. There was a strong sense of understanding that this was something big and important that needed to be preserved and filmed for anyone to see that couldn’t make it to the convention. At the same time, queer awareness in games was only getting bigger. It was the perfect time to try and take 60 minutes to explain why things like representation and equality in games are important and awesome. We had a great opportunity to help celebrate strong queer voices in the games industry while also creating a vehicle for education for anyone who doesn’t understand it as these issues become more discussed.

DHGF: How has Gaming in Color been received?
Philip: The reception to the film has been strongly positive! I believe that the first thing you do after making a documentary is gauge the reaction and listen to people, to find out did we tell the story right? did we explain it in an entertaining and informative way? did we do our job? Fortunately everything we’ve heard has been from people really excited that this issue is the subject of a film now, and that they see hope for the future of equality in gaming, they see themselves represented in the cause. Gaming In Color is definitely a call to action, and it celebrates new ideas. We’ve been able to show it at a couple film festivals as well as universities and local screenings all around the world. Just recently we won the Best Documentary category earlier this month at Gen Con! We want to show the film everywhere we can and get as many people rallying behind the efforts of queerness in games!

DHGF: Where can people get/view Gaming in Color?
Philip: The best place to view Gaming In Color is at our VHX website, GamingInColor.com. The price is set at 10 dollars right now and hopefully that won’t inhibit anyone who wants to watch it!

DHGF: What advice do you have for anyone who is interested in LGBTQ+ topics within gaming?
Matt: I think just search our queer gamers, queer game theorists, and help support them – either by spreading their videos, creating your own content, discussing it – the more discussions we have, the quicker we can grow as a community and allow ideas to grow!

DHGF: How can people help GX3 succeed? How can people get involved?
Matt: Right now its all about signal boost – tell your friends, tell game companies to be involved – the more that we can work with game companies that want to support queer gaming culture, women in gaming, etc – the more we can send a message that all gamers want to be treated equal and gaming companies are on that same side.

Definitely check out GX3’s Kickstarter, which is nearing its $80,000 goal with a week left in the campaign. I’ve backed the project, as I have each of GaymerX’s projects, and look forward to the convention this coming year. GX3 will also be funded by some businesses you may have heard of, including Devolver Digital, Dim Bulb Games, Bertil Hörberg, Coffee Stain Studios, Mike Bithell, Tinsley PR, Maxistentialism, Asher Vollmer, Trion Worlds, Louis Stavrides, The Fulbright Company and Wow, Such Business, who have all pledged $3,000. Additionally, Blizzard Entertainment, Sympathy Plan, and MailChimp have committed over $10,000 each. So if this sounds like something you’re interested in, definitely look it up and donate generously!