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Playing for Keeps

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Let the gaymes begin.
by Jed Ocot

GaymersGrowing up, Eric Hulsey was never in one place for very long. His father’s job caused the family to move a lot, meaning new schools and new friends. No matter the city, one thing did not change—Hulsey’s love for video games. “It was the fastest way to ice-break conversations with new kids, and we would become friends,” he says.

Years later, the idea to start up Houston Gaymers began over dinner with a few of Hulsey’s friends. The term “gaymers” refers to the group of people who identify themselves with the LGBT community and also have an active interest in the video-game community. The friends shared video-game interests, yet found it difficult to find others who did as well. “Our conclusion was that there just wasn’t a group or event that would even bring them all together, and so we discussed starting one,” says Hulsey, a founding leader and president of Houston Gaymers. “We started a Facebook group page and set our first meetup at the then Coffee Groundz on Bagby and McGowan in Midtown.”

About 40 people attended the first meetup in May 2009—a much better turnout than the founding leaders ever imagined. Those same people returned for subsequent meetups, and Gaymers began to grow. Currently, there are 1,042 members.

The Flagship Houston Gaymers meetups are on the fourth Saturday of every month—though it varies for holidays—from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. at Thirteen: The Heights Bar. Here, they provide about 10 different setups of social games ranging from Rock Band to Dance Central, as well as a guest food truck.

Semi-monthly meetups, called Handhelds Connect, are held the first Monday of every month from 7:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. at Les Givral’s Kahve on Washington. These separate meetings were created as a way to, “shrink our flagship meetups because gaymers like smaller intimate groups,” Hulsey says.

GaymersHouston Gaymers provides a safe environment where new and old members can meet and be sociable. Much like any social scenario, all it takes is for one person to strike up a conversation. “It is really easy to come and be a part of it,” fellow leader Lee Longoria says. “All you have to do is come up to someone and say ‘Hey, do you mind if I play this game?’ By doing that, you’re already starting a conversation. The great thing about gaymers is they’re already open to socializing with other gay nerds. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, or what your body type is, or even what kind of games you are into.”

Now the nation’s largest gayming group, Houston Gaymers has grown into something more than just members of the LGBT community joining together to play video games. Hulsey says that Gaymers is a “seed for creating a much larger and accepting gaming community, while promoting awareness off and online about many of the issues of cyber-bullying in our nation. We host a unique collective of individuals, most of which are introverts and dealing with the day-to-day challenges of being gay and the social stigma of being a geek, too.”

Keeping involved with the community, charity work is also a major focus of the group. Houston Gaymers hosts a food drive with local food banks and works with the Texas Children’s Hospital every year as part of a toy drive for the holidays. “They have told us that our involvement in the toy drive is really appreciated and that we donate the best toys,” Longoria says. “I guess since we are all nerds, we know what kids like.”

Corey Murrell was first introduced to the Gaymer meetups in 2010 through a friend. At the time, he had no idea the group even existed, and his friend figured it would be of interest to him. “Growing up, and even in college, I didn’t really have gay friends,” Murrell says. “I didn’t really know how to go about meeting gay people. When my friend brought me to Gaymers, it was overwhelming the amount of awesome gay guys who are like-minded, like playing video games, and are just as nerdy and socially awkward as me.”

Murrell has even volunteered at the Gaymers booth during the Houston Pride Festival. They feature a video game for the public to play, and volunteers help spread the word about the group.

Now in its fourth year, Longoria is proud that Houston Gaymers gives people “more of a sense of community. There are a lot of gaymers out there who don’t connect with the mainstream gay community and feel left out because they don’t have the same common interests. It shows that the community is actually a diverse group, and they have a part in it, so they no longer feel excluded.”

Those curious in joining the group can simply show up to one of the Houston Gaymers events or find more information through their Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/houstongaymers.

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