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Six months ago, I didn’t think about video games. I hadn’t touched a controller since middle school. Needless to say, I was out of the loop. Fast forward to today, and I find myself talking about gamers daily. I’m fascinated by how much things have changed and how gamers have evolved from counterculture nerds to shapers of mainstream culture.

My role at Fullscreen means being a bit of a digital anthropologist. I’ve been leveling up my knowledge, diving into research, playing lots of the latest Zelda, and dabbling into Fortnite in order to better understand the modern-day gamer. What better way to get back into the game (lol) than to join gaming fans from all over the world for my first ever RTX event? Now in its eighth year, RTX Austin is a Rooster Teeth-hosted event every summer where fans and creators come together to celebrate gaming and internet culture.

As an outsider looking in, here are five key observations from my weekend at RTX:

1) This is where the community can celebrate their many shared passions. Yes, gamers have evolved beyond the stereotype, but at RTX you see various classic nerdoms overlapping. It’s not just video games. Between watching gaming tournaments on the Center Stage, you can buy a custom 20-sided die or a lightsaber, play a few games of Magic, and compete in a rubix cube race.

2) Merchandising has gone beyond the souvenir t-shirt. Across the street from the convention center, a pop-up shop called The Coop sold exclusive streetwear designed by Rooster Teeth designers in collaboration with outside artists. Fans lined up around the block, waiting to score the limited edition items from their favorite entertainment brands.

3) Rooster Teeth creators are on the forefront of digital disruption — and they know it. When a panel attendee asked the Sugar Pine 7 gang where they see the future of content, Steven Suptic articulated something many of us who work in digital media have felt on some level: “TV and digital are both trying to be like each other.”

4) Creators are branching out with spin-offs that show zero gameplay. The Achievement Hunter crew — who have built their audience primarily around gameplay content — are launching Achievement Haunter, where they explore well-known haunted locations in a real search for paranormal activity. In case you’re unfamiliar with Achievement Hunter, the show will mix a serious search for spooks with a lot more laughs.

5) Fans come for the creators, and leave with IRL connections. I spoke to a couple who met at RTX years ago, dated across states, and were enjoying their first convention together as newlyweds. RTX attendees are genuinely excited to be part of the crowd and strike up conversation with each other in line. I have not witnessed that kind of camaraderie at other festivals I’ve attended in the past.

RTX gives its community a place to hang with each other IRL — and I am so glad I was able to be a part of it this year. As industry trends are moving towards a more individualized experience, Rooster Teeth is creating events where fans are able to choose their own adventure among media, games, creators, and interests. I’m excited to see how this convention, and everything else that Rooster Teeth offers its fans — from entertaining content to lasting friendships — continues to evolve with the community and the digital landscape.