Nerds on the move
December 21st, 2012
10:25 AM ET

Nerds on the move

Dear readers,

Once upon a time, an awkward, nerdy producer at CNN.com convinced her bosses it was time to jump on the geek bandwagon – but do it differently.

Instead of producing stories that included little context for the passion people have about comic books, sci-fi, cosplay and all things geeky, we would examine the “why” of nerd culture. We would report on the people and the creative obsessions that drew them together. And, so a blog was born.

Now on CNN.com, you can regularly read stories surrounding nerdy pursuits and geeky events, from webcomics to Dragon*Con. Starting in the new year, we’ll be integrating the geek beat into the Living section at large and archiving Geek Out!

Thank you for reading the blog, posting your comments and sharing your views. We will continue to explore the many sides of nerdy culture on the site. We invite you to be a part of our ongoing conversation.

My greatest appreciation,
Ann Hoevel

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Filed under: Brainiac • Comic Longbox • Fandom • Master User • Otaku
When fans go too far
Xiah Junsu (left) and Hero Jaejoong (right) are members of the K-Pop band JYJ, which has a saesang following.
October 19th, 2012
07:14 AM ET

When fans go too far

As an overly passionate, silly geek, when I like something, I don't just "like" it. I tend to get excited in a very specific way, going into full fan mode fairly quickly (see this drawing for a visual explanation).

Once I get rolling, I become a constant broadcaster, excitedly telling my friends about my newest obsession, while I wave my hands around in the air for emphasis.

This excitement is called "fangirling" (or fanboying, as the case may be), and it's fairly common behavior when it comes to the nerd world. In fact, it even extends beyond nerds: Stamp collectors, vintage record experts, and doll fanatics have their moments, too. We all light up when we get a chance to talk about the thing we love. When we share our enthusiasm, we welcome another person into our inner circle.

Sometimes, though, in the midst of marathoning yet another Asian drama with impossibly good-looking leading men, I'll catch myself wondering: Is my fandom escapism? And can it go too far?

All pleasures can lead to escapism, but where do they cross over into obsession? Are you obsessive if you spend each year crafting yet another insanely detailed Final Fantasy costume to wear to Dragon Con, or are you merely nurturing your creative pursuits? Is an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek history a good thing, or does the need to keep it up-to-date eventually edge out the necessities of life? FULL POST

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Filed under: Fandom • Otaku
A peek into the Japanese franchise industry
"Persona 4 Arena" is a fighting game from Atlus that features many characters from the popular franchise.
October 9th, 2012
11:57 AM ET

A peek into the Japanese franchise industry

While titles like "Street Fighter" and "Mortal Kombat" may ring a bell if you ever spent any time in arcades as a kid, you may not have heard of "Persona." So why is Japan going totally nuts over it, with American otakus quickly following suit?

This August, "Persona 4 Arena," debuted on the U.S. market. The game features popular characters from a Japanese franchise of role-playing games that was founded by gaming company Atlus in 1996. Since its Japanese release on March 1st, the game has sold more than 128,000 units for PlayStation 3, making it the fasting selling fighting game of all time.

Persona's tremendous success as a franchise can be chalked up to a mix of well-defined characters and marketing savvy that the Japanese know how to execute with finesse.

If there's one thing most gamers excel at, it's devotion. Ever since I discovered the first "Final Fantasy," I have stood dutifully at the door of the local game store at the midnight launch, waiting to get my copy.

I fell stone cold in love with "Persona 3" first and worked backwards: The modern fantasy settings, great dialogue and character development have me hooked like a helpless fish.

The latest installment, "Persona 4 Arena," is a perfect example of the power of the Japanese franchise. By appealing to a hardcore Japanese fan base - and the American fans that carefully follow the same trends –and creating a game that features already beloved characters, Atlus is swinging for a home run. Square-Enix did the same in 2008 with "Dissidia Final Fantasy," which featured characters from every major Final Fantasy game and gave fans a chance to fight against one another. The game nailed a spot as the best selling PSP game of 2009 as a result.

However, the way franchises work in Japan is a bit different from the way they work in America. This is a key element to the reason games like "Persona 4 Arena" and "Theatrhythm Final Fantasy" have performed so well. FULL POST

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Filed under: Otaku
September 18th, 2012
12:36 PM ET

The universal language of 'Gangnam Style'

If you haven't heard of "Gangnam Style" by now, it's likely you live under a rock (or at the very least, have no access to the Internet). Korean performer Psy has made quite a splash for himself with the quirky song and video, which is currently sitting pretty on YouTube with more than 194 million views (and counting) since its release on July 15.

It's now among the most liked videos of all time, and it just recently hit #1 on the U.S. iTunes charts. Everyone loves the singer's trademark "horse dance," celebrities included. The video has been recognized by Tom Cruise, American rapper T-Pain, Nelly Furtado, Katy Perry ... and the list goes on. 

Now Psy is a hot commodity. He's just been signed by Justin Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, who promises that Psy will be the first Korean artist to break a big record in the United States.

I'm not surprised. Psy is only the latest entertainer to make a splash in the Korean Wave.

We talked about it back in May, months before anyone in the United States had a clue what "Gangnam Style" was. I've always cheered on this phenomenon (or "hallyu" as the Koreans call it), hoping to see more recognition of the music that I love here in the States. As a devoted fan of Korean pop, I'm cautiously interested in where this movement is going.

Naturally, people want to know the reason why something is a massive success. And so, journalists dug. The Atlantic had all sorts of things to say about the song's meaning. Korea Law Today mined deeper than most with a piece on the meaning behind the song's lyrics and cultural nuances. Init_Music even explained how Psy's success is an example of how Asians have to conform to certain roles in order to make an impact overseas.

As interesting as it was to understand what could really be going on in "Gangnam Style" from its roots, ultimately, it has little to do with its mainstream success. After all, the majority of the people dancing to "Gangnam Style" right now don't speak a word of Korean.

The true language of "Gangnam Style" isn't Korean. It may be the language of the song's lyrics, but its true means of communication is a universal one: meme culture. FULL POST

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Filed under: Otaku
Tamamo no Mae
September 6th, 2012
05:21 PM ET

Costuming at Dragon*Con: It's like a sauna in here

Decked out in full Tamamo no Mae regalia, I drove from my home back to downtown Atlanta, Georgia, where Dragon*Con was being held. And I was already uncomfortable.

Not because - as I overheard in many conversations over the four days of Dragon*Con - costumers are often stressed and working down to the wire, sometimes finishing their grand creations in their hotel rooms while the con is happening. I'll cop to being a procrastinator, and having my costume done just in the nick of time. And yes, that was stressful.

No, I was uncomfortable because I was sitting on the bottom half of my 60-inch straight black haired wig, which was pulling the other half (and my neck) back into a very difficult position for driving a car. That turned out to be a constant issue as I met friends and strangers throughout the night. It's hard to sit down with hair that long, and it quickly dawned on me why Heian era women were always depicted either standing or kneeling.

I also had to bunch up my entire costume just to get into the car. My mobility was absolutely compromised in this cocoon of brocade and satin. I worried one of the costume's fox tails might get torn off when I finally extracted myself from the driver's seat.

Once into the muggy, mid-seventies Atlanta evening air, I knew right away: it's going to get worse. FULL POST

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Filed under: Dragon*Con • Fandom • Otaku
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