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Tales From Gen Con: The Best (And Worst) Of Nerd Culture

“Welcome Gamers!”

Said the sign outside of the Indianapolis Convention Center. It was a sign that immediately became a joke among myself and my two friends, who had driven 10+ hours from NJ to Indianapolis to attend Gen Con 2018, an annual convention celebrating the creators and players of tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer 40k.

A sign like that casts a certain air over the entire event. In addition to serving as a general welcome sign for members of the event, it was a sign that all of ‘nerd culture’ would be deemed acceptable within these walls, at least for the four days the convention was active. And while the popularization of Marvel movies has increased the level to which “Nerdiness” is publicly accepted, there’s still a lot of nerd culture that is shunned by much of society.

Some of that might be a good thing. But who am I to judge?

The Good:

The area was basked in an overal sense of comfort and acceptance. Yes, there was your occasional steryotype nerd with no sense of proper body odor management and a few (a lot) of extra pounds, but more than anything was the number of people confidently sporting wear and gear from their favorite tabletop properties.

There were even quite a number of cosplayers. Far more than I expected, since the worlds of tabletop games don’t generally create the most interesting characters: The most interesting characters in any tabletop game are the ones created by those playing the games, and since every game has different players, there’s next to no way to dress up as any character that will be recognized by other people.

People seemed to be aware of this, so they took the “welcome gamers” sign as a chance to dress up as whatever the heck they wanted to. There was a full team of Overwatch characters posing for pictures, a large number of (what I assume were) anime characters with a mix of masks and colorful hairdo’s, and a bunch of Rick/Morty combos wandering around as well.

I didn’t see anyone dressing up as characters from any franchise that I was personally interested in, but it was still interesting to see people with so much love and appreciation of fictional characters. I spoke to one fan who lost 78 pounds in order to fit into a Soldier: 76 costume. Who says video games aren’t good for you?

And although I tried my hardest, I couldn’t find a person at the convention who acted unfriendly towards me. The air of similar interests and appreciation went a long way to making conversations simple and straightforward between individuals who are (to be honest) pretty socially awkward. I joined tables of six or seven people I’d never met if I heard them mentioning a tabletop franchise I’d played in the past, and made a number of friends that I hope to see again some time in the future.

The Bad:

Nerds are weird. One of the defining characteristics of a nerd is that they have, for some reason, been shunted from a certain aspect of life that many others enjoyed normally. Thus, they seek out others who have been similarly shunted, and thus, nerd culture is formed.

While many nerds eventually learn to reach out into the light and familiarize themselves with the mannerisms and cultures of the normal world, some never do. This leads to things like…

A young woman (Early 20’s?) was standing in the Con’s “Cosplay Line”, a section reserved for cosplayers that enables onlookers to take pictures of those in costume without feeling weird. At least, that’s the intention.

The woman was wearing a fairly revealing cosplay of some kind of pink-haired elf (Ears included). There were ten people in the Cosplay Line at the time, but everyone in the crowd was taking pictures of her. I saw seven photo-takers as I passed behind the crowd. One zoomed his video on her breasts and crotch, then sent it to a group chat. Three of the photographers were visibly erect. I saw the same woman on the next day of the convention, no longer wearing the cosplay.

One of the creators of Magic The Gathering was supposedly assaulted by a fan during the event. No reason was ever gleaned from the assault, but it was rumored to be due to the fan’s distate for the direction the Magic The Gathering narrative was headed.

A group of four event-goers were apprehended after lurking around the show floor stealing items from booths. After being caught in the act, they told an officer “You know everyone steals stuff at Cons, right?”

A man in his late 20’s whom I met at a game booth asked me if I thought he had a shot with the daughter of the man running the booth. The daughter was 15.


GenCon offered a chance for Gamers to come out and show their true colors. A lot of those colors were good. Many of them were refreshing to see. Many more of them were hair colors, which ranged from pink to green to hazel-blue.

But many of them were not good, although I still think its good to have these colors put in a public space for a while. After all, distasteful qualities like these are formed through seclusion and self-isolation. Exposing them to a crowd could lessen or diminish them, as uncomfortable as it might be for the crowd in question.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Caroline Walker

    August 8, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Fun how everyone gets so involved

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