Over Labor Day weekend I attended the first ever Geekinomicon in Oklahoma City. I’m going to be honest, I’ve been waiting for a convention to hit OKC for years, and though others have tried in the past they haven’t stuck. (Most of them due to lack of star power and pricing issues.) So when I heard about GEEK at Planet Comicon in Kansas City I was overjoyed and very optimistic that this might be the one.
The pitch for Geekinomicon is different than any other. They are hoping to change the way we experience a convention. We’ve all been there, strapped for cash but hoping to get our super sweet first issue of Rom signed by the artist. Or even just hoping that after paying $100 to get in he would just grace us with a smile from across the convention hall because we couldn’t afford the ticket to shake his hand. GeekExpos, the company behind Geekinomicon has been there too. And their ultimate goal was to focus on the individual experience, not the overall cash grab. “Revolutionizing the convention.” For geeks, by geeks. From my point of view, it was a success.
We’ll get the few things I disliked out of the way first. It’s a nasty business and I really hate nitpicking. For a first time convention… any convention… you expect there to be issues. Anything can and will and did go wrong. I can’t fault them for a lot of the small things, like the entrance changing last minute. (Shame on you OKC, Optimus Prime was suppose to greet visitors, instead we were all just confused.)
My issues were with the distribution of information. I’m a planner. I print maps the day before and I pick out the booths I want to go to most. Then I schedule the panels I want to see. (If I’m not already presenting some.) At the time of the convention, the website was should we say… lacking. It was not user friendly and the information was not detailed. Maps had booth numbers but no legends, and everything else was like pulling teeth to get to. A quick peek today reveals that this has changed drastically.
Needless to say I was left at the mercy of the programs and on site information the day of the convention. Which leads me to my other frustration. Upon arrival I received a beautiful glossy magazine style program. The inside however wasn’t so pretty. It was riddled with typos, terrible spacing and the floor plans were duplicated. I had no clue where the panel rooms were. There also was again no legend for the expo hall, so unless a vendor posted their booth number to their Facebook you wouldn’t know where to find them.
Those are my personal complaints though. They in no way reflect the quality of the convention and are already being fixed. Which says something in and of itself.
The number one complaint from others that I saw was the cost of a ticket. The convention was held at the wonderful Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. It is across the street from the Myriad Botanical Gardens and a few blocks away from Bricktown. It is definitely the premier venue in the city, and the bathrooms are amazingly clean.
After fees the ticket prices were just short of Wizard World. However add-ons, VIP tickets, weekend passes and extras were much much cheaper than WW. And then there was the all access pass. For $155 (before fees) you got three day passes, all paid photo attractions and access to a number of other things outside the convention hall; the Myriad’s tropical conservatory, whitewater rafting and zip-lining in the Boathouse District, Bricktown mini golf and laser tag… to name a few. So you weren’t buying a few hours a day at a convention, you were buying a whole weekend of adventure.
Since I live in town, I went an alternate route and got a groupon. Two for the price of one. Very rarely do I see conventions do groupon specials. Hats off to whomever thought of that on the marketing team.
Now on to the good.
The biggest difference I noticed is the way celebrity encounters are handled. At Wizard World my VIP experience with Bruce Campbell involved getting in line for an hour or so and being corralled in an area only those who had autograph tickets were allowed into, by volunteers who had no clue what was going on and didn’t care anyway. Then we had literally 30 seconds of face time before we were ushered off. All I remember is that I froze under the pressure.
Geekinomicon offers a much more natural, less rushed atmosphere. I witnessed stars asking people questions about day to day life. They talked about earthquakes, their favorite restaurants in the city, and moments from their respective shows/films/etc. I noticed them wandering from their signing tables more than usual, and interacting with those of us who would be considered plebs at other conventions. I even got called over by celebrities – to their tables – to talk costumes. Bottom line, you could hypothetically walk right up to Greg Grunberg with nothing for him to sign, shake his hand and say “It should have been you. Ello Asty for lyfe” and walk away without paying a cent extra.
Nearly everyone in attendance has a story about an encounter with Eric Roberts and Greg Grunberg. Paul Amos scarred me for life by sneaking up on me and then showing me a picture of “blue waffles” (DO NOT GOOGLE THAT). And Adrian Pasdar has a great sense of humor regarding moustaches. He’s also quite the artist.
The panels were very different from other conventions. I expected very sterile environments, impersonal presentations and lack of content that pertained to me. But the few panels I had the time to hit up were wonderful. One of them that sticks out the most is “Universal Remote”. It was entertaining, engaging and felt like it had my type of personality in mind when it was planned. Also, they gave us snacks. Well, not “gave” per se. They threw bags of chips at us… You had to be there.
Not interested in panels or celebrities? Only there to pick up that rare comic or look at the art? GEEK had you covered. There were plenty of vendors with everything from handmade items to film replica props. This convention was truly genre-less and would satisfy nearly any fandom. I saw a t-shirt shop, a sword shop, and a shop with comic books and memorabilia in one aisle. Down the next was a caricature stand and a purveyor of funko pops. There was a local shop with nerdy gifts that I have to be sure to hit up next time I’m on that side of town. There was a lady who makes custom billfolds and purses. There were painters and sculptors, and I believe even a haberdashery. This convention literally had everything you could think of. I heard rumors of a massage stand, but never found out the booth number. I stumbled upon a mini laser tag arena while searching for it.
On the other side of the hall was RTZ esports, running a call of duty tournament live from the event. Nearby was a small start up robotics company that aims at teaching children how to program. This one was of personal interest to me, because there was a small robot printing parts for other robots. It had Skynet written all over it.
The best deal of the con came in the form of a beverage vendor. You bought a mug/cup/tankard (I was hanging with a pair of Thors, so mine was a tankard.) and refills were free the rest of the day. They were also discounted the next day. Best.Convention.Booth.Ever.
Then there were the charities and clubs mixed in. The groups were very friendly and had engaging activities at their tables, not just charity donation buckets like I’ve seen other places. I spoke with a bunch of groups and they all have amazing causes. Unfortunately I can not feature them all, so I picked one that is quite fitting for the subject matter. They are called Pretty Awesome Gamers and they are like the Make a Wish Foundation. But they specialize in taking kids to comic and game conventions. They make them costumes and give them the whole experience that we adults often take for granted. Their motto is “Everyone should have the chance to be a superhero.” So if you’re inclined, be a hero yourself and go check them out.
On top of the awesomeness of the rest of the con the costumers, prop makers, and cosplayers were rockstars. Personally I have never met a polite professional cosplayer, but now I have. I got a chance to talk costume construction, and photography, and “getting your first booth” with people who were living it. I got to take part in some pretty cool photo shoots in costume and made some great new friends. Although I did not get to ride the luggabeast, or blast a trooper this time (sad face), I did speak to some very helpful folks at the 501st who told me just what it would take to finally join their ranks.
If you’ve made it this far, I applaud you. Geekinomicon was a wonderfully great time and I pray that next year is Geekinomicon 2: Electric Boogaloo because I don’t think I could take the heartbreak of Oklahoma City losing such a great convention. 10/10 would con again.
Edit: This review was written from the perspective of a convention attendee. It does not mention the supposed low attendance due to factors beyond my control. I personally took into account the fact that it was Labor Day weekend AND the two major college football teams had opening weekend. So I purposely chose not to mention it.