A Decade of Geek Conventions and Other Community Events

I’m not a Star Trek fan. While I enjoyed the first two Chris Pine movies, the franchise’s particular flavour of sci-fi wasn’t my cup of tea. And yet around this time in 2010, I found myself dying of laughter as William Shatner went on a hilarious rant about his time working on the show. Even with no real background on his work or his life, I was moved by the sheer spectacle of this famous guy with a microphone on stage. I still haven’t really delved into the world of Star Trek, but I’ll never forget that one night at Fan Expo Canada.

Up until my wife and I visited our first convention with that William Shatner panel among many other attractions, video games, board games, and other nerdy pursuits (TM) have mostly been a pastime I’d enjoy alone or with a small group of friends. By attending my first convention, it opened the door to celebrate our shared fandoms with a community. My life hasn’t been the same since.

Being able to see actors, artists, writers, and other creators in person continues to be a high point for me when I go to these events. Besides being in the presence of their celebrity glow, they oftentimes share wonderful stories and insights on their perspective of the world. Whether it was that William Shatner panel from my first convention, to Michael J Fox sharing the story of a guy who got his face tattooed on their butt, to sitting in on a panel with engineers talking through their latest schematics for an R2D2 robot they just built, I always get value out of what they have to say. Even when I’m not familiar with their work or the subject matter being discussed, I come away with some nugget of entertainment or knowledge that I didn’t have before.

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Me and Mike Tyson! #fanexpo #miketyson

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The celebrities are cool, but the appeal of these shows for me goes further. When it comes to shopping for items relating to geek and pop culture, you can’t beat a convention. Whatever you’re into, you’ll find items relating to that all under one roof. I’ve tried to cut back in recent years, but I tend to splurge at these shows. Video games, collectables, clothing, comics, board games, art, and a host of other goodies have come home with me over the years. My biggest splurge was a PlayStation 3 during that first show, which became the subject of a post that changed this site’s trajectory forever.

What I didn’t realize going into my first convention was the value that comes with celebrating in a large group of people with similar interests. While geek culture is rapidly melding into pop culture as a whole, there’s still a semblance of feeling like an outsider when it comes to enjoying some of these things. Being in this environment makes me feel welcome for liking what I like.

One of those turning point community moments for me occurred during that first Fan Expo. They were running a Super Street Fighter IV tournament, and it was my first time participating in such an event. For a game that I’d mostly spent playing alone against online opponents, it felt so warm to be in the company of like-minded individuals who loved the game just as much as I did, if not more so. Even though we were there to beat each other up, everyone treated each other with a great deal of respect. That positive first experience inspired me to compete in a number of other tournaments down the road, achieving some level of success along the way.

Since our maiden voyage to Fan Expo, Steff and I have traveled to different cities to check out their local conventions. It’s cool to see the similarities based on fandoms and the differences based on region. For example, in more western parts of my province, wrestling is a much bigger deal than it is in my neck of the woods. Famous wrestlers from the past make up a sizable portion of their respective guest lists. At Hamilton Comic Con, I even got to meet one of my wrestling heroes, Rob Van Dam!

Over the course of this last decade, the biggest change to me as a person that has come out of attending these events is its influence of how I consume and embrace all things geekdom. Being exposed to so many different things normalized the idea of trying out many different shows, comics, board games, and other activities. Not everything has been a hit, but I’ve discovered so many more things that I enjoy by being a part of these events.

It’s also helped me empathize with others and they like. Whether it was my wife and her avid pursuit of cosplay, or the multitude of fandoms that I come across at the events, it’s wonderful to see others so happy celebrating the things they love. No reason for me to rain on anyone’s parade, even if I don’t share the same enthusiasm.

Attending conventions has proven to be an incredibly positive experience on my life. Even if my bank account will never recover from the myriad of shows I visit each year, it’s always an entertaining and enlightening experience. We’re just days away from Fan Expo Canada 2019 and I’m aiming to visit EGLX for the first time later this year! Can’t wait for another great run of conventions!

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