For the majority of the year, the most serious nerds among us are shut away in dark rooms or basements in front of computer screens and games of Dungeons and Dragons. But every once in a while, the mothership seems to call them all home, at least for the length of a convention or other kind of meet-up. You’ll see Star Wars characters and gamers in a trance, flocking to event sites. Now, we’re not going to delve into the differences between geek and nerd culture. If you want to argue about it, we can probably assume that you fall into one of those two categories and will find a gathering you’ll love below.
1. Comic Con International
This famous meet-up in San Diego typically draws in more than 125,000 lovers of comic books, sci-fi, and basically anything that might get you beat up in high school. Welcoming nerds since 1970, Comic-Con has grown into a huge cultural phenomenon, attracting the media, comedians, and curious members of the public, as well as fans of the many pop culture elements the convention caters to. Apparently these nerds and nerd-watchers aren’t sparing any expense; the convention has an annual impact of around $160 million on the regional economy. If you’re going, buy tickets early as they tend to sell out, plan which workshops you want to attend, and don’t forget your camera.
2. Tokyo International Anime Fair
As a trade fair for the anime industry that takes place in the home country of anime, you know this event lures in the best and most famous anime companies and creators in the world. Though it’s only been around since 2002, the support of Japan’s government and powerful politicians have helped its attendance skyrocket to the 130,000 people it has seen in recent years. Prestigious industry prizes, known as the Tokyo Anime Awards, are given out during the convention. While anime and manga may not be considered nerdy in Japan (and many American fans would contend that it’s not nerdy anywhere), it’s hard to deny that there’s a specific demographic of people that follow the Japanese animation trend.
3. Dragon Con
Each year crowds pushing 50,000 converge on Atlanta to consume as much about the sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book industries as their little (or big, as the case may be) brains can hold. With a long list of prominent guests and performers, contests for everything from different types of costumes to robot battles, and an independent film festival, this event is perfect for those who really enjoy any of the categories covered here and want to mingle with other fanboys. Been looking for the chance to enter a Star Trek pageant or show off your comic book sketching skills? This is your arena.
4. Assembly Demo Party
If you don’t know what a demo party is, well, you’re in good company. The demoscene is a computer programming subculture where participants create audio-visual presentations to show off their skills and creativity. Don’t even try to act like that’s not nerdy. A demoparty is normally a several-days-long event where programmers get together to compete against each other by creating the best “demo” in several different categories. The Assembly is one of the largest demoparties and takes place in Finland. Thousands of the most demoscene-obsessed from around the world gather to compete and hang out for three or four days.
Computer lovers and multiplayer gamers should put DreamHack in Sweden on their list of events to attend sometime in their life. The gathering, which is considered the world’s largest computer festival, actually holds world records for being the largest LAN (or local area network for you non-gamers) party with 12,754 connected computer systems and for having the world’s fastest Internet connection. The event is held twice a year, lasting 72 hours each time with activities scheduled around the clock. The fun includes the festival where attendees can plug their computers into the system, several gaming and digital arts competitions, concerts, and an expo for the latest technologies.
6. International Consumer Electronics Show
While most people head to Vegas to have a scandalous good time with scantily clad showgirls and high-stakes poker tables, a large segment of the nerd population go there for the annual technology trade show. Since major products like the VCR, Nintendo, and 3D HDTV have been introduced at the event in years past, it has become a haven for technophiles around the world. The most recent gathering boasted 153,000 attendees and demonstrated some improved technologies, like an accelerated processing unit that you would probably only understand if you’re a huge computer nerd yourself. Don’t feel bad if you are; at least a computer nerd is one of the more profitable breeds of nerd.
It’s hard to say that anthropomorphic fans fit in with traditional nerds, but it’s definitely not a mainstream interest. Furry fans or furries, as they’re often called, love fictional human-like animal characters. This includes any animal that walks, talks, dresses, or otherwise acts like a human. While this might be normal for children considering how many books and cartoons involve talking animals, this conference is for the obsessed adults, many of whom dress up as their favorite anthropomorphic fantasies, costumes that they call fursuits. You might think you were walking into a sports team mascot convention if you didn’t know where you were. While there are other furry conferences around the country, Anthrocon is one of the largest, with more than 4,200 members.
Possibly the largest gathering of comic-book nerds on the planet, with more than 500,000 participants each year, Comiket is a huge market for selling self-published comic books, particularly Japanese ones. It takes place in Tokyo twice each year and crowds get so thick that people who arrive in the morning normally wait between one and five hours in line just to enter. Unlike many other nerd gatherings, the audience at this event has traditionally been mostly female, though the tides seem to be turning in the past two years. Whether it’s men or women buying these unique comic books, they can expect to resell them for much more than they purchased them for since reprintings are few and far between.
Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, is widely recognized as the world’s largest games event. More than 275,000 nerds and 5,000 journalists (who might also be nerds for all we know) show up each year, and companies show up from 39 countries to show off their gamer gear. Since the world’s biggest video game fans and industry experts are all together in one place, many game developers, including Nintendo, Sega, and EA, use the opportunity to show off and test their newest toys. And you can’t deny the hilarity of the eager attendees rushing into the event space when the doors open, which has been affectionately named “The Running of the Nerds.”
10. World Joyland
What do nerds do in the time between their favorite conventions? They plan vacations to video game-themed amusement parks. China’s World Joyland is a 600-acre theme park based around the works of the company that created World of Warcraft and Starcraft. The park definitely attracts large numbers of geeks. The day before the park’s grand opening, it arranged to break the world record for most people dressed up as comic book characters. They succeeded, with 1,530 nerds showing up for the task. Another 201 people were disqualified for dressing as characters from video games or other forms of entertainment. It must be depressing to be disqualified from being a part of the comic-book nerd community.
11. Penny Arcade Expo (PAX)
PAX, is like a smaller E3, but intended for consumers rather than developers. See, they get a bunch of video game hot shots to show off their hardware, software and um…in some cases hot chicks in tall boots. Then, they invite the public to hang out and fall in love with all kinds of the latest, greatest gear and games on (or about to enter) the video game scene. Attendees can play games, attend panel sessions about all kinds of cool stuff, see live music and even compete in video game tournaments! Exciting, right? YES! Especially if you like shiny bags of SWAG, the occasional hot chick in costume, new technology, and inspiring speeches.
So now you have a pretty solid idea of what goes on in general. What might not be entirely clear to you is the feeling of “home”. *cue the violin for sappy time* Let’s face it, we as gamers are strange and weird. We typically don’t mesh well with the world outside our own. The acceptance in ordinary society is growing quite rapidly, but how many people in your life truly appreciate and understand your pleasure, your obsession, your escape? While we’re predominantly having too much fun to care, wouldn’t it be nice to be embraced by a collective mutuality? After all, you know gamer friends are the perfect circle of people you always want to hang out with. Why not a sea of thousands, all singing to the tune of “Let’s Play”? Simply put, PAX is your haven. Your heaven. Your home.
This post by Rose King originally appeared on Best Online Colleges.com. #11. added by yours truly Luke Gallagher