By Arts Editor Brendan Barlow

September 10 and 11 marked a special weekend here in Nanaimo: the second year of MosaiCon, a gaming convention that began its history just last year in the Vancouver Island University cafeteria. This year, however, the convention took place at the significantly larger Nanaimo Conference Centre, where it was able to expand and meet the enthusiastic fans of gaming, cosplay, board games, art, and plenty more, with open arms and ample space.

The word “nerd” has changed its meaning quite a lot over the last few years. I’ve seen this transformation myself, with it being used in a derogatory way while I was still in high school. Now, it seems the word and the label have both become stylish, and desirable. With conventions like San Diego ComiCon only increasing in popularity, and the number of small conventions popping up just on Vancouver Island, it would seem that there is a real sense of pride and enthusiasm among nerds, and those who aspire to be like them.

This was true and present at MosaiCon, with a line up of eager people ranging from children to (no—I’m not exaggerating) senior citizens, waiting with baited breath and high energy levels before the event had even opened. Some came in costume, some didn’t. Some clearly had more time and resources to put into said costumes, some didn’t. That said, they all greeted each other with smiles and excitement, and a very real sense of acceptance. In its own way, it was actually sort of a unique and special thing to watch.

When I say that some had more time and resources to put into the costumes, I really mean that. I was genuinely surprised—and occasionally impressed—with the work and craftsmanship that went into the construction of these props and outfits. Most notable, at least to me, was the enormous Charizard sculpture that stood a little bit taller than the person who had built it. The time and love that went into it, and many other costumes, was very evident.

Of course, no gathering of people is without its issues. One issue that I noticed was that there really was a certain sense of testing each other, trying to make sure that the other truly “deserved” to be there. It was in small ways, but most notable was during the cosplay competition, when a woman dressed in a fabulous Ghostbusters costume, with an impressive 3D printed proton pack, was asked, while on stage: “Which do you like better, the remake or the original?” by the host of the event, there was a pause, and she quickly replied, “The originals”, which was met with a “good” from the host.

Now, it’s possible that I’m reading more into this than is necessary, but I do wonder what difference it makes, and why this clarification was needed. These “tests” are seemingly everywhere in nerd culture, with people questioning whether someone liked the comic before the movie, or the original before the remake came out, just to ensure that they are “equals”.

The organizer of the event, Marc Gervais, told me in an interview that the event was meant to be inclusive, that there was something there for everyone, and that everyone could be a part of it. While this is certainly a noble and wonderful sentiment, I do wonder how much that holds up against the evidence of measuring up to each other.

With this aside, there were a lot of happy faces parading around. On my tour of the convention floor, I surprised and disappointed by the number of tables occupied solely by vendors with wares for sale. To be sure, this kind of thing is expected and commonplace at conventions like this, but it would have been interesting to see local game developers demoing new games, or people there to demo new technology. I had hoped there would be someone there with a virtual reality headset available to test. Sadly they were not present, but I did wind up purchasing comic books from a couple of local artists, that there is more about on page 17.

Vendors aside, the convention also featured an extensive collection of board games that visitors were encouraged to play, and tournaments for players of games like Magic: The Gathering, Super Smash Brothers, League of Legends, and Hearthstone. In truth, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was a bit out of my depth, despite my own interest in plenty of things many would consider “nerdy”. The event also featured the aforementioned cosplay contest, an 18+ swimsuit cosplay contest, and a burlesque performance as well.

MosaiCon was absolutely something that met the needs of its particular audience. It’s one that I will be keeping my eyes on, and strongly encourage you to do the same. Having it located so close by really makes it all the more desirable. Here’s hoping that it continues to evolve and comes back next year.

All photos by Brendan Barlow