When I first started playing video games, it was all about escape: escaping the pressures of school and society and disappearing into another world where I got to play a character other than myself.
As I’ve grown up and become more confident in myself and my identity as a queer man, gaming is no longer about escape—it’s about connection. It’s the way for me to keep in touch with my friends across the world, or even just down the road. And I’m not alone. Given the challenges that LGBTQ+ people face in daily life, games give us a place to be who we are, and build a community that lets us express ourselves in a safe space.
Within those spaces, our digital avatars are how we represent ourselves, and over the past few years simulation and role-playing games in particular have been expanding their range of LGBTQ+ characters. And that inclusion is generating increased engagement—According to a recent Nielsen Games survey, LGBTQ+ gamers are 29% more likely to play role-playing games and 54% more likely to play simulation games than the general population.
While Nielsen’s most recent international LGBTQ+ report found that perceptions of LGBTQ+ inclusion in media are improving, that inclusion is skewed mostly towards gay and lesbian people. The gaming world is bucking that trend, with popular new titles like Overwatch 2 and Spirit Swap exploring other queer identities.
But gaming platforms aren’t the only way LGBTQ+ gamers are connecting. Over 40% of LGBTQ+ gamers watch video game trailers and 80% are on YouTube, giving game publishers an opportunity to advertise or join the conversation during livestreams to establish a deeper connection with the community.
This progress in LGBTQ+ representation in games is the work of many people and allies in the gaming community, but also groups like GLAAD which have been pushing for positive change across all media platforms. Social media is one of the most inclusive platforms for LGBTQ+ people and LGBTQ+ gamers are tuning in to social channels like Twitter, Discord and TikTok more than the general population.
I recently encountered Qweerty Gamers on Twitter, a non-profit focused on leveling-up LGBTQ+ representation in the gaming community. With the mental health crisis impacting so many young people, especially in the queer community, the group has been using their influence to raise awareness and support youth who are struggling. It’s a powerful way for LGBTQ+ gamers to help people in crisis, providing a safe space for connection and support.
The virtual universes in video games provide the opportunity for LGBTQ+ people to express our identity, and avatars and gaming add-ons help our digital selves reflect our real-life uniqueness. LGBTQ+ gamers spend 65% more than the general population—about $28 per month—on customized video game accessories, another way of expressing identity through shared tokens that connect you to others in the community. For LGBTQ+ gamers, gaming isn’t just about winning and losing, it’s about being all that you can be.