Most days geeks do their best to hide their freak flags. But this weekend those who embrace the world of anime, gaming, sci-fi and fantasy have the ultimate excuse to let their inner nerds loose: PortConMaine 2010.

The annual fan convention starts up tonight at the Wyndham Hotel in South Portland for folks who’ve pre-registered. It welcomes walk-ins Friday through Sunday, when the event is expected to attract 2,000 people.

Each day is jam-packed with video gaming, miniature campaigns, film screenings, boardgame tournaments, panel discussions, karaoke, collectible card games and even boff competitions.

In case you’ve missed out on the boff phenomenon, the PortCon organizers describe it as “the gentlemanly sport of wrapping PVC pipe in foam and duct tape and then hitting your friends with said pipe.”

“Welcome to our nerd culture,” said Julie York, of Westbrook who is chairing this year’s convention. “Come visit us. You’ll have fun.”

The fun starts at 9 a.m. each morning and runs until midnight every night except Sunday, when the convention wraps up at 6 p.m.

One thing you can’t miss at this convention is the costumes. Many attendees show up decked out in handmade creations inspired by their favorite anime characters.

Debbie McLean of Exter, N.H., has been attending anime and gaming conferences and sewing costumes for her daughter for the past 10 years. This year she is a judge at PortCon’s costume fashion show (known to insiders as cosplay).

“You can do anything with a 2-D drawing, but turning it into 3-D is not necessarily easy,” McLean said.

Within the world of robot warriors and ninja princesses, there are two costume genres sure to make an appearance at this year’s convention. They are Steampunk, which melds the world of Jules Verne gears and contraptions with modified Victorian dress, and Lolita, which is a frilly, elegant style reminiscent of the Victorian and Rococo eras of fashion.

“It’s very difficult picking a winner because a lot of these kids really bring it,” McLean said and noted that many attendees put up to 200 hours of work into their costumes.

Among the speakers and panelists slated to entertain this eclectically-dressed crowd are voice actor Chris Carson (who can be heard in the video games Ghostbusters and Guitar Hero 3), game designer Jared A. Sorensen (credits include Lacuna Part I and Girl from Blue City), manga webcomic artist Michael “Mookie” Terracciano (known for “Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire”), author CJ Henderson (Teddy London occult detective series, “The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies” and “Black Sabbath: The Ozzy Osbourne Years”) and Hollywood prop designer and Maine native Christian Matzke (numerous H.P. Lovecraft adaptations).

Beyond the experts, the conference puts the focus on the fans, who have endless opportunities to take part in games and competitions.
“People come to this convention because they want to show off their skills and meet new people who like the same things,” York said.

Which means if you attend, you can opt to spend all four days doing nothing but playing video games or the card game Magic. Or you can jump around to different events every hour. Each evening features wacky social events, such as Port Prom, the Techno Dance Party and the Geek Comedy Tour.

“I run this really nerdy competition on Friday night called Extreme Geek,” York said. “It’s kind of mocking ourselves. It’s like a game show where you really don’t win and there’s no point of playing.”

During last year’s competition, York got male participants to don $3 thrift shop dresses and walk over to Tim Horton’s and order coffee. She called it a Drag Race.

“We’re going to be incredibly nerdy,” York said. “And we’re going to laugh about it.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:
[email protected]