Pretty much my entire life, I've known with absolute certainty that video games are cool, but for most of my childhood, gaming was seen as an antisocial activity, the province of geeks and shut-ins.
Anyone who still thinks that, however, needs to get their head checked.
According to a Gallup poll in January, almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the highly sought-after demographic of Americans ages 18-29 own a game system.
And globally, researcher Gartner estimated that the video-game market in 2013 was worth $78 billion (yes, with a "B"). Comparatively, the worldwide film industry in 2013 was worth about $90 billion, according to a similar report by analyst IBISworld.
In August 2015, Chattanoogan Wade Hinkle hopes to slice off a piece of that ginormous pie with the Gaming and Technology Expo, a conference he's founding and which he's already billing as "the largest in the Southeast."
Earlier this week, Hinkle, a lifelong gamer and former editor of gaming news websites Gaming Unwrapped and Gamers Daily News, announced the event, which he expects to attract 15,000 to 20,000 attendees Aug. 7-9 to the Chattanooga Convention Center.
"My goal is that, in five years, we'll be one of the largest expos," Hinkle told me last week. "I don't want to be a local expo. I'm going up against the big boys."
Despite basing his attendance figures on similar events, that number seems almost ludicrously optimistic to me. Even if the event only brings in, say, 2,000 people, however, it would slot in nicely with the increasingly high-profile events organized by local e-sports outfit Iron Gaming.
As of last week, Hinkle had yet to receive hard confirmations from the developers, publishers and professionals he has invited, with the exception of Canadian gaming journalist Marc Saltzman. He has, however, rented out all 100,000 square feet of the Convention center and said he's committed to hosting the event, come what may. He's also reached agreements with "eight to 10" downtown hotels to reserve rooms and offer cheaper rates to GATE attendees.
Chattanooga, Hinkle says, is ideally positioned for an event like GATE. There's a strong community of gamers here, EPB's gigabit service has already placed it on the map for the tech set and half the population of the U.S. lives less than a day's drive away.
As a journalist, I'm skeptical about Hinkle's ambitious claims, but as a gamer, I'm rooting for him. How about you? Would you attend a locally hosted gaming expo? Email me your thoughts.
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.