According to RentCafe Utah ranks third as one of the best cities for Geek Culture. Salt Lake comes in right behind Orlando, Florida – Number 1, and Seattle, Washington – Number 2.
Salt Lake showed its true geek culture when FanX (Formerly Salt Lake Comic Con) appeared on the scene and quickly became one of the most popular and attended popular culture conventions in the country.
The criteria RentCafe used in compiling their list included:
- Pop culture among residents based on “online searches for specific keywords including flagship movies, games, and activities (comic book stores, “Dungeons and Dragons,” Star Wars and more”
- Local employment with good chances of finding a job in media, film, art, gaming tech, and science. Along with the potential for high earnings in those fields.
- Percentage of locals holding a BA degree or higher
- Number of physical bookstores, gaming stories, comic book stores, comic cons, costume stories, art supply stores, music stories and movie theaters
- Cost of living index
- Access to apartment units that come with geek-oriented amenities such as game rooms, media rooms, card rooms, art studios, on-site movie theaters, and libraries
Salt Lake ranked high across the board. It is easy to find a variety of comic book stores, gaming groups and stores, conventions, and fan groups.
On top of that Utah is home to several tech companies that attract science and tech nerds.
But what does that mean? What is a nerd, or a geek? Personally I don’t like the term “geek.” According to Britannica a geek was, “a carnival worker who was so unskilled that the only thing the worker could do at the carnival to entice an audience was to bite off the heads of live animals.” Not very flattering. Nerd also has some bad connotations associated with name calling and bullying. Why label it?
The culture boils down to passion. A passionate interest and near obsession. And the genre isn’t as important as the level of interest.
My personal dedication is to comic books. When I was in elementary school my dad owned a grocery store in the Avenues. Inside the store was a comic book rack and I discovered the Fantastic Four, Batman, Spider-Man, and Archie.
The stories of right vs wrong, hope, and integrity were eye-opening. I was hooked and couldn’t wait for the new shipments to find out how Superman was going to get away from the red kryptonite that he was trapped under the month before.
While comics were my first love I also stumbled into fantasy and science fiction through Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Ray Bradbury.
There are other venues people pursue. There are cafes and game stores for people into Pokémon, Dungeons & Dragons, and other RPGs (Role Playing Games).
Utah Renaissance Faire and the Society for Creative Anachronism and Utah LARP ( Live Action RolePlaying), provide outlets for creatively participating in other worlds and as outlets for artistic endeavors in design.
Is Utah a geek Mecca? Definitely. Can you find like-minded people to connect with? Assuredly. Kids can grow up hiding who they are in fear of bullying or being misunderstood. So, finding a group of people who are just as passionate can be liberating and inclusive.
Utah culture is richer because of geek culture. The economy is better. There are over six comic book shops along the Wasatch Front, 8 game stores, and numerous groups to join, celebrating everything from Firefly to Renaissance ideals.
Geek culture has definitely made strides in acceptance. There is safety in numbers and if the attendance at FanX each year is any indication, there are a lot of us out there. It comes down to maybe even a little respect.
In 2014 what was then Salt Lake Comic Con scored an appearance by Stan Lee I was working at a comic book shop called Night Flight. It was a last minute announcement and people flocked into the store looking for anything by Stan Lee to buy so that could take it to be signed.
Lee declared to a sold out crowd that night, “You people have the greatest comic con in the world.” Based on that alone Salt Lake should move up to number one.
Feature image by Crystal Nageli at FanX 2023.