At Rooster Teeth's Annual RTX Fest, It's All About the Community
Geek culture sites often tout hordes of dedicated fans. But the community that sprung up around the Austin-based comedy and gaming collective Rooster Teeth remains the envy of nerdom. That's no coincidence. "When Rooster Teeth started putting out Red vs. Blue, they read every comment. Every 'OMG this is amazing!' Every critique. Every bit of feedback they could," says longtime community member and RTX Volunteer Manager Mary Frank-McDowell. "The whole reason they made the site was so that they could connect with the people who were watching their content."
Since Red vs. Blue, a machinima web series now in its 12th season, went viral (see "Almost Famous," March 5, 2004), the comedy and gaming collective Rooster Teeth has launched a collection of channels, including live-action shows like Immersion – a kind of gaming-centric version of MythBusters – to their new 2013 anime series RWBY. They also host Achievement Hunter, a spin-off site featuring (hilarious) live plays of games.
As the website grew in size, it also grew in scope, becoming a social hub for passionate gamers and Rooster Teeth fans to build new friendships, talk about their passions, and launch side projects. Around 2005, RT Community members started hosting international gatherings as a way to connect in person. "In Toronto there was a fan event. Australia had one. All over the U.S.," says Barbara Dunkelman, Rooster Teeth community manager and voice actress for "Yang" on RWBY. "So Rooster Teeth said, instead of going to all these different events all over the place, why don't we just host our own thing here in Austin?" Boom. In 2011, RTX Fest was born. But as Dunkelman explains, it didn't go quite as planned. "They actually planned to make it just a small event with 200 people," says Dunkelman. "But the ticketing system broke, and they ended up selling close to 600 tickets in under three minutes."
So why were so many people so excited? There's the opportunity to meet their favorite Internet celebrities, sure. But as with the fan-based events before RTX, the community remained the real draw. That's still true today. RTX provides a setting to finally connect with online friends face-to-face. Frank-McDowell explains: "It's like back in the simpler days of air travel when you could wait at the gate for the people getting off the plane. That's what it's like. It's people just reconnecting or finding each other for the first time. It's skipping across the exhibition hall to give each other hugs and high fives."
With the festival now hosting tens of thousands of friends to high five, you can imagine the community's excitement. RT SideQuest (www.rtsidequest.com), a fan site by community members Grady Bailey and Dominic Dobrzensky, will kick off the festivities Thursday night with a charity auction. Official and unofficial Rooster Teeth-themed drinking, jokes, gaming, panels, and barbecues will then continue well into Monday afternoon.
RTX 2014 takes place July 4-6 at the Austin Convention Center. Weekend and day passes are still available. See www.rtxevent.com for ticket info and schedule.