By Paul “Tru1P” Holston | @Tru1P | 5:15 PM EST, Fri., Aug. 23, 2019
After the weekend of July 12-14 at Blerdcon 2019, the experience, lessons, and memories all affirm that I am, indeed, a Blerd.
Growing up, I was that biracial child who knew that he didn’t fit with the crowds, but had a hard time finding my own identity. I was a shy, introverted (but funny), young Black & Puerto Rican boy just trying to figure myself out in Summerville, South Carolina. When I wasn’t going to school, I was immersed into the video game world letting my youthful imagination run wild through the television screen with my gaming consoles and through my mobile gaming devices. You could say I was a video game junkie ever since I first recalled getting my first ever video game: Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo. From then, the love of video games carried me over from Super Nintendo to Playstation 1, Nintendo 64, various Game Boys, Playstation 2, Xbox/Xbox 360 to now the current Playstation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch. I could go on and on in compiling every game I’ve played back then, but from 2009-2013 I took a big hiatus on gaming when I went into the military. While I began to slowly get back into it in 2013, it wasn’t until last year that I really re-immersed myself in both the gaming world and went deeper into beginning to educate myself about industry as a whole.
Over the last year, through social media platforms Twitter, Twitch, Discord, and Mixer, I have been able to connect with other Black and People of Color gamers that not only look like me, but all have a universal interest of enjoying video games through The Cookout gaming community organization. It wasn’t until I went to my first gaming convention (at least I consider it to be this type) that was BlerdCon that I realized that being a Black nerd is one of the coolest, most liberating thing that one can be.
If you didn’t know, according to their website, “Blerdcon is an event that highlights and celebrates Blerd culture and creates a marketplace of ideas where sharing that culture can take place with proper context, attribution and positivity in an inclusive environment. Blerdcon is derived from the term ‘Blerd’ which is short for Black nerd. Blerd culture encompasses creatives, fans, producers who are and have been contributing to every fandom, but don’t get the recognition or notoriety. Blerdcon celebrates our connection with LGBTQ, the disabled, PoCs and the international community!”
The entire weekend at BlerdCon this year was full of energy, excitement, love, laughter, and above all, Blackness. Granted, it was also an inclusive space, but to be quite honest, I’ve never seen so many Black anime, comic, sci-fi, and gaming people all in once space. I think the first day I really just observed my surroundings of seeing Black people of all ages be themselves…comfortably. And that’s really important through this small microcosm, compared to the entire peripheral of Nerd culture. The fact of the matter is that you don’t see a lot of the mainstream industry give opportunities for Blerds to truly be themselves in a public setting (and if they do, some Blerds are met with criticism of discrimination, sexism, and/or racism). Conventions can “try” to create these “diversity” spaces in order to check off the list that they’ve included the minority, but in terms of safe spaces, it is us…Black and PoC…who have to create these spaces. Point Blank.
Having the opportunity to not only meet, but spend quality time with over 30 members of The Cookout affirmed that we all are a part of the community for a reason. That reason truly embodies the purpose of the community in being “a safe space for People of Color; specifically for content creators of color to create dope content and help each other.” I look forward to continuing to build these relationships with this community and hope to see us in bigger numbers with each event that most of us are all able to come together to.
In terms of the business side of the convention, while BlerdCon exuded the expectation that it was Blerd-focused, there were some things that I wish could have been a bit better (this is constructive feedback that I hope they can take as such to help make next year even more successful). The two biggest things that puzzled me was a question mark on leaving full details of the panels, such as “Who” exactly were hosting these panels. While most of us who did go to these panels found out who they were while attending, it would have been nice to get their information beforehand to understand who they were and what they do. Also, I would hope that the venue will indeed have to expand in some sort of way next year (which is a good thing!) as for some areas, such as panel locations and community areas, just seemed way too congested at times.
At the end of it all, when walking out the venue and going back home, the entire experience indeed affirmed that I am, indeed, a Blerd. And let it be known that there are many variations of a Blerd…as we are all not the same. What I will say though is being a Blerd is dope. Being a Blerd is cool. Being a Blerd gives the world a little (or in my case a lot) of culture and inspiration for future generations to be who they are.
In other words…Blerd out kinfolk! See y’all at BlerdCon “Chocolate City” 2020!
Paul “Tru1P” Holston is a multimedia journalist, photographer, and content creator residing in Washington, D.C. He is an administrator for The Cookout and a down-to-Earth Gamer with a passion on the intersections of Video Games, Race, and Culture. You can find him streaming at mixer.com/Tru1P or twitch.tv/Tru1P.