Give to #GivingTuesday, For Science!

Image description: a young attendee colors in with crayons at the Science Zone at GeekGirlCon.

After a week of feasting, hanging out with family, fighting lines at stores, and shopping online, Giving Tuesday is upon us!

#GivingTuesday is a movement–it even has its own hashtag–that’s set right in the middle of all your holiday shopping as a day to give back to nonprofit organizations so that we can keep doing things that you love. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, GeekGirlCon is entirely volunteer-powered and rely on donations to fulfil our mission to support, empower, and celebrate women and girls in all areas of geekdom.

Donate for her.
Image description: a young attendee in a Wonder Woman costume does a science experiment with beads and cups at the DIY Science Zone.

Today from 5am PST, PayPal and Facebook are partnering to match 100% of donations made for Giving Tuesday, up to a total of $7 million. This means that every dollar that you donate to GeekGirlCon today will be matched so that your donation will go twice as far. Since donation matching will continue until the $7m runs out, the earlier you donate in the day, the better!

Our focus this year is on raising funds for our famed DIY Science Zone! What better way to foster a love of science in the next generation of geeks than to do all the science with them? Funding the DIYSciZone allows us to invite more scientists, do bigger experiments, and grow the Zone, all for the love of science!

Image description: A young attendee pets a  spotted spider in the DIY Science Zone.

Click here to donate on Facebook today. Or, you can even go further and make your own GeekGirlCon fundraiser! Your generosity will not only go directly to helping us put on the convention, but it will also give us the following powerups, to name a few:

  • Year-round activities, such as our Board Game Nights at Wayward Coffeehouse.
  • Outreach in the Greater Seattle Area, such as Atomic Comicon or the PAX Diversity Lounge.
  • Programming, such as featured contributors, speakers, and workshops at the convention.

Regardless of how you contribute, your donation will make an impact, and we truly appreciate the strength, kindness, and generosity of our community. We truly wouldn’t be able to do it without you!

<3 GeekGirlCon

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Gaming at GeekGirlCon ’18

Image description: A series of board games stacked on a table. Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr

Over the weekend of GeekGirlCon, there are of course a whole slew of activities for you to enjoy. From the various geek-themed panels, to the family-friendly DIY Science Zone, from Artist Alley to the bustle of the Exhibitor Hall, there’s always something to see and do.

Image description: an attendee with a Pikachu hat plays King of Tokyo at GeekGirlCon. Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr

Speaking of seeing and doing, the gaming spaces at GeekGirlCon let you do just that. Whether it’s getting yourself immersed in a board game or creating your own at our Game Design Challenge, our gaming floor is going to be packed with games that you can borrow and play. As a bonus, we’ll be bringing back our Let’s Play stage for a second year, and with that comes a whole series of new and fun games to watch and talk about.

One of the things that GeekGirlCon is known for is our introduction to role playing games, and this year is no different. Our game master laureate Andy Munich returns lead some RPG sessions for new and old dungeoneers alike, and join the D20 Dames on Saturday night on our Let’s Play stage as they behead (or befriend) monsters and punch creeps in order to collect loot!

Image description: Two children and an adult sit at a table to playtest a game. Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr

If card games are more your speed, you’re also in luck! Dungeon Mayhem is an action-packed, easy-to-learn, family-friendly, and (importantly) not-yet-released new D&D card game, and it’s available to try at GeekGirlCon! Check it out before it hits the shelves in your friendly neighborhood game stores! You can also meet the designers who will be be demoing the game over the weekend.

 

Image description: a family plays a video game together. Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr

On the video game front, In particular, we’re especially proud to be presenting some of our very own GeekGirlCon staffers and their friends as they play Overwatch and talk about their regular gaming sessions! We’ll also have accessibliity advocate Cherry Rae on stage during our Witching Hour event to play the spooky game Oxenfree!

Of course, there are many, many other things happening on the gaming floor and around the Let’s Play stage for you to discover! For more information, check out our gaming basics guide. See you at the con!

 

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Got a Costume? Sign Up for the 2018 Contest at GeekGirlCon!

GeekGirlCon Costume Contest at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA, on Saturday, September 30, 2017.

This year I started dabbling in cosplay, and very quickly came to learn that making a costume is not only an expression of love for a fandom, but it’s also a great opportunity to show off your creative side and your design skills! A LOT of hard work goes into creating outfits, weapons, gear, and props, and it’s only right that if you’ve put in the time for that, that you  be recognized for it.

