Hosting the second largest research park in the United States. Being home to a leading university full of science and technology programs. And yes, building a Saturn V moon rocket. These are things that have become synonymous with Huntsville, a city that proudly flies a geeky flag.
While that name might have historically carried some baggage in the past, the citizens of Huntsville continue to prove that geek is the new cool. No longer does the term “geek” bring up the thought of pocket protectors and slide rulers, but instead it now carries that of successful video games, tabletop games, and all aspects of popular culture. All of which can be found at one of Huntsville’s premier events for geeks: ChargerCon at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
ChargerCon is a two day event held at the UAHuntsville Charger Union building, and is home to video game tournaments, costume contests, tables from local businesses, and much more. The convention has become a staple of Huntsville geek culture, having started at UAHuntsville in 2008. ChargerCon has grown in those seven years, moving to larger venues at the university and at times having an attendance exceeding 1,500 students and visitors.
UAHuntsville Senior and Computer Engineering major Terryn Fredrickson also serves as Co-Chair and Tournament Organizer of ChargerCon. He explains that “Huntsville has the infrastructure to bring competitive gaming to it’s forefront.” He goes on to say that “we have a culture and environment that will bring the home of E-Sports in the Southeast to Huntsville.”
If “E-Sports” is a new term to you, it won’t be one for much longer. In the same way that UAHuntsville is home to popular basketball and hockey programs, the university also has students representing it in digital competition as well. UAHuntsville students have played on a team competing with other universities in competitions held at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, and are on the lookout for more ways to bring Charger pride to gaming competitions as well.
UAHuntsville Senior and Computer Science major Thomas Shallenberger serves as the Director of ChargerCon and also the Vice President of UAHuntsville Student Run E-Sports. Also known as “SReS,” the student run organization seeks to expand E-Sports on campus, and is also responsible for planning ChargerCon. When asked about advice for new visitors to ChargerCon, Thomas encourages both participants and spectators to check out the tournaments. “Most tournaments are open to the public, and are a ton of fun with great prizes,” he explains. “I would then recommend watching at least one League of Legends match in the Charger Union theatre.”
As far as for how to best enjoy ChargerCon, both Terryn and Thomas have suggestions for out-of-town visitors. Terryn suggests that visitors “check out the costume contests, and just soak in the spirit of the competition. The players coming to compete in ChargerCon are some of the best in the nation.” Thomas also mentions “with fun games and skits in between each match, I believe the theatre will be the most enjoyable experience of the whole event.”
The two UAHuntsville students also have a few suggestions for visitors to the Huntsville area to check out outside of the campus as well. Thomas recommends, “check out the U.S. Space and Rocket Center!” He explains, “As probably the most recognizable landmark in Huntsville, it would be insanity to skip this destination while traveling through Huntsville. “ Terryn also recommends that visitors “check out the craft brew scene.” “If there’s one thing in Huntsville we like more than technology, it’s our beer,” Terryn says.
ChargerCon will be taking place over both March 13 and 14 at the University of Alabama Charger Union building. Both UAHuntsville students and all of the public is welcome to attend, absolutely free of charge. Events will start the afternoon of the 13th and run all the way through the evening of the 14th. Participants are encouraged to register ahead of the event to guarantee tournament slots. More information and registration can be found online by clicking here.
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Daniel Horton is a lifelong geek, 2007 graduate of UAHuntsville with a degree in Communications, works at FDI as the Director of Marketing, mentors young musicians in the Huntsville area, and is the host of the local tech / entertainment podcast Rocktt. He is the co-founder of the UAHuntsville ChargerCon convention, and is on the UAHuntsville Alumni Board of Directors. Daniel is also married to Sharla Horton, the owner of Little Bit’s Vintage fashion truck.