Building community and giving back through games

From a Facebook Group to a nonprofit organization, Qweerty Gamers is making its mark on LGBTQ+ culture and an industry.

This story is part of TechConnect, a series about how Facebook’s tech innovations and investments help people build deeper connections and community.

I got into gaming when I was very young, like four years old. It started with my parents’ Macintosh, and I never looked back. I always wanted to work in games. I’m very passionate about them — I dream about them at night. In gaming, the possibilities of the different, amazing worlds we can create are limitless.

I got into the video games industry in my mid-20s, and I’m a veteran now. I’m a college dropout and very proud of that because I love to learn — I’m just not a classroom person. I’m better at leading people and managing things. My background’s in quality assurance and community management. And I’ve always been excited and optimistic about the future of gaming. That’s why I started Qweerty Gamers.

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Qweerty Gamers is a nonprofit organization that champions the inclusion and visibility of LGBTQ+ gamers into the broader gaming world. It started out as a Facebook Group in 2015. We created it as a safe space for queer Minecraft players. We’d organize in-game meetups, share our creations there, and invite new friends to join us. It evolved over time, and we started fundraising for nonprofits like the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the TransLatin@ Coalition. One of our members, Joel Kwan, is a lawyer at Paul Hastings and offered to do some pro bono work for us, so we became a formal nonprofit in 2018.

Top (L-R): Qweerty Gamers Board Secretary & Gaming Journalist/Writer Kaitlin Blagg, Board President & CEO Raymond Lancione, Board Treasurer & Influencer Manager Chris Avila. Bottom: Volunteer Facebook Group Coordinator Sam Bass.

At its core, Qweerty Gamers provides a safe platform for both developers and LGBTQ+ gamers to connect with and learn from each other. We have community nights where we’ll play games that are popular in the community like Overwatch and League of Legends. A lot of folks who work on those games also play with us. We review video games, interview developers and highlight the diversity of their teams, host workshops to prepare LGBTQ+ gamers for careers in the industry, and offer consultations for developers on queer representation in their games.

Through the Victoria Kennedy Microgrant, we seek to uplift LGBTQ+ folks and help them break into the video game industry. The program was established in my mom’s honor because she was very supportive of the queer community. She loved all the queer icons — Madonna, ABBA. Her favorite movie was The Birdcage, which is also my favorite. She was an educator, and she never let anybody get in her way. I don’t know if I’d be doing this nonprofit if it weren’t for her.

We also participate in a lot of coalitions, which I think is the future of nonprofits — working together instead of fighting over the same funding. In June, we were part of a dozen nonprofits that came together for #UnifiedForPride, a multi-platform digital fundraiser for organizations dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ communities around the world.

There’s so much work that we have ahead of us, and there are so many folks that we can still uplift, like the VTuber community. Being a VTuber is really powerful for trans* and non-binary folks, some of whom may have dysphoria. They can be a VTuber, and they don’t have to worry about their physical appearance. They can see themselves as their avatars, which can really help with mental health. I’m still learning — our community is still learning about ourselves.

It’s really important for queer folks to care about video games, even if they don’t particularly like them, because this is the new entertainment industry. This is where the youth are getting their stories — it eclipses every single entertainment industry in the world. The games industry has its issues, but I really do think it’s a game changer for us. This is the future, and it’s where queer stories are going to be told.