CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Two friends in Charlotte are running quite the popular Facebook group, connecting video game enthusiasts within the LGBTQ community.

Jonathan Barrio and Zach Smith are Co-Directors of the Charlotte Gaymers Network; a group they started nearly one year ago.

Smith said a small group of friends were quarantining and staying home, so they started a group online to chat about gaming.

Gaming is inherently inclusive and the two wanted to create a safe and supportive environment for other enthusiasts to connect.

Smith said, “No matter your race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status, gender, sexuality, when you put a controller in your hand, you know you’re on the same level.”

The group started small with around 10 people, but has now bloomed into nearly 700. It’s not a space just to talk about gaming though, Smith and Barrio said they talk about books, music, cooking, TV and everything in between.

It’s also a good chance to talk about video games as art and a growing industry.

“The stories and the narratives that were seeing are just incredible,” said Barrio.

The group has humble beginnings in terms of their community outreach; bringing games to various businesses and LGBTQ events.

“At first, it was Zach and I who were putting up the capital for purchasing all of this equipment,” Barrio said.

Now CGN uses memberships help pay for outreach events like this one at ‘time out youth in charlotte… and other philanthropy.

“We budgeted for about $4,500 for the year thinking that’s what we’d get from the memberships and in just three months, we have almost tripled that,” Barrio said.

Anyone is welcome to join in CGN.

Barrio said, “We more than welcome our straight allies and we really want to bring those folks in.”

The group is making something many think of as a solo-activity, not so lonely anymore.

“For me growing up as a gay kid, getting bullied a lot, gaming was a nice escape and I think a lot of other members feel that as well,” Smith said.

CGN does many community outreach and networking events and they’re working to branch out with philanthropy.

Visit their website to check out memberships and their event schedule.