Geek Girl Con might not be as well known or huge as other geek centric conventions in the country, but it definitely stands out as one to keep on your calendar. It provides a fun and welcoming environment, with excellent panels for anyone interested in a woman’s place in the comic industry, gaming, technology, and media.
There are two main questions that surround this Con even before you attend. 1. Is girl geek culture different from just geek culture or boy geek culture? 2. Can boys attend Geek Girl Con? The answer to both questions is: yes.
Geek Girl Con is about building up networks between women in the Geek culture, celebrating women who have done amazing things, and increasing the understanding about the reality of being a woman in the geek world.
The Con covers all things geek, from board gaming to LARPing, from video games to video blogging, and from roller derby to Star Wars – if it has any impact on the geek girl world it was covered.
In 2012, there were over 7,000 attendees, with four floors of geeky goodness to explore.
I won’t take the time to rehash all the discussions that went on concerning women in technology as a collective minority, booth babes, or the myriad of other popular topics. Many of those discussions you can find with a quick Google search and judge for yourself. Frankly, a post about gender issues in geek culture would probably end up 12 pages long. Instead, I want to focus on two panels from the con that stood out to me.
The first panel featured women from Bioware, the company responsible for the Mass Effect series, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the Dragon Age games to name a few. Mary Kirby (writer), Raylene Deck (level designer), Sarah Hayward (cinematic designer), Karin Weekes (senior editor), and Melanie Fleming (localization producer) talked about what goes into making games from inception to launch.
While the women talked about the technical issues of game design, just as important was the discussion of social issues in gaming. Specifically there was discussion about sexual orientation of characters. The writers don’t specifically identify sexuality of a character, but if they are gay or bisexual it is because of the story line. For those of you who aren’t aware Bioshocks game Mass Effect 3 recieved some serious heat over their gay character scenes. To have women openly talking about sexuality in addition to gender in gaming was an eye opening moment for a lot of attendees, judging by the open and attentive response from the audience and the animated (but positive) conversations that went on even after the panel was over.
Considering that in the last few years, according to Entertainment Software Association, the ranks of female gamers has risen to 47%, it is no surprise that companies like EA Games, Bioware, and others have taken notice of events like Geek Girl Con. There was an entire area of the Con that was partitioned off for networking, which included showing off portfolios, meeting women in the industry, finding mentors, and chatting.
Another panel that stood out to me was called “Go Make Me a Sandwich: Barriers in Online and Fan Spaces,” which addressed the issues of the harassment, sexism, and misogyny that occurs online. This is a topic not just to consider for geek culture, but the online culture as a whole. The panel consisted of Regina Buenaobra (Community Manager at Arenanet), Colette Vogele (attorney with Without My Consent), vlogger Anita Sarkeesian (Feminist Frequency), and Grace (Co-Founder of fatuglyorslutty.com).
At times the panel was difficult to sit through, simply because of the vast examples of horrid online behavior. Anita Sarkesian has been going through quite a bit of harassment recently, on Wikipedia, in video games graphically depicting her rape, and other terrible threats – all because she made public plans for a series of videos on the sexism aimed at women game characters. It was a very intense panel on a subject that many in the room had experienced first hand. But it wasn’t just angry ranting or “damn the man” talk; it was a responsible conversation about the history of this issue, how to recognize the harassment and what to do. Honestly, that panel alone made the Con worth attending.
Overall, while a smaller Con, Geek Girl Con is one that I would strongly recommend for anyone interested in the gaming, comics, or general geek industry. Actually, maybe because it is a smaller Con I would recommend it even more.
So readers, did you go to Geek Girl? Did you learn anything eye opening? Meet someone cool? Do you like the smaller more specific events like this one or the large events like those in San Diego and New York?