That’s why we’re bringing back the Costume Contest to GeekGirlCon this year! Register in one of the two age categories: adults (13+, holding an adult GeekGirlCon pass), and kids (12 and under, with child passes). Adults can also register as a group of no more than five, if you have a squad effort happening.

Show us what you’ve sewn, hot glued, welded, knitted, or otherwise put together to celebrate your favorite geeky characters. 

Image description: a cosplayer holds a R2-D2 parasol while in a ballet-themed R2-D2 costume. Photo by Danny Ngan.

After you register for the category that best suits you, you’ll also be given the option to meet our amazing panel of judges backstage. They’ll be to ask questions about your costume and look up close at it. (This is optional and you can chose not to participate in pre-event judging.) Then, all you need to do is show up on the day for the contest and strut your stuff.

Plus, there are fabulous prizes to be won for your efforts!

A participant in the kids’ costume celebration is asked about their Child of Light cosplay. Photo by Danny Ngan.

Registration is NOW OPEN and will close when all of the spots are filled, or at the time of the convention, whichever comes first. Spots are limited, so make sure you get in quick to snag yours.

 

Register here for the costume contest (13 and over)

Register here for the kids’ costume celebration (3-12)

 

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Panel Highlights – Geek Culture

Pop Culture Reference GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

With GeekGirlCon only five weeks away* we’ve been giving you a sneak peek at some of our amazing content for this year. So far, we’ve shown you a sample of our amazing workshops and panels for literary geeks.

This week, we’re going to be highlighting a couple of panels that cover various aspects of geek culture. Now, we all know that geek culture is a HUGE area covering specific domains of geekdom (such as comics, gaming, TV, and so on), so we have loads of panels covering geek stuff generally, but this list of panel highlights is for all you culture vultures out there. Get excited!

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

GeekGirlCon at PAX West 2018!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when convention season starts up! GeekGirlCon may still be two months away, but you can get your geek on at PAX West from this Friday through to Labor Day Monday, and you might see some familiar GeekGirlCon faces while you’re there!

 

Diversity Lounge

We’ll be hanging out for YEAR 5 of our presence in the PAX Diversity Lounge! Come up to the 6th floor of the convention center and say hello! We’ll be selling merch and passes to our convention. You can also hang out in a laid-back and inclusive atmosphere while learning about a ton of nonprofits that support underrepresented areas of geekdom.

 

Panels

In addition, we have a couple of staffers on panels, so come and learn (more) about representation in games, and the shifting nerdcore music scene:

  • On Friday, catch yours truly and fellow GGC staffer Hadeel Al-Massari on Gaming While Other, 12-1pm, as we discuss what it’s like to be underrepresented in both games and the gaming industry.
  • Merch manager Shubz will be returning for Nerdcore Music: the Evolving Faces of Nerd Culture on Sunday, to talk about this particular music subgenre and what it’s like to be a geek musician.
  • Shubz is also headlining a nerdcore show on Sunday night, so you can catch her music live if you’ve ever wanted to check out nerdcore.

 

The Golden Ticket

Finally, we’re bringing back the Golden Ticket. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of PAX! if you can find a GeekGirlCon staffer holding a Golden Ticket, you can claim it (you just have to talk to us). Tweet a picture of you with your ticket and the staffer, and then take your ticket up to our table at the Diversity Lounge to turn it in for some fabulous prizes!

Want to know where to find tickets? Here’s a hint: these fine people will be roaming around at PAX armed with a limited number of tickets, so you’d better find them before they run out:

Shubuzilla at GGC 16

Image description: Jo sitting, looking up to where a tan ferret is perched on her head, licking its lips. Source: Jo Lau

(Ferret will not be at PAX.)

Some ticket holders might be easier to find than others! Some might be in cosplay! Check the GeekGirlCon Twitter each morning for their locations. Good luck, have fun!

 

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Learning to Cosplay: Building the Titan Shield from Destiny 2

One area of geekdom that I haven’t delved much into so far has been cosplay. I’ve tested my chops as a gamer, a pop culture nerd, and within the realms of academic geekery, but building objects to represent my geekiness isn’t something I have much experience with. I’m learning how to be more crafty, but I’m also the type of person who took up crochet and literally tied their hand together, so I can’t say that I’m super confident in my skills for how to create something tangible from a video game.

