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Originally published August 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 27, 2007 at 5:56 PM

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Seattle plays host to PAX video-game conference

It's hip to be a geek now, or haven't you heard? There wasn't any doubt at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, with "Napoleon...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Expo continues today

The Third Annual Penny Arcade Expo, a video-game conference with workshops, panel discussions, video-game contests and exhibits, runs 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center, 800 Convention Place (Seventh Avenue and Pike Street), Seattle. Admission is $30.

For more information: www.pennyarcadeexpo.com.

It's hip to be a geek now, or haven't you heard?

There wasn't any doubt at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, with "Napoleon Dynamite" look-alikes, the 22-year-old Chicago candy-store owner sporting a "I [Heart] Nerds" T-shirt and a couple of college-age women in"Sexy Geek" T-shirts.

The geeks have descended on Seattle via the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), a video-game conference by name but a cultural phenomenon of geek pride and "nerdcore" by reputation. The three-day video-game conference ends today.

A record 30,000 gamers and self-described "nerds" from as far away as Germany, New Zealand and Japan came to compete, to check out the latest games and to attend workshops such as "I'm Getting Old: When Life Cuts Into Gaming."

Also, they came to party and to sway to "geeksta rap," which features software engineers and computer programmers rapping about their deft computer-coding skills, about "Star Wars" and Dungeons & Dragons, about not getting dates in high school and getting picked last for team sports — and just generally getting picked on.

Not that anyone is still sore about this or anything.

"High school was cruel. ... I remember being the butt of some jokes," said Tim Oberg, 23, of Bay City, Mich., who wore a fanny pack.

"But, you know, they said we would rule the world one day. Now look at Bill Gates. Yeah!"

Oberg is a self-proclaimed geek, and proud of it.

It's a revenge-of-the-nerd moment in history: Two documentaries, "Nerdcore Rising" and "Nerdcore for Life," have recently been made.

Two nerd-theme television series, "The Big Bang Theory" and "Chuck," will air next month. And coming soon is Nerdapalooza in California, a Woodstock for nerds.

"Nerdcore" was coined in 2000 by geeksta rapper MC Frontalot, one of the culture's superstars, with songs like "You Got Asperger's."

MC Frontalot, aka Damian Hess of Berkeley, Calif., is pale and balding at 33, but he's a sex symbol here.

His mom helps run his music career and was in Seattle running his fan booth. (No, he doesn't still live at home, so stop asking.)

As he autographed his CDs on Saturday for a line of fans, Hess said he's startled by all the attention, considering it wasn't that long ago he and his friends "just huddled together ... and watched Monty Python."

Nearby, Maggie Elkin, with pink-streaked hair, was hawking Martinis & Men, a matchmaking card game ("It's Go Fish with dice").

Is this California girl a geek? "I was president of the math club in high school, for goodness' sake."

By noon Saturday, Elkin, 29, had sold all her "Sexy Geek" T-shirts in small and medium sizes. She loves all the brainy people uniting under one banner. "I can have an in-depth conversation about quantum physics, and it's normal here."

But a few days ago, there was a moment when she went astray.

"I was telling my girlfriend that I needed a pedicure. And this geek [leaned over] and said 'Sweetheart, geeks do not care whether you paint your toenails. They care if you conjugate your verbs properly.' "

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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