With sweaty palms and hearts racing,fanboys and fangirls stood in hour-long lines for autograph signings and panels at
New York Comic Con, gripped by the chance to meet their favourite actors, comic book authors, and androids.
Others came to the annual convention to fulfil a different fantasy: meeting the geek of their dreams.
In a basement room of the Javits Center, where NYCC was held Oct. 10 — 13,
a banner depicted two stick figures holding hands — one dressed as a knight, the other wearing antennae. They’re sandwiched between the words “Sci-Fi Speed Dating” and “Let Your Geek Flag Fly.” It sounded promising for the 82 singletons mingling inside.
A costumed Jedi Master standing at the front echoed into the mic, “Three, two, one, aaaand switch.”
John Kelleher, a 33-year-old from the Bronx, was there on a whim. He volunteered to go with a friend as “karma payback.” His outfit — rectangular glasses, a black button-down shirt, and a pinstripe vest — wasn’t a costume, although it was unsafe to assume that in a room filled with Captain America, Snow White, Dr. Who, Poison Ivy, and more obscure, casually dressed heroes and villains. Many Comic Con attendees dress like their favourite comic book, video game, anime, sci-fi, movies, and TV characters to celebrate their fandom — a ritual called cosplay. (Click here for further explanation.)
An attractive young woman with
a wide smile andbrown hair cut above the neckline took a seat in front of Kelleher. Her dress’s
burgundy colour,pin over her heart, and black collar suggested that she belonged to the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, of the “Star Trek” universe. Kelleher, who works as an IT engineer at a power plant company, immediately recognised this and saw an opportunity for some flirtatious banter.
“My personal philosophy is those who can make something out of nothing are always rich,” Kelleher later told Business Insider. “So I mentioned that she was ‘too cute to be expendable'” — the inside joke being that most red shirts on “Star Trek” wind up dead. He teased that they should visit a power plant on their first date.
Part-time Jedi Master, part-time matchmaker Ryan Glitch hosted eight Sci-Fi Speed Dating sessions (two of which were LGBT-only events) at NYCC. Glitch founded the company four years ago after attending a similar, but poorly run speed dating event. He now travels across the country to comic book and sci-fi conventions to help fans find love.
Here’s how it works. Participants wear numbered badges and carry index cards so they can jot down the IDs of the partners they click with. You chat with someone for three minutes before moving to the next costumed, self-proclaimed geek in the queue. At the end of the session, you write your contact information and an identifier (i.e. “Dressed as Snow White,” or, “Bonded over love of ‘Star Wars'”) on the sheets labelled with the numbers of the people with whom you’d like to continue the conversation.
These chance encounters get results. Sci-Fi Speed Dating has spawned five marriages, two babies, 19 engagements, and more than 100 couples dating seriously, according to Glitch. He’s received invitations to all the weddings and keeps tabs on the success stories via his personal Facebook account.
Glitch’s company has a few competitors, including Nerd Nite NYC, but Sci-Fi Speed Dating’s appearance on the 2011 two-part special “Geek Love” on TLC and spinoff YouTube series launched it as the go-to speed dating service for conventions nationwide.
Glitch credited his success to the unique clientele. The typical Comic Con-goer tends to be a little quirky and maybe a little accustomed to being an outcast. Here, they break out of their shells and find they’re not alone, even in a room of single people.
“This works because this community doesn’t judge,” he explained. “In ‘real speed dating, you can be stuck in a room with 50 people who just don’t give a s—. In this speed dating, everyone’s like, ‘Hey, you’re a fan! Wahoo!'”
Many participants noted that it was easy to find people who shared their interests, and the relaxed atmosphere took the pressure off making a strong first impression.
Kelleher added that the costumes are often revealing of partners’ personalities.
“People are more than just the characters they dress up as,” he said. “You get to see who they are on the inside.”
Kelleher was disappointed time ran out before he could speak to all the women, and that the Starfleet engineer gave her digits to his friend instead.
“But I got eight numbers,” Kelleher said, waving his sheet in his hands. He smiled. “I guess that’s not too bad.”
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