GAAM, an event filled with live music, cosplay, charity art auctions, video games and free beer returns to Jacksonville this Saturday night on July 25th. An event for ages 17 and up, GAAM is unlike your normal concept of a comic book convention. Part charity event and part celebration of fandom, this Saturday night’s event is themed “GAAM Show: GAAMvengers Assemble.” Expect to see hundreds of local cosplayers, video game enthusiasts and your fellow FSCJ students in their coolest Avengers themed costumes.
In preparation for their event on July 25 at The Museum and Gardens (4160 Boulevard Center Dr, Jacksonville, Florida 32207) we reached out to Ryan Thompson, event coordinator and co-founder of GAAM, to tell us more about the event and the charity itself.
“GAAM stands for Games Art And Music, and is a culture company founded around video games, being original and doing good,” explains Thompson. Noticing a lack in the Jacksonville nightlife for our younger culture, Thompson took on the personal challenge of bridging the gaps between fans of the genre, businesses within the arts and gaming industry, and local Jacksonville businesses attempting to gain brand awareness with a younger customer base. Thompson went on to explain:
“It started just out of there being a void. I always wanted to work in the gaming industry, and eventually was blessed with the opportunity to work on a few releases. Unfortunately, to continue working, I would have had to move to LA. All my friends wanted to work in gaming, my students wanted it, but we kept on hitting the same problem of there not being any opportunities or interest for the industry to be here in Jax. So I thought, ‘I really want to make some Street Fighter art–and we used to have these awesome after parties at E3–maybe we can make something unique enough to show the gaming companies that Jacksonville wants them here.”‘
GAAM, since starting in December of 2012, is still relatively new as a Jacksonville convention. While they started with a small number of visitors, their growth has been amazing–with their last event posting an attendance of over 700 guests. “We held an exhibit that had over 3,500 attendees this year, so things have gotten considerably bigger! We’ve gone from 0 game studios at the beginning, to having over 15 this year. But our growth wouldn’t be that way without the support of a lot of people. Storm Unity and Candy Keane were two of the first to help us, and we’ll always be grateful for that. I’d like to see GAAM hit that 3,000-4,000 mark, and really become a mark of positivity for Jacksonville. There have been talks of it becoming a convention–which really isn’t our intention, as it doesn’t follow our credo. But GAAM publishing a video game? Definitely. GAAM becoming a full nonprofit? Absolutely. GAAM going multi-day? Maaaaaaybe,” said Thompson.
While GAAM celebrates video games and pop culture characters, among other things, it’s not just about the genre, it’s about using the genre to also give back to the world. Part of this Saturday night’s event is dedicated to charity. Thompson, a noted dog lover told us, “With Love and Extra Life both fight cancer and help children in their own ways. Also, The Canine Cancer Foundation is a very dear and personal cause to me. I love anything that has to do with helping dogs.”
Thompson has definitely created an interesting piece of Jacksonville culture, especially for our younger crowds. But on Saturday, you’re going to find both the young and the young at heart. Events like this bring the community together in a fun, innovative and exciting way.
“The most important lessons I’ve learned are the value of family, and that people can do amazing things when you give them the opportunity. Without my family–and by that I mean the friends who are with me through thick and thin, building and cutting at two in the morning–none of this would be possible. And people want to do great things. With GAAM, I’ve seen people build, sing, dance, draw, perform magic, tell jokes, make games and most importantly, help one another.
I’ve seen gamers become about more than just playing games. We’re about people. That’s probably what makes GAAM so special to so many. That and the free beer hours. Just kidding.”
For more information about this Saturday’s event, please visit GAAM online.
Ryan Thompson has also asked that we include the great charities GAAM is working with:
National Canine Cancer Foundation