The Wizeguy: The Show Must Go On-Line

The Covid-19 coronavirus is cancelling (Err…postponing) your Proto Culture. Tech conferences around the world began to be affected in mid-February and now there are near-daily announcements of companies pulling out of conferences or trade shows being postponed or cancelled.

Sony was the first game company to pull out of a game convention citing health concerns surrounding COVID-19. They withdrew from PAX East, the gaming convention in Boston that took place this past weekend. The Mayor of Boston even chimed in, asking them to reconsider, as many at the time DID think it was an overreaction, including myself.

Look, no one wants to be around large groups of people with the risk of transmitting the coronavirus a real possibility or, at the very least, a real fear. And I get it, you booked your plane tickets, hotel, and conference pass months ago, and it’s looking more and more like a giant waste of time and money. But, saying it’s fine and eff the people who get sick is a trashy look for a grown ass adult.

I know that you really want to go to San Diego Comic Con this year and it might be “too soon” to speculate about a potential SDCC strategy shift. It is still five months away after all. But in all seriousness, what is really the point of hosting things like MWC, GDC, E3, SDCC, etc in a time like this? Maybe a pause in convention season is the right thing to do. Go back and plan for these events when the COVID-19 spreading is over or at least, under control.

Convention goers in San Diego spend much of their time shoulder to shoulder in queue for panels, packed into ballrooms that fit as many as 6,500 people, or barely squeezing past one another inside the Exhibit Hall. It is a multi-day petri-dish on legs. As such, it is not at all uncommon (almost expected, really) for someone to come away from the well-attended event with some version of what has been dubbed “con crud” (aka any cold/flu-like illness).

Limiting unnecessary travel, and exposure to others, seems the most logical thing to do to slow the spread. The way this virus is behaving, slowing it seems vital to an many people as possible surviving it, because it looks like it’s vastly better to catch it from a small exposure rather than a large exposure. A safer alternative without cancelling might be to go virtual this time around.

I have to wonder in the long run how many companies will start looking at things like conventions and finding they need to move away from the “let’s pack thousands of people into a single room!” model entirely. Cross it with other financial and logistical stressors and I think you’ll start to see a lot more of what’s already happening: companies running their own, smaller, more focused events, and a lot of virtual ticketing. It could be just what the doctor ordered this summer.

Moving forward, let’s cut out handshakes in favor of winks or cool nods as well. 


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