For those who don't know already, I suppose I need to come out publicly. I am, of course, a gamer.
I don't mean that I'm someone you'll find playing Angry Birds in the dentist's waiting room (although I totally am). I mean that video games are a major, important part of my life. How important? Important enough that under my TV sit an XBox 360, a PlayStation 3 and a Wii. Important enough that right at this moment I have a PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS within easy reach.
You see that guitar on the cover of this week's issue? That's a real Fender guitar, hollowed out in the back and refitted with electronics that let it serve as a controller for Rock Band. It is awesome and it is mine.
So, yeah, I get a little crazy about video games in much the same way I get crazy about books — that's why I have shelves and boxes full of both. They are a way for me to relax, to get excited, to get emotional, to do all the things that art and entertainment are supposed to do.
And I am among those who consider some video games to be art, the same as some movies, music and books are art (even if much of the rest is dreck). That wasn't the viewpoint I held as a 6-year-old playing Pong in my living room, when video games were still in their pixellated infancy. And it wasn't the viewpoint I held in my 20s, when I was memorizing my first round of Mortal Kombat fatalities.
It wasn't until I played Final Fantasy VII that I began to understand games as art. It was the first game that made me cry, because it was the first game that got me emotionally involved. It's the reason, I believe, that I have such a passion for games that tell stories — real stories, not just the animated filler some games throw in between shooting sessions so you have a convenient time to grab something from the fridge or hit the bathroom.
But being a gay gamer has often been an awkward thing to be. For most of their history, video games have been a pretty heterosexual male playground, where fighting games were sold on the basis of the realistic breast physics that programmers created for scantily clad female fighters. Happily, that playground has changed — although the fixation with unhealthily oversized breasts remains.
These days, I can play games where gay characters take the lead. Dragon Age is among the head of the pack — you can check out my interview with the game's head writer, David Gaider, exclusively on MetroWeekly.com — where the fantasy-based gameplay also allows the player to form romantic attachments to other characters, regardless of gender. Gay themes pop up all over, from role-playing games to action epics.
That's not to say that these things come without controversy. As always, there are people who complain and protest every time a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender life is acknowledged in any entertainment or art form. But the best news is that gay gamers continue to come out, in person and online, and show that we are as much a part of this community as we are any other.
While video games are still a young form, advances in technology and programming mean that they will play an ever-greater role in our lives, perhaps every bit as important as television and movies have already become. Which means if you haven't started playing yet, you'd best get started.
Oh, who am I kidding? You've already got Angry Birds on your phone, don't you?