My studies of geeks have taken me to some strange places: fan websites, video game stores, and even Hot Topic. (When I walked into a Hot Topic store for the first time last month, I turned to my brother and whispered, “I have found my people!”) One of the strangest places my researches have taken me was a fan convention.
Geeks, bless them, can be social creatures. Despite the stereotype of lonely, basement-dwelling troglodytes, many geeks enjoy social events. These often involve geeky media: trips to the cinema, meetups for role-playing or board games, card game tournaments, and so on. The largest social events for geeks are called conventions, often abbreviated to cons.
A con is an organized gathering of fans, generally devoted to a particular franchise or medium. Common features of cons include appearances from special guests, autograph signings, live performances, vendors, previews of upcoming media, announcements, contests, cosplay, and waiting endlessly in line. (You may never have heard of cosplay, but that’s another study for another time.)
Probably the most famous convention is the San Diego Comic-Con. Although SDCC is named for comics, this yearly event covers films, video games, books, manga, anime, toys, and other media. E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) is technically an annual trade fair for the video game industry, yet boasts many features of cons, such as previews, announcements, cosplay, and live presentations. Both SDCC and E3 happen in the next couple of months, and I look forward to their announcements and media trailers.
I have attended only one convention. For science.
Nah, I actually went to a con a few years back to pick up voice actors’ autographs for my younger brother’s birthday. My experiences were mixed. The venue, a hotel, was nice, but the lines were endless. They wound serpent-like through the hotel, twisting, bending, and occasionally intersecting. When lines became too long to fit the venue, new lines formed to get in the old ones. It was ridiculous.
Armed with Radiant Historia, a book, and some apples, I endured the lines and collected my brother’s autographs. I also got to meet voice actors like John DiMaggio and Grey DeLisle, albeit very briefly. It was neat.
My intentions in attending a con may not have been strictly academic, but I learned a lot by observing geeks in their natural habitat. Those I met were pleasant, cheerful, and friendly, if occasionally a little odd. Contrary to stereotypes, there was not a pale, acne-covered misfit in sight. There were guys with guitars, and gals wearing silly costumes, and people exhausted from standing in lines for eighty-nine consecutive hours to meet Tara Strong.
As I knew from the start, geeks were nice, ordinary people who happened to be fans of stuff. Cons give geeks the opportunity to be geeky together, and I think that’s pretty neat.
In Pittsburgh we have a furries con. The biggest one in the world (or at least the US?) I believe.
I consider myself reasonably versed in geek culture, but the furry phenomenon is something I absolutely don’t understand.
If you one day decide to try, be sure to tie a rope around your waist so we can pull you out if something goes awry.