Streamlabs is a proud sponsor of this year's GSCON, which will take place on August 6th and 7th at the Manchester Metropolitan University. In the spirit of continuously supporting the ever-evolving community of creators across the globe, Streamlabs had the pleasure of catching up with the Founder and CEO of GSCON, Matt Bowen. GSCON is a convention created for gamers and streamers to connect in real life to enjoy epic entertainment and put their mental health first.
Can you tell us a little bit about GSCON?
GSCON is a gamer streamer convention created to bring people together (since Covid-19). We started this journey to conquer mental health and social anxiety together as a collective. GSCON is a safe space for all gamers and content creators to be themselves. It’s also a place to network with new creators and gamers in addition to brands and gaming organizations for potential collaborations. We see GSCON as an opportunity for gamers and creators to come out of self-isolation and into the gaming world in a physical form (like stepping out of their TV/monitor and into the communities they've been socializing with online).
What inspired you to start GSCON?
It was 2019 when I lost a friend (Sam, a fellow gamer) due to mental health. As a former scientist and engineer, I have always had a passion for technology and gaming. I built my first PC at the age of 13 and I also started my own journey playing guitar for YouTube. I didn’t really know about Twitch until later—I went and joined the platform after the passing of Sam and met some wonderful people. I wanted to bring these people and many more together to escape reality together as a collective.
I started streaming on Twitch and became even more passionate about it. I met a lot of creators virtually who all seemed to say the same thing: “I wish we could meet.” I then decided to chat with some friends I met about how we should book a hall somewhere, get some consoles, sit, play together, get some food and drinks and have a great weekend. We all agreed and chipped in. Over time, the group of 20 grew to 50 so we had to revisit plans and ways to finance going forward. Later, 50 turned to over 100 so I decided to hire the biggest venue in Bristol. Mental health was a big part of not only my personal experience but many who turn to gaming and content creation to escape the harsh reality of life, like bills, stress, work and general life obstacles. I decided to reach out to mental health organizations to come and showcase and be there to support the community (not only to be advocates but to also raise money for their cause). Then I came across other charities and organizations that have amazing stories and do amazing work such as Everyone Can. They help those who can’t game by offering adaptations to help and support gamers with disabilities.
What can someone expect when they come to GSCON?
Anyone who attends can expect to play some games, network and meet fellow creators and chat about mental health and social anxiety. We also believe in recognition so we have GSCON awards which are community-voted. There will be a ceremony on stage where the creators who are nominated can win a trophy supplied by GSCON. Just a great way to show recognition for their hard work as creators and a little something that can make a huge impact on one's confidence.
With many great brands, charities, and content creators from all over the world attending our second event, it’s a great way to get together and escape reality for the weekend with like-minded people. There will be cosplay and LAN games as well as competitions and giveaway prizes. We believe giveaways help those who are not in a financial position to get what they need to keep on and grow their content creation. We sometimes do raffles which are community funded to give a chance for members to get something they desire, especially the less fortunate.
Expect lots of gaming. We will have 100s of tabletop games brought by Fan Boy Three. Expect a lot of positivity, smiles, and excitement. Lots of sweets and tea too. Lots of interaction. We have things in place too for support in mental health and social anxiety, such as rainbow wristbands to showcase if a guest is nervous. There will also be escape-pods too if you get overwhelmed so you can take time to yourself with a chair, table, charger, and Wi-Fi. We’ll be joined by MIND Manchester and Everyone Can, who can offer support. There will also be an after party on Sunday at Pixel Bar, which is a gaming cocktail bar from 18:00 – 03:00. It'll be an action-packed weekend with lots of fellow gamers and creators, and brands who all share the same passion.
Why do you feel it’s important for creators to connect with other creators (and those in the space) in real life?
A lot of gamers and creators isolate themselves at home and communicate through platforms such as Discord. Although they play games virtually, it is a fantastic way to meet people and connect with fellow creators from around the globe. We feel that an opportunity for them all to come together and bring their virtual space into reality for one epic weekend of fun and entertainment is important. Connecting in physical form will also give a chance to meet people who they never knew existed in the virtual space. They could make brand-new friends which could go on to form fantastic relationships. We have already seen so many fantastic, heartwarming relationships forming in our current virtual space. When this becomes a reality in physical form at GSCON, it brings those friendships and connections to life.
