Another Con has come and gone. Among people of every level of nerd-dom, ridiculously over priced food and hotels, and the absolute chaos that is the Gaslamp District in San Diego during ComicCon, I have arrived home relatively unscathed (until I check credit card balances, anyway).
Like years past, I purposely came out to San Diego without a badge (I DO NOT recommend doing this if planning on attending the Con, despite my three years in a row of successfully scoring one last minute) and was only in beautiful Southern California for one purpose: Nerd HQ.
Zac Levi before introducing his Mystery Panel Guests at NerdHQ
Nerd HQ is the annual event hosted by Zachary Levi (of Chuck fame) and The Nerd Machine that strives to bring a little more intimacy to Con goers, while also serving as a great place to hang out, get your gaming and dance on, all while raising money for a hell of a cause: Operation Smile. The event is 100% free of charge to enter and guests can pre-purchase $20 tickets to celebrity hosted panels with guaranteed seats throughout the weekend. Some all-star panels headlined this years event including: Doctor Who, Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion, Tom Hiddleston, and Kick-Ass 2 as well as many others.
While the celebrity/charity aspect is one hell of an awesome experience (and worth going all by itself) there’s a slightly different reason I continue to head out to SoCal from Michigan every year. My NERD family.
Upon arriving to the towering skyline of San Diego three Cons ago I knew absolutely no one. Alone in the middle of nerd heaven and caught up in the maelstrom whirlwind of Comic Con weekend I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Luckily there was Nerd HQ. With a few panel tickets secured (most notably Firefly and Scott Bakula!) I spent a large chunk of my time there, in a mildly run down bar on the corner of Fourth and J called Jolt N Joes. Not many knew of the “off site” event, and that gave it a kind of underground feel. But more importantly it allowed the people that did show up and stick around a chance to really get to know one another.
Far enough away from the shoulder to shoulder showroom floor and overnight lines provided by Comic Con, Nerd HQ offered a new way to connect with fellow nerds, in a place where any level of nerd-dom was not only accepted, but celebrated. It was a place where just about any nerd could feel at home. And it was where I fell in love with the whole Con experience.
Nathan Fillion took Zac’s place sitting in on panels Saturday during HQ to spare the Broadway star’s vocal cords.
This year saw a few changes, most notably the move out of the bar scene and in to the ginormous Petco Park (the home of the baseball team the San Diego Padres). This alleviated the bar crowd that plagued last year’s Block 16 located HQ’s night life. It also allowed for some fantastic ways to raise more money, with two panel locations and a whole baseball field to seat a screening of Serenity with guest hosts Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk. Even with the larger venue, Nerd HQ managed to maintain its intimate panels atmosphere by limiting the main panel room to 250 people (where its been cut off at every year).
Giveaways that included headsets, gaming keyboards, shirts, and i7 extreme processors took place, strangers bonded over drinks and video games forming connections that will last a lifetime, and celebrities from various fandoms helped raise thousands of dollars to help children the world over to live and smile. Nerd HQ is truly an amazing event, and this nerd can only hope it continues to grow and become a home away from home for many other nerds the world over.