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Boise conventions offer attendees sense of community, inclusion

Adorned in plush tails and animal ears, furries march into The Grove Hotel, while cosplayers follow suit in their pink and turquoise wigs, crafted tunics and Batman utility belts.  Joined by hundreds of other attendees, both in simple T-shirts and custom alien skin paint, they enter the convention center in pursuit of a friendly, communal atmosphere and plenty of panels and activities.

With Fandemonium having just passed in the beginning of August, con-goers are preparing for Boise’s next anime, comic and geek-centered conventions: Tomodachi Fest 7 and Anime Oasis 2014 in October and May, respectively. Doubling their plans with classes, financial limitations and work, students have to carefully plan the intricacies of their convention plans.

Conventions, in general, are weekend events that include panels with celebrities and personalities from attendees’ favorite anime programs, comics, video games or anything else revolving around geek culture.  Some cons are specialized for specific fan-bases and have specialized merchandise and activities.  But, in the end, conventions are most popular for the sense of community they can instill in those who come participate and make new connections.

Junior anthropology major and Fandemonium staff member Wendy Nelson particularly enjoys the culture that has come from the convention scene in Boise.  Before these events began growing in the valley, gaming stores and backroom anime clubs were the closest thing comic and geek enthusiasts had to sense of community.

“The con scene started up and suddenly it became more and more okay to be a nerd and be open about it,” she said.

When uninformed onlookers make judgments about convention attendees, they generally aren’t based in factuality.  Nelson has often heard of people looking down on con-goers with disdain, calling them freaks or shut-ins and assuming they’re always unemployed.

“A lot of us have been picked on for being nerds, and the more it happens the more we hide it because we don’t want to be made fun of,” Nelson said.  “Then a convention rolls around and suddenly we are allowed to open up and be who we want to be.”

In the end, for Nelson, it’s all about the inclusive, familial dynamic that conventions offer to those who wouldn’t otherwise be included.

Utah resident and cosplayer Jason Tran attends as many conventions as possible, including several of those that take place in Boise.  By the end of this year, Tran plans to attend six conventions.

“As a cosplayer, there is a lot of preparation with packing and double checking you brought everything for the costume and repair tools,” he said.

Because of his travel costs, material costs for costumes, hotel reservations, and convention entry fees, Tran tries to keep his convention merchandise purchases to a minimum.

“I personally try not to spend too much, unless it’s something I really want and can’t find anywhere else,” Tran said.

Nelson has a budget further strapped by school expenses.

“I always make school come first, of course; pay for supplies and books then con stuff, but that never leaves a whole lot for con,”
Nelson said.

She curbs these problems by rooming with friends.  Sometimes con-goers take pity on those without food, or the ability to buy any, and share their meals.

“We try to take care of each other,” Nelson added.

About Justin Kirkham (124 Articles)
Justin Kirkham is currently the Editor-in-Chief at the Arbiter and has been pursuing journalism since high school. Having interned as a blogger for YouTuber Strawburry17 and having invested far too many hours in news and cultural writing, he aims to continue working within the realms of gaming/technology, environmental and social justice journalism. He is strangely attuned to pop culture and can name both of Taylor Swift's cats.
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