This is a story about my forays into a whole new world of working with power tools, sports equipment, various spray paints, and friends, and working against my type-A mentality.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

E3 Press Conferences Show (Some) Diversity in Gaming (Sort Of)

It’s E3 week! The Electronic Entertainment Expo–or E3 for short–is one of the biggest events on the gaming calendar, with developers and publishers showing their latest and greatest upcoming releases. As a huge gaming nerd, I’ve been following it pretty closely, so I’m going to share my thoughts with you.

Obviously there’s a lot of gaming content, and I’m not going have time to go into all of the games that were announced. That said, there have been a couple of common threads:

  • As games move more to a “games as a service” (rather than single release games), a lot of game titles are trying to reflect that they’ll be around for all posterity, leading to such title names as Halo Unlimited, Doom Eternal, Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, and Super Meat Boy Forever. Because if anything survives the impending apocalypse, it’ll be video games.
  • So many games are coming to Nintendo Switch! Super Smash Bros., Fortnite Battle Royale, Super Mario Party, Overcooked 2, and Fallout Shelter were announced on that platform, for example, and some of those are playable right now. If there’s one thing to take away from E3 so far, it’s to go buy a Switch. I’m surprised at how many non-Nintendo games got announced as being ported over, but the future of gaming is there for when you want to play on the go.
  • While a lot of the big titles involved shooting things (aliens, zombies, other combatants) in the face, I thought that the offerings from smaller, indie studios offered a bigger range of types of gameplay, such as Ori and the Will of the Wisps, We Happy Few, and Unravel Two. I have to say that I am super excited about Unravel Two; it’s so wholesome that it basically brought me to tears when I watched it at the EA conference.

More generally, there has been recent moves to improve diversity and representation in games and the games industry, and I was also looking out for ways that that was demonstrated at E3. While I felt like there was increased representation in the games that were shown, the overwhelming majority of presenters at the conferences were still white men.

So, I rewatched all the press conferences and tracked some data. Here’s a breakdown of the major press conferences, by demographic:

Note: for the purposes of gathering this data, I included Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Elijah Wood in the Ubisoft presentation, and did not include the two translators for the Nintendo treehouse presentation (both were men).

Of the 77 presenters, there were a total of zero women of color. Everyone also presented as able-bodied.

What this tells me is that–where the presenters are ostensibly representative of a particular game’s leadership–the leaders of the largest game publishers, gaming consoles, and game titles are still overwhelming white and male. Of course, for each title there are only a very limited number of presenters that have to represent the studio, but those are commonly the studio or project leaders. I also don’t believe that any presenter or company was doing this intentionally or maliciously. But (to quote a recent speaker at a disability and gaming bootcamp), if you do not intentionally, deliberately, proactively include, you will unintentionally exclude. I think that’s what happened here. Despite its recent moves for diversity and inclusion, the people who determine the future and direction in which the industry moves are still homogenous. 

Having said that, the games themselves seemed to show a openness to including players from underrepresented groups, with much clearer steps towards diversity and inclusion. I’m still trying to stick to my resolution to play games that do not have a grizzled white male protagonist (which makes me relieved that I can pick the gender of my character for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed game), and the offerings announced gave me some pretty decent options for the rest of 2018 and beyond.

For female representation, I felt that there were several games that stepped up to the (very low) bar of having a female protagonist. For example, Gears of War 5’s main character is female, and the Tomb Raider franchise continues having a female playable character. Battlefield V recently stirred up a small controversy for merely putting a woman on the cover of a game about World War II. (Spoiler alert: there were numerous women who participated in the war.) Wolfenstein Youngblood offered us not one, but two, female protagonists.

I was excited enough when it was announced that in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey that you could finally pick the gender of your assassin and romance anyone in the game, but then The Last of Us 2 one-upped that for even greater LGBT representation:

That said, all of the female characters mentioned here (except for Kassandra in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey) are white women. Apart from games with character creation (such as Fallout 76, Beyond Good and Evil 2, and Anthem), representation for women of color was maddeningly scarce. I mean, there were more attempts at putting a female skin on previously male characters, such as Super Smash Bros offering a female version of pikachu and Cuphead having a playable female drinking vessel(?), than there were actual playable characters that were actually women of color.

