On Saturday, July 18th, GLAAD held its first ever Digital Media event as part of our newly launched Project on Homophobia & Virtual Communities.
The event, a panel discussion hosted by Electronic Arts on their private campus in Redwood City, CA, brought out some of the industry's foremost companies, organizations, gamers and media as both panelists and audience members.
Panelists included Flynn DeMarco, the founder of GayGamer.net, Dan Hewitt, the Senior Director of Communications for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) which owns and hosts E3, Caryl Shaw, a Senior Producer in the Maxis Studio (Electronic Arts, Inc.) who has worked on games like The Sims and Spore, Cyn Skyberg, VP of Customer Relations at Linden Lab (Second Life), and Stephen Toulouse, the Program Manager for Policy and Enforcement on Microsoft's XBox LIVE service.
The panel started with an introduction from GLAAD's incoming President, Jarrett Barrios who then introduced me, GLAAD's Director of Digital Media, as the moderator of the panel.
To begin, we showed a video I produced specifically for the panel which highlighted the issue at hand - how rampant and vile homophobia and anti-LGBT rhetoric is across virtual communities and how that virtual vitriol has real world impacts, especially on young children.
The video was made entirely of content publicly available on the internet, from news stories on outlets such as 365Gay News on Logo, to homemade videos on YouTube, to comments on blogs, social networks, and other places.
Click here to watch the high quality version.
From there, I invited the panelists up to begin our discussion. I decided the best way to run the panel would to truly moderate - take questions and comments from virtual community enthusiasts and have the panelists address them directly. Having written an op-ed about the panel's topic a couple weeks prior for the popular gaming website Kotaku, I pulled from the near 500 comments and conversations generated there.
The panel discussion was spirited, with the panelists addressing comments and questions ranging from what some have called "flaunting" sexual orientation in gaming, to the justifications people have for using anti-gay slurs, to why there aren't more LGBT characters to identify with, to the importance of education, and much more. There was also a Q&A portion where attendees got to ask their own questions.
At the conclusion of the event, the panelists reaffirmed their commitment to working with GLAAD and stressed how important this issue was to all of them. We all agreed that our goal should be to make virtual communities fun and safe for everyone, and that "everyone" includes LGBT people.
Dozens of press outlets and blogs have written about the panel and GLAAD's work in this area. A representative from Kotaku was able to attend the event in Redwood City and wrote about their experience here and here.
As you will see and hear below, this is just the beginning of GLAAD's important work in virtual communities. We'll be expanding our work with our current partners, reaching out to more companies, and engaging our members and supporters to call for more safe spaces, better and LGBT inclusive policies, and help educating people about the real world impacts of virtual homophobia.
I have broken the panel down into segments which you can view below. Just click where it says "click here to play" and that video will load and play.
Part 7 - Panelists address impediments to having LGBT characters in games and how we - both the industry and GLAAD - should respond to defamation like "Watch Out Behind You, Hunter!"
Part 10 - Being "out" in the industry.