I’d heard about Zachary Levi’s Nerd Machine and seen references to NERD HQ online, but I was never exactly sure what it was. Is it a place? A website? A movement?
As it turns out, it’s all of these things. It’s also everything geek culture should be.
The Nerd Machine is a multimedia company spearheaded by Zachary Levi, conceived as a hub for all things geeky and nerdy. A community has built around their content, apparel, and accessories at their website, and NERD HQ is its part lounge/part event venue physical presence at San Diego Comic-Con, taking over a local bar/performance spot where Nerd Machine hosts a full slate of panels about tech and gaming; there’s a gaming lounge outfitted with 40 playing stations, a plethora of new gadgets to demo, a fun (and free) photo station where you and your friends can take pictures and send them to your social networks, and panels with the stars and creators of hot geek properties in a popular series called “Conversations For a Cause.”
What cause is that? Levi’s charity of choice is Operation Smile, a children’s charity that provides “safe, effective reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate.” Proceeds from the lively, intimate panels at NERD HQ, as well as from sales of fun apparel and accessories in their online store go to the organization, and as the company grows, they hope to expand their efforts on behalf of other charities as well.
The best part of The Nerd Machine and NERD HQ—in addition to XBox giveaways and the charitable donations—is the warm, friendly vibe. Despite being held at one of the most hectic events on the geek calendar, when you stepped inside NERD HQ you felt calm and like you belonged. The entire experience was like that, from the top down. From Zachary Levi to the NERD volunteers, everyone was incredibly kind and helpful, and they knew how to put together an efficient, relaxed event that put the fan first. Their panels only held around five hundred people in order to keep them intimate and maintain a high-quality event, rather than cramming in as many people as possible for a buck while diluting the fan experience.
A big part of that warm, friendly vibe was due to Levi. I’ve never watched Chuck (though I plan on remedying that immediately), so I wasn’t really familiar with him before seeing him host a panel at NERD HQ, and I was impressed by how genuine and humble he is. He engages with fans as equals, and seems honored to be in a position to both deliver a unique experience and bring those fans together. The staff follows Levi’s lead, and that sense of community is reflected in everything they do. The fans give the love right back, taking pride in things like their latest Nerd Machine purchases, or their NERD number (the earlier you joined the Nerdvolution, the lower your number. Levi’s is 1), fostering a welcoming, friendly environment for each other.
It’s a great time to be a geek, as there are so many different platforms that cater to us. Nerdist Industries excels at attracting our favorite big names to their projects. Geek and Sundry is great at providing quirky, unique content one can’t find anywhere else. The Nerd Machine’s strength is in its people, in the community it nurtures, the environment it provides, and in what it seeks to do for others. If you’re looking for a place to hang your Geek Hat, check out The Nerd Machine and make it your NERD HQ.
Teresa Jusino‘s NERD number is 17497, but she really needs to update her profile. Her Feminist Brown Person take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming non-fiction anthologies, and her “Moffat’s Women” panel will be featured at Geek Girl Con on August 11th! For more on her writing, Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.