So, I can appreciate that the games industry is trying to be more inclusive and there are going to be baby steps–a LOT of them. But even though this handful of games I’ve mentioned here are trying to broaden representation, the real test of what counts as progress for me will be how these games evolve their communities to make them more accommodating and inclusive. Making people of color and women feel represented will likely get new players into fanbases, but the gaming communities and how they are included will be what makes them stay. We’ll have to see how that plays out, but I want to hopeful that we’re moving in the right direction. I want us to live in a world where people can play what they love without judgement. We deserve as much.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

On the Unreliability of Brains: A Story about my Concussion

Hi, I’m Jo, and I have a brain injury.

Let me backtrack a bit. In January this year, I was at my weekly roller derby scrimmage when I took a hit and fell. Roller derby is a full contact sport, so it’s reasonable to expect hard hits, bumps, and falls. (In fact, one of the first things new skaters are taught in derby is how to fall safely.) However, this was one of those weird hits where I ended up flat on my back. My head hit the track, which is laid over solid concrete. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I do remember that there was a meaty sounding noise when my head hit the ground. Thankfully, I was wearing a helmet, but the helmet didn’t prevent the impact; it only reduced it.

I felt fine at the time, and didn’t think anything was wrong until the referee skated over to see if I was okay, and then told me to see our athletic trainer. There’s a relatively standard concussion test–shining a light in my eyes, asking things like what the date is, counting backwards, and so on. I barely passed, but I passed the test, so I thought I was okay.

A concussion is a type of brain injury where, to be completely unscientific, impact with your head causes your brain to jiggle inside your skull. As a result of the movement, brain cells can get stretched or damaged, which affects your neural pathways, and chemical changes can occur. This manifests in a variety of ways and can vary between individuals.

Image description: a simulation of what happens to a brain in a concussion. A hand slaps an open skull, causing the brain to wobble.

About three days later, I started getting symptoms. First it was headaches, especially when it was bright outside, or when I was looking at a computer, phone, or TV screen. Then sometimes things would be out of focus at the periphery of my vision. I found it hard to concentrate. I was irritable and anxious, and my sleep quality went down. I couldn’t leave the house unless it was nighttime because driving required too much brain processing, and walking outdoors during the day hurt my eyes and my head.

I’d also forget things. Sure, sometimes, being forgetful can be funny, in a “ha ha, I’m looking for my glasses and they’re actually on my face” sort of way, and then there’s being forgetful like when you leave a pan on the stove and almost burn down your house. (I set the smoke detectors off at my house twice in the first month of my concussion that way.) After that, my partner had to prep my food or leave me leftovers. For most of my life I’d been blessed with having a pretty good memory, so being unable to remember things like the names of your childhood pet or even what you had for lunch the previous day was pretty concerning.

I think that seeing my brain fail me in ways where I had previously been able to trust it was the worst part about having a concussion. I’m a highly academic and analytic person, and a lot of my identity is tied up in using my brain.  The other thing about concussions is that it can increase the risk of getting Alzheimer’s later in life. There’s something scary about not knowing if my memory will go, and when, and how, especially if it comes with the risk of forgetting who your loved ones are–or who yourself are–somewhere down the line. But, maybe that’s me overthinking it.

But, there are ways to mend. The main treatment for concussions is to rest your brain–basically, this involved avoiding things that were mentally stimulating, getting lots of sleep, and just… not thinking about things. I spent a lot of time lying in a dark room, listening to podcasts on my phone. This was mostly fine if I could cue up the podcast playlist in advance, because looking at the phone screen would make my head hurt. Sometimes when people on podcasts said “s” sounds at a particular timbre I’d get a headache. For someone who thrives on tech and video games, not being able to interact with digital media was hard. I also had to learn how to zone out. It sounds counterintuitive, but I had to use guided meditation apps to help structure my thoughts (or lack thereof) when I was relaxing my brain.

Image description: Pie chart of concussions by sport. Football, boys ice hockey, and boys lacrosse are the primary sources of concussions depicted. Source.

Roller derby is still a relatively new sport, so there’s not a lot of data about the occurrence of head injuries. Incidentally, there’s not a lot about concussions in women’s sports at all—the majority of sports-related head injuries occur in male-dominated sports: football, ice hockey, and lacrosse. It’s hard to extrapolate from the experience of a male footballer twice my size and half my age to understand what my body is doing when it recovers, so a lot of it is guesswork: I’d turn the lights on and see if that bothered me. Then I’d try looking at a phone. And maybe do multitasking. Maybe I’d do jumping jacks and see if I felt like throwing up. Or I’d try some sudoku of various difficulties. And then I’d use those to track improvements.

