At one point in time, being a nerd or a geek was something that you would not typically openly declare or show, out of fear of being judged. I can think of countless movies off of the top of my head where the central plot points are based upon the upholding of high school cliques, the nerds usually being the ones that are tormented and humiliated by others who stood closer to the peak of the social pyramid. That time is no longer. The rise of the nerds is among us and this unique culture has already taken the world by storm. In celebration of this paradigm shift, annual conventions are held all around the world, they are places free of judgment where individuals can embrace their once secluded nerdy habits.
My favorite of which thus far would most certainly have to be ConBravo, a convention that like many others celebrates the dawn of the nerd but with a greater emphasis on representation and broadness. It was held in all three floors of the Hamilton Convention center for a series of three days and places a huge emphasis on new media, gaming, cosplay and anime. Attendees were provided with the option to be weekend heroes (attend for the entire weekend) or part time heroes (attend for a single day). They have had quite humble beginnings, the first ConBravo was held at a Holiday Inn in my hometown of Oakville, Ontario in 2010 and housed a total of 350 people for a total of two days. That number is laughable in comparison to the now estimated 6000 people that managed to find their way to the Hamilton convention center for this awesome localized event that still has plenty of room to grow. Without further ado…here are ConBravo’s Must See Attractions!
The exhibitor’s marketplace is one of the grandest portions of ConBravo that covers a massive amount of surface area. This is where collectors, vendors, artists and indie game developers flock under one roof to buy and sell exclusive material at a fraction of its regular price, or to publicize their content. Artists and indie game devs are no more than an arm’s length away, so you can feel free to critique or praise them for the work they have produced. The hall is bursting with life and is filled to capacity with local businesses and small time dealers of collectible anime, manga, video game, comic book, film and trading card merchandise. Some people purchase tickets for the sole purpose of getting their hands on some unique geeky products that would otherwise be incredibly difficult to find and most likely far more expensive. I cannot honestly say that any member of any fandom gets excluded; they make sure that there is an immense amount of diversity in the products that they sell. Whether you are a collector of any sort, a small time video game developer who wants to increase their player base, an underrated artist or you simply want to purchase something to commemorate your visit at the con, this is the place you need to be at ConBravo 2016.
As I turned every corner, it seemed like I was looking some of my favorite characters from both my childhood and present day, directly in the eye. Thanks to the ridiculous amount of time and detail that was put into some of these stunning costumes they were literally brought to life in front of my eyes.
Cosplayers have a deep set, fiery passion for a character or series and it is difficult to not to stop and admire them. Cosplay unites a tight knit fan base and community. Now, if you are particularly proud of your creation, you are more than welcome to enter into the Costume Masquerade – a central attraction at ConBravo. It features dozens of contestants that vary between runway walks and skit-like performances. All of them are absolutely breathtaking. Anyone who attends should feel free to dress up, and I can guarantee excited fans will ask to take hundreds of pictures with you, no matter what you choose to dress as.
Panels are rooms that vary in size and are scheduled according to different topics of discussion or guest appearances occurring throughout the three days that ConBravo is run. I can ensure anyone that it will not even be remotely difficult to find something that will immediately pique your interest, simply because there are so many panels that cover an extensive range of topics. It is an unparalleled opportunity for diehard fans, activists, and guests to voice their opinions about recent contentious issues, and if need be, exclaim their outrage. They provide fans with the opportunity to meet the individuals that were the creative minds behind some of their favorite content, and it allows creators of this content to meet the people that make all their hard work, dedication and stress all the more worthwhile. If you sit in on a panel at ConBravo, I found you really didn’t feel like a number but instead as an active member of an intimate conversation with someone you truly admire or with an expert in a specific field.
I’m quite the video game aficionado. So obviously this is one of my favorite portions of the event. Gaming Hall A is like being in an arcade with an unlimited amount of tokens to play some of your favorite games to your heart’s content. The hall is filled with classic arcade cabinets, consoles and computers; it’s a virtual utopia complete with an array of different genres like rhythmic, fighting, racing, shooter and MOBA. Inside this hall is where you will also be able to participate and sit in on several fighting game tournaments that are held during the duration of ConBravo. The lucky winner of the tournament takes home 70 % of the entry fee prize pot! Directly next door is Gaming Hall B where card duelists and Board gamers meet to challenge one another on one of many gaming stations. There is a tournament held for popular card game Magic the Gathering and it functions similarly to the fighting game tournaments. So whether you love the thrill of unadulterated competition or you just enjoy casually playing a game with an opponent, this is something you should definitely check out next year.
Interview with Mark Tjan: Chairperson of ConBravo!
During my stay at ConBravo I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with Mark Tjan the active chairperson for the convention and CEO of TeamBravo, the company that allows the convention to run as efficiently as it does. Mark is an incredibly well spoken, insightful, talented and friendly individual. I asked him some general questions about himself, the convention and geeky culture and how it has reached this climax. These were his outstanding answers.
Why did you feel the need to start this event?
Mark: We wanted to start this event for two reasons. One we wanted an event for people outside of Toronto that made travelling to and from far easier and gave local nerds a chance to come to an awesome convention. Two, we wanted an event that had a broader spectrum as a pose to being centered on one thing, the big three things that we wanted to focus on were YouTube, gaming and cosplay.
What makes your event different from other ones that may seem immediately similar?
We are very community oriented and our convention appeals to a grander scale of people; it is very much about representation. We are also a very tight nit group.
Tell me about some of the things you find geeky about yourself.
I’m a spiritual geek; I’m obsessed with searching for and finding out the truth about things. I’m a worldly geek, I seek out things that stand out as being highly refined and I have a deep appreciation for content that contains great characters, animation, and game play. This Con doesn’t necessarily appeal to the geek in everyone but it is designed so that people can experience things with high quality and indulge in them.
What do you think makes fans of all things geek so passionate in comparison to other fan fanatics?
The primary difference is in economy. Most people think economy is directly related to money but it can also mean what is valuable to you as a person. When somebody has an economy in their heart and mind they have deep set interests in things. Knowledge, theory and interests that spawn from film, comics and games become part of their economy, and it interests them to the point where they invest time in exchange for joy. That is how their priorities are skewed.
What do you believe is responsible for the recent shift in the acceptance of nerds and nerdy culture?
I believe it was the rise of information, the constant feeding of information from media most importantly social media and devices. The minute it became desirable for someone to be fully in tune with technology was the first moment when we first saw then rise of the nerds.
Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to those who are attending this year and those who plan to attend in the coming years?
It’s important to do one thing you love whether it be creating something or enjoying something’s existence.
I had a memorable and enjoyable experience at ConBravo. It is a tremendous opportunity for those in the community to unite with those who share the same interests or rekindle old friendships with people you have met in previous years. It also provides an opportunity for newcomers to ease themselves into the convention scene and explore without being too overwhelmed by sheer numbers. There is practically something for everyone since the convention focuses on providing activities for a broad range of people with differing interest. Since it’s smaller in scale compared to other events, you are presented with a better opportunity to meet special guests and other members of certain fandoms. The attractions were amazing, the staff was friendly and helpful, the guests were spectacular and the convention all together was just a huge success. I hope I have brought about some interest and I would definitely recommend to anyone, nerd or not, to make it out to ConBravo 2016!