K-W’s Tri-Con brings together nerds from all around

Photo by Dylan Hines

On a superficial level, there’s a kind of sacrilege that lives in the cult-like environment of a convention. At THEMUSEUM for this weekend’s Tri-Con, Judge Dredd posed for photographs with an Ewok. A miniature stormtrooper resigned himself to kickflips in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, while a similarly disproportionate Iron Man created dissonant music by running across a piano mat.

A product ceases to merely be a product when it is used to represent something greater.

The ironically named cosplay collective ‘Legion of Doom’ is a great example of a redirection to this kind of fan devotion: they’re a London-based group who attend events to raise money for various Ontario charities. By sharing their own fandoms, they’re able to harness collective energy, transforming their love of Marvel Comics and Star Wars into something more tangible. Several members of the group were in attendance at Tri-Con.

The convention functioned as direct fan support, including workshops on building styrofoam gauntlets and a Q&A session with two supporting cast members from the Space channel series Killjoys. They both expressed their joy in being able to contribute to the excitement.

“I love the passion,” Tamsen McDonough said, who voices a spaceship on the series.

Vendors doled out an assortment of products, mostly from small, niche businesses: B & R Creations, one of the most obscure brands, operated a table selling custom-made chain mail (from tunics to neckties) and hand painted glass.

Web-comic artist Husein Panju offered brand-mashing print cartoons, including such parodies as ‘Captain Hammer Time’ and ‘How to Get Away with Mordor.’

Between the diversity of virtual reality demos, characters from the video game Destiny drinking soda pop and Boba Fett musing on the future of the Star Wars franchise, there’s a unifying theme: the love, excitement and passion of identifying as a ‘nerd.’

Still, there’s a stigma attached to the word, despite its appearing even on the promotional material for the event.

Zain Rajani, a youth sequestered on the third floor playing Sonic the Hedgehog, seemed hesitant to fully accept the label, despite the fact that he considered being a nerd to mean “loving stuff and being proud of it.”

The event was especially packed with teenagers and that makes sense.

“I’m not able to talk to people at school,”  a young girl said, costumed as Hanji Zoë from Attack on Titan.

She explained that she considered her personality at conventions to be far less inhibited; this version of herself was more excitable, more social.

By inhabiting another personality, she was free to represent a more idealized version of herself.

“Cosplay gave them permission to be more confident,” Tina Chan, the CEO and co-founder of PASS (Panic, Anxiety & Stress Support) said.

She operated a table on the first floor, selling kits packed with anxiety-easing tools, including a stress ball and support flashcards.  The brand’s simple presence, flanked by art dealers, was an interesting reflection on the self-aware state of the community.

There’s a line between reality and fantasy, but the fan service prominently displayed at the event didn’t seem to suffer from the more routine issue of blurring those lines — it was more that real friendships and acceptance could be found in the space between those two states.

Sub-creation makes an outlet and a home for people who struggle to find where exactly they fit — that’s the heart of a convention like this.

Robyn Cheng, one of the organizers behind the event, expressed her vision for the annual con, “cosplay, interactive experiences and all things nerd,” she said.

The purpose of Tri-Con is to create an inclusive space for people to hang out and enjoy science fiction and fantasy.

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