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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

WWU QueerCon turned into video game

Over 20 exhibitors attended virtual event

A superhero poses beside the Western Washington University Queer Con logo.
A superhero poses beside the Western Washington University QueerCon logo. This illustration was used to advertise QueerCon 2021. // Illustration courtesy of WWU QueerCon

By Cameron Martinez

WWU QueerCon held their annual art convention on April 24 on the online platform Gather. This is their fifth convention and the second one to be held online.

“I think it’s fun to have events that help people remember the good parts of being queer, and the good parts of being creative, and enjoying yourself and enjoying life,” QueerCon Outreach Coordinator Alexis Goss said.

WWU QueerCon, on a normal year, is held in person on Western’s main campus. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this wasn’t an option for the coordinators of the convention.

“A lot of conventions over COVID-19 just got cancelled,” Goss said. “I went to one that was held over Discord, which was extremely confusing. I think it’s difficult to find a good platform. Gather is working great for us.”

Gather is a website used to have virtual events and gatherings. It looks and works like a retro video game with video chat integrated within and guests can even customize their own character.

The convention had rooms for panels, guests, private chats and even a game room. The main room connecting them all had a fountain with real water sounds.

“In [our] convention space, they have tables, where the people who are standing in the spots that are marked with chairs are in a private conversation with anyone else who’s at a chair at that specific table,” Goss said.

These private conversations allow for a break from the busy sounds of an in-person convention, they said. Users can interact with objects in the game in the same way they could during a real convention. The objects lead to documents and website links.

The guest list at the convention ranged from comic book artists to Planned Parenthood. All guests had a table decked out with their logo and documents showcasing their work and/or information about who they are.

“Planned Parenthood really believes in equality and providing equal access and care for everybody, and that includes queer folk,” co-lead officer of Planned Parenthood Generation WWU Jade Phillips said. “I think it is really important for LGBTQ+ individuals to have a safe space and a safe medical professional that they feel that they can talk to.”

WWU QueerCon had many talented artists working with varying types of media show up to their convention. 

“I always knew about QueerCon, through my work as an LGBTQA resource center advisor,” comic book writer and publisher, Craig Hurd-McKenney said. “I only recently came back into making comics again. And so once that happened, I was like, I really want to help support this.”

WWU QueerCon also allows queer and transgender students to have a safe space to express themselves.

“Peer relationships are everything to fostering a climate that facilitates success for queer and trans students. So, QueerCon is a beautiful example of formal opportunities for queer and trans students to interact with each other,” Jason Garvey, associate professor and program coordinator for the Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration Program at University of Vermont, said.

For many guests, WWU QueerCon is special because this event wasn’t accepted when they were younger.

“I’m a baby boomer, and I wish these kind of resources were available to me as a queer kid growing up,” Executive Director of OrcaCon, Donna Prior said. “So to me, it’s great for us, especially for myself as an older person, to be able to be supportive to the younger queer folks who are questioning who are not yet visible, but to see elder queer people out there doing our thing.”

Another event catered towards members of the LGBTQ+ community is OrcaCon. OrcaCon is an annual inclusive tabletop game convention located in Bellevue, Washington.

WWU QueerCon is looking for more people to volunteer to help with the convention next year. Interested volunteers can reach out through Discord or email.

“A lot of us are upperclassmen because people keep graduating,” Goss said. “So we’re always looking for more people to join us. Any sort of people who just want to help out with little things or big things would be awesome.”

To learn more about QueerCon and LGBTQ+ events on campus, read LGBTQ+ art, representation and conversation at Queer Con and LGBTQ+ Western events provide support for students.

Cameron Martinez is a campus life reporter for The Front. She is majoring in visual journalism with a minor in queer studies. When not reporting, Cameron enjoys designing pages and watching podcasts. You can reach her at cameron.westernfront@gmail.com and @doctorcameron on Instagram.

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