Austin: Geek Capital of the World

Austin’s official slogan is “Live music capital of the world.” It’s a well-deserved honor but one Austin might be losing as one classic venue after another closes up shop. Austin’s unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” This originally was aimed at getting people to patronize independent local businesses instead of national chains. But it’s taken on a life of its own as a kind of mantra for the city.

An ever-growing part of Austin’s “Weird” culture is its geek community. For years, Central Texas has been known as Silicon Hills for its high number of tech companies. Austin also has a dizzying number of game studios. And Austin’s demographics skew young. All of this contributes to an accepting, inquisitive, and somewhat compulsive populous. In other words, The Geek Capital of the World.

Many other cities have a deep geek culture. Like them, Austin has a multitude of great comic book and gaming/toy stores and even some classic arcades. Other cities may have a horror group; Austin has two organizations with over 2,000 members combined: The Austin Horror Society and Blood Over Texas. You can even dance at the Austin Vampire Ball, put on by the The Vampire Court of Austin. Other cities may even have a Quidditch team, but have they won the Quidditch World Cup three years in a row? UT Austin has.

But let’s not quibble. Austin has some additional heavy hitters, like the SXSW Gaming Expo. It used to be a part of SXSW Interactive but grew so large that Interactive couldn’t contain it. The three day festival has a seemingly endless number of speakers, panels, professional gaming tournaments, and more. We also have Wizard World Comic Con Austin. Okay, it’s not San Diego Comic Con, but what else is? And Austin is the home of Rooster Teeth, whose live action shorts, animated pieces, and machinima are viewed on its YouTube channel by 8 million subscribers! The annual RTX (Rooster Teeth Expo) attracted 30,000 Austin geeks in 2014.

No one better mixes gaming and booze like Austin. The Geeks Who Drink “Geek Bowl” has been held in Austin the past three years. We are only one of five cities that host Astronomy on Tap, a meet-up and lecture series whose motto is “Science is even better with beer.” Austin also mixes games and pubs very well. Kung Fu Saloon serves libations and has vintage arcade games, Skee Ball, Giant Jenga, and board games galore. At the Emerald Tavern Games and Café, D&D is a different experience with a little JD. And our vast steampunk community is getting its own bar, the Steampunk Saloon.

Austin’s gaming community is second to none. Austin Geeks & Gamers, a large meetup group, hosts something almost every night of the week. Game Over Video Games began in Austin in 2005 and now has stores all over Texas (and for some reason two in Seattle). They sell used retro video games, systems, and accessories. They also sponsor Classic Game Fest, the largest retro video game convention in Texas. And we have HavenCon, not just a geek and gaming convention, but one specifically focused on the LGBT community. This is the epitome of liberal Austin geek.

As film geeks, we are blessed to have two geek heaven video stores, both Austin institutions: Vulcan Video (which specializes in SciFi, cult, and classic films) and I Luv Video (which has rare and unique films and serves free beer (what else?) on Tuesdays). Speaking of beer, Austin is the home of Alamo Drafthouse theaters, where they serve adult drinks (and food) during your favorite SciFi flick. Austin is a great film town in general and has the 2nd most specialty theaters per capita in the country.

What about SciFi you ask? Austin has probably the only SciFi bookstore on wheels. Fifth Dimension Books is a bookmobile that wanders around town with an always rotating collection of used SciFi books for sale. Austin also has Sfanthor, a SciFi, Fantasy, and Horror wax museum! In a castle! In downtown Austin! ArmadilloCon is a literary convention specializing in SciFi and fantasy. And we have a certain SciFi film festival from an Other World.

All of this only scratches the surface. Austin’s geek bona fides could go on forever. But why did Austin become the Geek Capital of the World? Because it has all the ingredients. It’s a liberal bastion in the middle of deep red Texas. It’s a big college town and a state capital. It’s a high-tech mecca and an entertainment wonderland. But the geekness of Austin is larger than the sum of its parts. Austin has a geek attitude. It embraces the nerd in all of us.

At least, that’s what I think. What do you think? Is there a city more geeky than Austin? Tell us why.

© 2014 OWA SciFi Film Fest, LLC