From June 3rd -5th, the second annual 2D Con gaming convention will take place in Bloomington, MN. It’s the biggest convention of its kind in the state and one of the largest in the midwest. 2D Con features everything you would want out of a convention; speed runs, tournaments, merchants, live music, cosplay, developers showing off their games, and even a charity auction. It also features special guests including some of your favorite Twitch streamers, editors from Game Informer and (last but not least…. well probably least) your friendly neighborhood Mega Dads! So we recently spoke with Joseph Opsahl (President of This Is Geek, Founder of 2D Con) and asked him a few questions about how they got started and what to expect at this years show.
How did This Is Geek get started?
“In 2004, My friend Brandon Stigsell and I started an online forum for anime and gaming fans called JCAGS (holy crap was that name horrible!). The core concept of the forum was to organize and plan events and meetups outside of conventions, and give people a place to talk about their hobbies and interests with other local fans in a judgement free zone.
At the time there was only one Anime Convention in the state; Anime Detour, this was where most of us met and it didn’t make sense to only talk to each other once per year.
We started organizing parties, mall days, and online game nights in Counterstrike and Ragnorak online, and my personal favorite: weekend LAN parties.
This went on for years, through a few different versions of the site, up until real life took all of our free time.
After a hiatus from running the community, because adulting took all of our time. We decided to start it back up with a new name, new look and new model.
Thus This is Geek was born we had incorporated many of the core concepts of the original site, and set to create a place for local people to network with like minded individuals.
But alas, this is 2010 and Facebook has taken over as the socializing king, so we shifted our focus into events. Events are great, they allowed us to schedule things around our busy lives and still see the community getting together. ”
How did you get the idea to hold your own convention?
“Over the years, we have volunteered and attended countless conventions. Conventions are where I met my best friends and the only place that I was fully comfortable with being myself.
Starting a convention was always one of our goals, and gaming is our passion.
In 2011 and 2012, This is Geek held large scale LAN parties at a theater (March Mayhem and Winter Warzone). The first one we ran had over 200 people in attendance, and the second one broke fire code (oops). Breaking fire code is a good indication that you need a new venue, so we started searching for one and decided on a small room at the Thunderbird hotel in Bloomington, MN. We were planning on having a LAN party called Digital Destruction. Than the emails started, vendors and artists started asking if we had space for them. Requests for console tournaments and tabletop started rolling in. Our registration numbers were rising at an insane pace. So we started planning, tweaking and expanding.
2D Con was born. The name was based off of the original name of Digital Destruction and a throwback to classic gaming.
We had 6 months to plan, and ran the event as a free to attend convention, to garner feedback and get the name out there. It worked, we had over 800 attendees and mainly positive feedback. ”
What other kinds of events is This Is Geek involved with throughout the year?
“This is Geek hosts countless events throughout the year (okay maybe not countless… but quite a few). We host launch parties for video games at local stores. Tournaments for newly release games, and other ridiculous gaming themed events.
My two favorite events we host are our Extra Life event and our valentines day event. Extra Life day is a 24 hour long charity drive we go all out for this event and have multiple streamers scheduled for the full 24 hours. Last year we raised just over $5000 for charity, and lost a lot of hair.
Our valentines day event, called It’s Dangerous to Go Alone. Is a speed run speed dating event.
Typical speed dating is boring, so we mix it up by placing you and your partner in front of a random game for 5-10 minutes.
Gaming brings out the best (and sometimes worst) in people, and you already have something in common!”
A big part of This Is Geek and 2D Con is raising money for charity. What does it mean to you to be able to give back to the community?
“Charity is and will always be what we strive for. Many conventions or organizations like, us are for-profit corporations who make large salaries off of someones passion for someone else’s work. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, running a convention is a full time job. But we’ve noticed a trend with the for-profit conventions that turns many people away, when you start working to make money, you start to lose the passion and care that you once had and it affects your attendees experience.
We run on a volunteer only model including our management, which means our staff is made up of volunteers who truly care about the community. This allows us to keep our membership fees low, and put more into the event and towards charitable purposes.
Gamers are some of the most charitable people out there, there are so many gaming related charities such as Extra Life, St. Judes, Doctors Without Borders and Child’s Play raising millions for their causes.
We feel that it is important to be a part of that and give back as much as we can, so we also host a silent auction for charity at 2D Con, with some awesome items. 100% of all proceeds from the auction go directly to Extra Life, and support our local children s hospital.
One of our board members, Samantha is dedicated to our charitable causes, and she does a great job!”
How important is it to you to make 2D Con an event for the entire family and one that is welcoming to everybody?
“Making 2D Con inclusive for everyone is very important. I’ve always been a geek, and that was tough for me. Conventions were the one place that I really felt at home. Unfortunately, there is still an issue with harassment in the geek community. This is Geek as a whole works hard to try and resolve this issue. Harassment based on gender is an especially important issue that we work to prevent. Far too often I see people who are afraid to go to gaming stores or conventions due to the fear of harassment or ridicule, we take that seriously and do what we can to prevent it. Our staff our specifically trained to be friendly and approachable, and to take any reports of harassment seriously.
Everyone deserves to be comfortable while engaging in their hobbies.
Along with making sure everyone is comfortable, we also noticed that many of the younger children that came to the convention would engage and have a great time, but their parents would sit outside convention space and read a book or browse the internet. We want the parents to pick up a controller and play games with their kids, in order to learn more about gaming as a hobby and maybe get hooked. So we introduced a free parent registration option with children under 13. This will allow the parents that may have just dropped their kids off, and sat in the lobby of the hotel, to actually walk around the convention space and learn more about their childs passion. ”
For those who haven’t attended before, what kind of things can they expect to find at 2D Con?
“EVERYTHING! In all seriousness, you can expect non-stop gaming, a concert, tournaments, speed-running, games you’ve never seen before, awesome guests such as The Mega Dads and Game Informers staff, and a whole lot of people who share your passion for gaming all at an overly affordable rate. ”
We’re incredibly excited and honored to be a part of 2D Con this year and we hope many of you get a chance to come out and say hi. It promises to be a great time for gamers of all ages and we’ll even have some goodies to give away if you stop by the Mega Dads booth. For more information on 2D Con including event info, registration and hotel accommodations visit their website 2DCON.NET.