Such a loaded topic. And it’s mostly down to opinion. Which makes this a hotly debated topic.
It basically seems to boil down to this: would geek culture be as prevalent if conventions didn’t exist? Or would conventions exist if geek culture wasn’t as prevalent?
Kind of a chicken and egg dilemma here.
Some of the first conventions for all things we consider geek are actually still around today. Gen Con, San Diego Comic-Con, Dragon*Con, Balticon, Wonder Con… all have been around for well over 30 years. Newer conventions have taken off too. PAX, New York Comic Con, Indiana Comic Con, FanWorks… the list is extensive.
And conventions have been happening in so many different fields. MAGIC Trade Show Los Vegas is one of the largest fashion conventions in the country and has been for over 90 years! VidCon opened in 2010 and has been growing ever since as the main source of information and networking for all you YouTubers and Social Media Stars out there. Home and garden shows, sales markets…jewelry and antiques. If you can geek out about it you can find a convention on it.
So what is the appeal? Why cram yourself in a convention center for four days with 50…60… 100,000 other people? What’s the draw?
It’s that simple.
We want to know we have found others that are like us.
And that is really the influence on geek culture.
Geeks came first. But it was the desire and longing to bring together like minded people that caused conventions to really take off.
From Gary Gygax creating Gen Con to the fashionistas of the Men’s Apparel Guild of California Imaging MAGIC to the thousands of small homegrown cons that happen around the country there is something for everyone.
And it’s because we all want to find a place to belong.
Geeks have long been stereotyped and ostracized in society. Having an obsession with anything make that a reality. No one around you really understands why you love something that much… and when you find people that do they usually are so far away. So what do you do?
Before the internet and social media age you would get together and celebrate or work. Conventions have been around for centuries. From the medieval jousts and fairs to the multi-media interest hubs they have become today
It’s how we get together and find our people. Our group. Our tribe.
Conventions are the epitome of geek culture and have helped it grow into the mainstream acceptance it has today. It’s no longer considered weird to walk down the street with your STARFLEET issued red shirt, while sipping a delicious beverage out of your Doctor Who tumbler and carrying a Bag of Holding full of comics, graphic novels and books.
What went from stereotypes of nerdy, uncool boys (and the rarely occasional girl) in their parents basements playing some unknown and intensive fantasy game has become part of mainstream culture. I mean Stranger Things anyone?!?
And I do think conventions are to blame. In the best way possible.
Board game sections in large stores have gone from your typical Parcheesi, Monopoly and dominos to having full on tabletop games like Settlers of Catan, Villianous, and Pandemic just in my lifetime! You can walk into a mall and see everything from the Disney Store to Box Lunch carrying products for kids and adults alike . Small game and comic book stores have expanded or even built second and third locations. Arcade Bars are a THING. Books and comics are being made into movies and tv shows that even the ungeekiest among our world enjoy.
It’s become accessible. Easy. Fun. And most of all: accepted.
With out the visionaries of people like Gary Gygax, Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger, John Bunnell, David Cody, Ed Kramer… and so many countless others (too many to individually name here) I truly believe that geek culture would not be the thing it is today.
And that, honestly, is thanks to the fact that they decided it would be amazing to bring all their friends together and spend a weekend celebrating what they loved.
All. Things. Geek.