Can you share a memorable moment from a past GSCON and why it’s unforgettable?
GSCON is still in the grassroots stage; although we ran an event in 2021, there were mistakes made, and of course, we will learn as we grow by listening to our community, allowing them to share the experience with us. In 2021, GSCON brought over 300 people together, some of whom went on to make some great connections. Some hit their goals and superseded their own expectations. A memorable moment was giving out some awards to creators, which meant a lot to them. To see their reactions when we brought them up on stage to recognize their hard work on their content creation journey was amazing. I also personally received a recognition award, completely unexpected but a fellow creator named Miss Ruby Raye got on stage and gave me a framed certificate to say thank you on behalf of the whole community. From that moment, I knew I was doing the right thing, and it gave me even more passion to keep going.
What goals do you have for future GSCON events?
We are still in the early stages of the GSCON brand, but we want to go global. We’re already connecting with people around the world and have an audience in the USA who are excited for GSCON but can not attend due to logistics. We want to bring everyone together in a unique space, so we are planning to do the USA in 2023.
By 2025 we have set goals to run at least three events a year in other countries. Other goals are to form relationships with other brands and organizations to not only showcase their work/products but for our community to help the creators of GSCON to have opportunities for sponsors, discounts, and support and to form relationships with brands and organizations. We have already brought some of the creators together with some of the brands which have gone on to become sponsor and partner deals. Everything we do is for the community. We will always be open to connections that will not just benefit us but benefit the community as a whole.
Another big goal by 2025 is to have 2,500 creators and gamers together for GSCON to showcase games and top brands. One last goal is to create a platform in the form of a website or app for the creators to not only showcase their amazing content but to connect with each other, share experiences, support each other with tips and hints and help with their content creation.
Can you share some encouraging words for creators that still may feel in a bit of a weird space considering the pandemic of the past two years and all the things that have transpired in the world over the last few years?
Never give up on your goals. Set yourself small goals as well as big goals. When you tick off the smaller goals it will give you a sense and feeling of success. When one feels successful they will feel more motivated—you will see results which gives you the drive to keep pushing. When you have had a bad day, find your escape. If that’s gaming with friends then sit back, relax, and use your escape to recharge and be yourself. Even though anxiety and mental health is tough, taking a step away from what is causing you to not feel yourself will help. Network and grow your circle— interact and remember there is always support regardless of the size of creator you are. Keep doing what makes you smile. If there are negative people in your space then stay positive and move that negativity away from you and your circle. Being a content creator is a very hard job in itself. When you start you become a marketer, planner, social media manager, professional networker, researcher, and tech wizard, in addition to creating content and dealing with everything that comes with it (good or bad).
Remain yourself, trust your mods to deal with negativity and most importantly, trust yourself. You started this content creation journey for a reason. Yes, you will make mistakes but it's how you learn. Listen to your community and never take feedback negatively—learn, adapt and conquer your dream and passion. You learn from your mistakes and errors, not from your success.
Anything else you’d like to share about GSCON or anything related to content creation?
GSCON is striving forward with an amazing community. We are always learning but our main missions are straightforward and simple:
- Bring people together (gamers, streamers, brands and organizations).
- Escape reality.
- Make people smile.
- Support all creators/gamers (with mentality, tech, content, feedback). Create a safe space for all Creators & Gamers.
We have already built an amazing virtual space in our Discord. The members are just amazing: zero bullying, zero negativity and fully supportive of each other. If one member is having a bad day, they feel comfortable within that space to share their personal feelings and situations and others jump in to support that member with reassurance, support, advice and just general empathy. It truly does feel like a family. Yes we will make mistakes and misjudgments like anyone else but we learn together and stand together as a collective which is powerful. GSCON will continue to grow and expand to bring this positivity and love worldwide.
One last thing I will say: I want to thank all members (OG’s, new, and future) for all the support, guidance and love for each other. It is a true inspiration to know everyone's story and I hope to hear more and meet more people. You're all truly amazing.