Oregon’s Silicon Willamette Valley

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sex criminalsIf you have yet to embrace your nerdy overlords, it may be time to rethink your life choices. Geeks have been chic for about a decade now, comic book movies dominate Hollywood and television, and video games continue their rise to the top of the entertainment heap. The biggest companies with the highest paid employees are all in the tech industry, which is run entirely by nerds.

While a great many of those minds congregate in California, tucked away in the Silicon Valley and in Hollywood, Oregon is emerging as a new hub for all things nerdy.

To the north, Portland is home to your creative nerds. Two giant comic publishers, Oni Press and Dark Horse, have taken up roots in the Rose City, and the constantly rising independent comic scene is anchored by the fantastic creator collective Periscope Studio. Comic giants Matt Fraction, Greg Rucka, and Brian Michael Bendis all live in Portland and produce content for the biggest comic publishers of our time. Michael Allred, an independent comic creator most famous for his character Madman, grew up in Roseburg as a radio DJ. His time in Oregon would go on to serve as inspiration for his first graphic novel Dead Air. A personal favorite of their collective works has to be Fraction’s Sex Criminals,which tells the tale of two strangers that come together after having lived their lives with the ability to stop time whenever they climax. Yeah. That idea was born in Oregon.

There are a great many notable game developers in our fair state as well. Independent darling Fullbright Studios, known for their narrative-based megahit Gone Home, is right at home in the creativity pod that is Portland. To the east is Sony Bend, a smaller development team that works exclusively on titles for Sony’s PlayStation brand.

Our hometown isn’t slacking behind Portland, though—no sir. Corvallis is an emerging market for all of those aforementioned creative nerdy outlets and it’s not far behind the Silicon Valley when it comes to tech heavy lifting either.

For starters, a study released by Nerdwallet in February of this year named Corvallis the fourth most innovative city in the tech space, ahead of Seattle and just behind San Francisco. The listing makes sense when you consider the presence of companies like Hewlett-Packard and NaturalMotion recruiting workers from OSU and the constant flow of tech startups that emerge from the engineering students looking to break big.

Which means Corvallis houses some of the greatest technical nerds to team up with all those great creative nerds up in Portland. That makes the nerd cred fight fairly even between the Willamette Valley and Silicon Valley. And that’s before Corvallis’ own creative nerds join the fight.

Comic creators are well-represented in our humble town, with the previously covered Andy Pur-viance taking the lead on his successful web comic, I, Mummy. A few smaller web comic artists operating under the banner of Infinity Break look to follow in his footsteps. Two fantasy comics, Arcane and Ravenwatch, are being produced by Corvallis creators belonging to Infinity Break and they have assembled modest followings since their launches earlier this year. This multimedia collective creates more than just comics, though, providing nerdy entertainment in a number of ways. Between the Dungeons and Dragons-esque improvisational podcast Roll with It and an upcoming comedy web series based on the popular campus game Human vs. Zombies, Alpha Squad, Infinity Break is looking to provide a one-stop shop for nerds of all types.

When it comes to gaming, video games play second fiddle to the tabletop gaming experience in Corvallis. Between the various tabletop gaming tournaments available at a number of locations across Corvallis and the presence of the tabletop developer Gamesicle, which found great success and national attention on Kickstarter, Corvallis is decidedly a board gaming town.

That isn’t to say that video games haven’t found their place. A collection of game developers, known as the Corvallis Game Devs, look to bring a greater focus to the digital space in the months to come. There’s also the OSU Gaming Club which holds a number of gaming events on campus. Hell, The Advocate’s very own Johnny Beaver runs an occasionally updated gaming blog known as The Gamesman’s Knob (thegamesmansknob.com), so you know video games are getting even more important in this town.

There is no questioning that Silicon Valley will continue to dominate the world of tech and nerd culture for years to come, but there is a budding community in our own Willamette Valley that is worth noting. If things continue the way they’re going, though, Silicon Valley may have an Oregonian cousin before too long.

By Nathan Hermanson

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