Letting one's freak flag fly is supported by the majority of society -- in most respects. Silly hair is cool, low-riding pants are acceptable, and participation trophies are distributed with reckless abandon. LARP (live action roleplay), however, is met with slight hesitation. That's why we have conventions.
School is out, and large gatherings of people who like nerdy things convene for the summer session. A convention can gather for any number of reasons, but it generally is based around a specific subculture or gathering of subcultures that are hard to come across in small towns.
Here are three upcoming Phoenix cons where going hog wild in the muck of fun pop-culture experiences is the name of the game.
Where: Phoenix Convention Center
When: May 24 to 27
How much: $40 online, $45 at the door. Day passes available
Who to bring: Anyone!
From the event's origin as a one-day, six-hour signing event in Ahwahtukee to the three-day, 23,000 attendee behemoth that Phoenix Comicon has become, Phoenix Comicon has confirmed that fans love company. This year is focused on the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, with Patrick Stewart, Levar Burton, and Shatner making appearances.
The more-personalized experience differentiates the Phoenix iteration from the pop culture vacuum that is San Diego Comicon. Both casual and die-hard attendees will find interesting things related to all of nerd culture, and more information is available on the con's website.
Also, the Phoenix Convention Center means there'll be enough to see for those who aren't interested in panels.
When: August 31 to September 3
Where: Hilton Garden Inn, Avondale
How Much: $40 through August 15, variable rates at the door
Who to bring: Serious fans of niche scifi/fantasy and activities that go along with it.
Varsity-level fandom is available here. CopperCon, hosted by the Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society, is a bit of a trade show for fans of niche genres. Between panels that tend to be more focused on the die-hard fan as well as workshops targeted towards children, CopperCon markets itself as a vacation rather than Comicon's veiled celebrity meet-n-greet.
Much like the AV Clubs of the past, conventions aren't just places to buy wizard art or Bruce Campbell's autographs. They're a break from the boss' concerned expression when the attendee takes time off to go to aforementioned fantasy convention. The family-friendly nature of CopperCon suggests a more relaxed atmosphere, and the general lack of video game references hearkens to classic nerd culture.
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When: June 22 to 24
Where: Tempe Mission Palms Hotel, Tempe
How much: $20 online, $25 door
Who to bring: People with a vested interest in tabletop.
Conflagration, a gaming-specific event sponsored by LepreCon, is a slipshod Valhalla for tabletop fans. No longer limited to the cramped backrooms of game stores as an entire conference hall is allocated for a smorgasboard of games, grog, and cognitive dissonance.
The event's website betrays the fact that it is a labor of love. Two-bit HTML and an eye-bleedingly inappropriate color scheme suggest that the convention's organizers and attendees are not in it for the money. Community thrives around a niche, and for three days gamers of all types will be welcomed by nametag-clad valkyries into a world where everyone agrees and no one judges.