Recovery was–and is–slow. I imagine a lot of it is making sure my brain can reforge its neural pathways, and I don’t know what needs fixing until I discover it does. I’m mostly back to normal and I have more good days than bad, so that’s promising. Occasionally I still have days where things will set it off. About two months ago (so, almost three months after I initially had a concussion), I was watching Altered Carbon and noticed that I’d have a headache from some of the visual effects, especially if accompanied by screen shakes. It made me nauseous for an entire day.

One of the scenes from Altered Carbon that didn’t make me feel great was this one where Takeshi gets spammed with advertising on his ocular implant.
Description: an upward panning of a futuristic city interrupted by garish neon signage

Sometimes I’ll forget something and wonder if I’m really forgetful or if it’s caused by the concussion. For most part though, I feel fine. I don’t know whether I can go back to normal or even what “normal” means anymore, but it’s something I’m working through and will continue to work through. I’m hopeful that I’ll get better, more adaptive, and stronger brain out of it.

 

Author’s note: This is not intended to substitute for medical advice as concussion symptoms can manifest differently across individuals. If you have questions about how to treat and manage your symptoms, see your doctor.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Get Ready to GiveBIG!

Tomorrow, get ready for a day of giving with GiveBIG!

GiveBIG is sponsored by the Seattle Foundation. It’s an online fundraising marathon designed to help Seattle area nonprofits create momentum and excitement about community philanthropy. You can pre-schedule gives to GeekGirlCon right now, and you won’t be charged until the morning of May 9. This way, you can set it and forget it, as it were.

This is our third year of GiveBIG. In previous years, our funds donated to GeekGirlCon have gone to supporting our annual convention and year-round outreach programming. Our goal is to make attendance accessible and affordable for every geek. That’s why we also partner with other organizations to provide free passes to those who may not otherwise have the resources to attend.

There are ways to make your dollar go further too. Per GiveBIG giving requirements, there is a minimum of $10 to participate, but there is no maximum. Also, donations for GeekGirlCon ‘18 benefits begin at $50 and all donations at that amount and above will receive convention benefits.

You can also harness the power of donation matching! GeekGirlCon will be offering a match during GiveBIG thanks to a generous donation from I-Wei Feng, GeekGirlCon’s outgoing board president. All gifts will also be eligible for a Dollars for Change grant. If your gift is selected, GeekGirlCon will receive an additional $2,500. If you have an employer match, you can indicate so with your donation. A GeekGirlCon staff member will follow up after GiveBIG to complete any necessary documentation.

You can donate here on the Seattle Foundation GiveBIG page. Thank you in advance for your support!

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

We have Questions: Digital vs. Hardcopy Program Booklets?

Image: Gif of Destiny’s Child asking a question, from their music video Independent Woman

 

GeekGirlCon is half a year away, but:

  1. You can buy passes now at the discounted early bird rate; and
  2. Our staff are working hard behind the scenes to make sure that we make #GGC18 the biggest and best convention that we’ve ever organized!

One old reliable we’ve had for our convention has been our program booklet. In the past, our program books have been printed, hard copy guides with maps, lists of schedules, featured contributor biographies and all the nifty information you need to get the most out of your con weekend.

It looks something like this:

Image: A pair of hands holding the GeekGirlCon program book

Last year, in addition to our physical booklets we also had a digital program guide that was pretty popular. And this year, we’re thinking about focusing primarily on the digital program guide, which you would get in the form of an app. For those of you who like a tactile guide that you can hold and read, never fear! To accompany the digital program guide, we’ll also be designing a physical poster that you will receive at admission. Information included on the backside of this poster would be a streamlined version of our panel schedules, maps, highlighted panel information and events information. (We’re still in the process of designing the poster.)

Going digital has its pros and cons, and we’d like to pick your brains for your thoughts on whether you’d prefer a program book, or a digital app to get your information. There are environmental, practical, and technical considerations. But, ultimately, we want to do what’s best for our community–YOU.

Image: a GeekGirlCon attendee reads on a digital device

So, we’re hoping you can help us make that decision! What format would you like to see your programming information in? We’ve put together this survey in order to help us figure out whether or not you would be interested in seeing our program guide go primarily digital. We value your opinion.

Take our survey here!

Thank you in advance for your help! We look forward to receiving your feedback, and we’ll see you at #GGC18!

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Join The Discussion #GeekGirlCon