Geeks Night Out to bring fun and games, entrepreneurs, tech industry together in Tempe

Push up your glasses and pop in your retainer, it’s about to get geeky up in here.

Geeks Night Out: The Science of Fun, a celebration of science, technology and the people who make it all happen, is coming to downtown Tempe on Thursday, February 16.

It may seem as if the geeks are taking over, but they’ve actually been dominating the scene for quite some time. In fact, 20 percent of the jobs in Tempe are tech-related.

Geeks Night Out is all about bringing local businesses together and inviting everyone to let their inner nerd run wild.

There are two sides to the event: the is the fun and light-hearted side, which includes a costume contest, live music, ghost tours and plenty of video games; and there is the business and networking side, which includes a job fair, success panel and rapid pitch.

A free event for the whole family, Geeks Night Out is as much an opportunity to network as it is a place to have a good time.

Tempe’s Geeks Night Out is part of the Arizona SciTech Festival, which celebrates everything science and technology related just in time for the centennial celebrations.

Jeremy Babendure, director of the Arizona SciTech Festival, said it’s a statewide celebration for our society and culture, with over 250 events happening until March 15.

The SciTech Festival, a seven week festival that takes place all across Arizona, ignited a fire in Tempe that made for a one of a kind event.

“The concept of Geeks Night Out was something that was championed by the City of Tempe,” said Babendure.

Babendure reached out to Tempe, offering them a platform that they quickly filled out themselves.

“Science and technology is an industry that drives Tempe,” said Babendure. “It’s important for people to realize what is driving our economy.”

Babendure said the idea behind the festival is not only to get our future generations interested in Arizona as a huge leader in science, but to change Arizona’s identity in general.

“It helps to develop local awareness and, eventually, an international brand for our community as innovators in technology,” he said. “[Maybe] people can start viewing us more as leaders in technology than what Governor Brewer does on the tarmac with President Obama.”

Tempe Council-member Onnie Shekerjian, who chairs the council committee for technology, said Tempe is a unique city because of the highly educated population coming out of ASU and surrounding universities.

“For people over 25 years old, about 40 percent of those people in Tempe have a bachelor’s degree or above,” said Shekerjian. “The national average [for that age group] is 24 percent.”

Shekerjian said Tempe has a lot of tech companies starting there and relocating there, which adds to the personality of the city.

She also said Tempe is a location to have fun, which is why there is such a variety of different “geekness.”

“Being a geek is not being uncool,” she said. “Everyone has their area of geekness.”

Looking at Tempe as a whole, Shekerjian said it is an eclectic city that is very rich in culture for being able to strike out beyond your own. Case in point, the small businesses involved in Geeks Night Out.

Local Businesses Shine

For a lighthearted (or perhaps intense) time, visitors can take part in a good old fashion trivia game. Pop Culture Paradise is hosting the competition, and the topic is the endless battle of Star Trek vs. Star Wars. Prizes will be awarded to the man or woman who knows their intergalactic facts.

If the individuals would rather wear their geeky passions for the public to admire, there is also a Phoenix Comicon costume contest where prizes and trophies will be awarded to the best Sci-Fi outfit.

Youngsters  and game enthusiasts can also indulge their video gaming thirsts in giant mobile video game theater provided by GameTruck, another example of a Tempe-based business that has expanded all over the country.

GameTruck started in Tempe in 2006 and was founded by ASU alumni Scott Novis. Novis built a prototype in his garage after being inspired by his son’s fourth birthday.

Now there are 55 GameTruck franchises across the country, hitting birthday parties, work events and schools.

Chief Operating Officer David Wachtel said seeing a GameTruck is all it takes to get hooked.

“With our business, you have to see and feel it to get it; you have to witness it yourself,” Wachtel said.

“It’s a different world from the one I grew up in, going to the arcades,” Wachtel said. “It’s pretty incredible.”

Having their business in Tempe has also allowed them to connect with other small businesses such as Evil Controllers.

“Tempe offers a closer community feel,” said Wachtel, who sees Geeks Night Out as a great opportunity for businesses to network.

GameTruck is teaming up with Evil Controllers to create a unique product line of controllers for both the mass market and individuals with disabilities.

Young Entrepreneurs

Adam Coe is the CEO of Evil Controllers, a Tempe based company that customizes gaming controllers and even allows gamers to build their own creations.

Evil controllers will be showcasing their products inside a theater at Madcap where visitors can test out a new way of asserting their dominance on Call of Duty or Gears of War.

Coe is also on the Geeks Night Out success panel. A young entrepreneur, Coe was just a freshman college student with a good idea. An avid gamer, as many students are, Coe went home for spring break and decided to relocate some buttons on his Xbox controller in order to up his Halo game.