Geek Culture Hotspots Around US – Where Passion, Paychecks Intersect


As comics and sci-fi have taken their place as the hottest trends in pop culture, cities across the nation are stepping up to cater to the unique desires of the various fandoms.  

But while hubs like NYC, LA and Chicago still hold sway over geek culture fans, they’re becoming less affordable. This is where the alternative cool cities step in: They are attractive urban centers or satellite cities large enough to host genuine cultural attractions, including theaters, art museums and comic-cons, all while fostering a like-minded community. The icing on the cake: They often come with a favorable cost-to-income ratio that allows for a high-quality lifestyle.

This is one of the main findings of our most recent RentCafe Storage study where we analyzed 27 metrics to uncloak the cities that offer the most advantages for geek culture buffs — where people can easily indulge in their passions while pursuing career opportunities in booming industries.

Did you know that Seattle gaming jobs come with some of the biggest paychecks in the nation, bested only by those in California’s San Jose and San Francisco metro areas? Gaming professions pay roughly $140K on average in Seattle.  

Here are other interesting highlights from our report:  

  • Orlando, FL, emerges as the best city for geek culture buffs. The city distinguishes itself thanks to a mix of factors that support a geeky lifestyle, including plenty of cosplay opportunities and a geek-friendly job market. Approximately 3.1% of residents work in gaming-related positions that bring them an income that is 90% higher than the average local salary. The City Beautiful is also host to 26 comic cons, making it easy to meet fellow hobbyists. Pop culture buffs can continue their fun at home, as Orlando is the city with the sixth-highest proportion of apartments offering access to card rooms.
  • Seattle, WA, lands on the second spot in our list. The Emerald City boasts the highest percentage of college-educated people (52%) and a large cohort of gaming professionals — roughly 8.5% of the local workforce. This goes hand in hand with a high online interest for gaming (one search per 1,000 people), which is double the average across the cities on our list.
  • Salt Lake City, UT, claims the third spot. This is mostly due to the high interest in gaming culture, with the city coming in first for online searches related to game stores and 4.6% of the population being employed in the gaming industry. Locals have also shown high interest in sci-fi and fantasy universes, beating all other cities for online searches related to “Star Wars” and “Stranger Things.”
  • Gaming and tech jobs can generate the highest earnings among top professions, $116K/year for the former and $107K/year for the latter, on average.

Here are the top 20 cities geeks should be heading to for the best mix of lifestyle amenities, job opportunities and a high interest in geek culture.

  1. Orlando, FL
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. Salt Lake City, UT
  4. Austin, TX
  5. Denver, CO
  6. Plano, TX
  7. Allen, TX
  8. Lewisville, TX
  9. Atlanta, GA
  10. Pittsburgh, PA
  11. Tacoma, WA
  12. Centennial, CO
  13. Raleigh, NC
  14. Westminster, CO
  15. Portland, OR
  16. Irving, TX
  17. Hillsboro, OR
  18. Kent, WA
  19. Everett, WA
  20. Renton, WA

You can find the complete ranking here, plus some interesting insights from pop culture experts.   


Key takeaways:

  • Orlando, FL, emerges as the best city for geek culture enthusiasts, due to a combination of interest in pop culture culture, like-minded people, geek-friendly employment options, many comic cons, and more.
  • Gaming jobs pay highest in the San Jose metro area – $214K/year – while techies have a shot at getting fat paychecks in the Bay Area – $142K/year.
  • The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area has the most gaming workers (15%)

In a world where quoting Yoda or mentioning which Hogwarts house you belong to serve as conversation starters, geek culture seems to have “conquered the Iron Throne” as the newest kid on the pop culture scene.

But the road to nerdy bliss is not without its challenges, even as fantasy, sci-fi and wearing thick-rimmed glasses have become mainstream. Much is related to the environment we’re living in, and the truth is that some places are better positioned than others to provide a rich experience for fans of geek culture.

If you’re searching for a new place to call home that caters to the tastes of geek culture enthusiasts, look no further. Our research team – who happen to have dropped by every filming location for Game of Thrones – analyzed over 300 cities with populations of over 100K to identify the ideal destinations for those who want to fully embrace their passions. The final ranking is based on a combined score that includes the following metrics:

  • Interest in geek and pop culture among local residents based on online searches for specific keywords including flagship movies, games and activities (comic book stores, “Dungeons and Dragons,” “Star Wars,” “Game of Thrones,” “Harry Potter,” “Batman” and “Stranger Things”).
  • A local employment scene offering good chances at finding a job in a “geeky” field (media, film, art & fashion, gaming, tech, science and finance) and the potential of high earnings in the area.
  • The percentage of locals holding a BA degree or higher.
  • The number of physical bookstores, gaming stores, comic bookstores, comic cons, costume stores, art supply stores, music stores and movie theaters per city.
  • The cost of living index.
  • Access to apartment units that come with geek-oriented community amenities (game rooms, media rooms, card rooms, art studios, on-site movie theaters, bocce ball courts and libraries).

We’ve also discussed availability and rates, as people tend to turn to the service for keeping costumes, comic books, collections and other paraphernalia. If you remember what Sheldon Cooper’s storage unit looked like you will have an idea about what (not) to put into storage!

All things considered, Orlando, FL, emerges as the premier location for geeks culture buffs, solidifying the Sunbelt as the dominant region with the highest number of spots in the coveted top-20 ranking, 8 cities in total. But there’s a bastion of geekdom in nearly every corner of the US.

See the below chart for the projected salaries for geek type jobs:

Banner Image: Lake Eola Amphitheater Orlando, FL. Image Credit – RentCafe


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