The slogan, “Keep Austin Weird” didn’t spring up as organically as one who’s witnessed the weirdness first hand would suspect. Far from just an observation of the wacky and eccentric, the motto was actually a marketing tactic put together by Austin’s Independent Business Alliance to promote the local economy. Yet the slogan rang true with many of the denizens of the lone star capitol and has found its way onto thousands of t-shirts, Volkswagen bumpers and even expanded to other cities, like Portland, that also resonated with the phrase.
In recent times it’s become more of a reminder for me of how much this city has changed in the 8 years that I’ve called it my home. Austin isn’t a secret any longer. As more and more people come to this hidden Texas oasis, the less laid back it feels. The rent continues to rise and SXSW becomes more corporate. The town that used to be known for its slacker philosophy has been overrun by faux hipsters and LA yuppies and the more time that goes on here, the more I feel like I’m living in aggrandized version of Austin pretending to be what it once was.
I think that’s why Ikkicon was such a shock to me this weekend. This is the second time I’ve attended the conference. The first was in 2008, when it wasn’t much to speak of, in a small hotel far from downtown. My how Ikkicon has grown! Now the convention resides on 3 separate floors of the Hilton, in the heart of ATX. It's a gathering of nerds in their true form. It’s a space for the truly weird and wacky to be surrounded by others such as themselves.
Anime itself is a peculiar medium to begin with, and an Anime convention attracts even more peculiar people. Furrys, Bronys, all types of Cosplayers, Ren Fair people, models, voice actors and huddles upon huddles of kids who’ve just given up on walking all together; find a home here. They may have their differences, but everyone shares a commonality: a passion to share their love of nerd culture with others.
It was extremely heartwarming to see thousands of people laughing, smiling, dancing and giving zero shits while doing it. I can count the people on three fingers who I can have a serious talk to about gaming or anime in real life, and here at the convention you’re surrounded by people just like you who share that passion. It’s a safe place to be yourself…even if “yourself” happens to be someone you’re not.
It’s as if the whole current nerd culture war was on display right in front of me. I was explaining this concept of a “safe place to express yourself” to a friend, who told me I was sounding very SJW about the whole thing. I think this is where people are bumping heads a bit…but It’s a big topic that I want to talk about more in the future.
Not that the convention wasn’t chock full of its cringe worthy moments. The larping battle ring, the nightcore rave, anime skits, aisle after aisle of useless trinkets and junk…but fuck it! It was fun. Now I like to poke fun of the furrys and the bronys and the weeaboos just the same, but of course, who’s to be the judge of anyone? Me being a nerd myself, sure as fuck not me.
I was sure that I was going to find a lot of gaming stuff to talk about at the con, but besides this really awesome Smash Melee mod that had Billy Mays and Vegeta, I spent most of the con just people watching and forcing myself to participate, which turned out to be a lot of fun. Let me tell you, if you ever want a culture shock go to a nightcore rave at an anime convention, that shit made me feel old.
Thanks for reading!