With the recent Gen Con 2022 issues amassing, it has opened the question if conventions are taking health and safety regulations seriously.
Everyone around the world has been trying to get back to their regular routines, following the COVID-19 pandemic that has occurred since 2020. One of the popular events for fans of pop culture are conventions. Slowly, big conventions have returned while others have decided to continue waiting for a safer moment or better time—such as the big gaming expo, E3. With so many other big events like Gen Con and Twitch Con slowly returning, the question remains: is it actually safe to attend these events yet?
Gen Con Indy has returned this weekend (August 4-7) in Indianapolis and has been known to be the biggest tabletop convention in the United States—the last Gen Con in 2019 attracted about 70,000 attendees. Even before the convention began, some fans have already voiced their opinions on whether they feel safe at the convention. And while some fans may be thrilled to share their pleasures in the tabletop gaming community again, some have been concerned with Gen Con’s recurring harassment issues.
On August 2, the community manager at Monte Cook Games, LaTia Jacquise, tweeted a screenshot of text messages by an anonymous person who claimed to be part of Gen Con’s security staff. The anonymous person claimed they had “everyone’s number” as they were part of the “safety team.”
Jacquise confirmed her phone number was not publicly available and others have been receiving other harassment texts and emails. This proved that the suspect involved with these mass, targeted harassment messages could well be someone on the staff or volunteer list who has leaked private information. The convention staff confirmed the harasser messaging people related to Gen Con was not a part of the team.
Gen Con released an official statement two days ago, stating how the convention staff would only contact attendees through “official email address (ending in gencon.com) and will never contact by text or phone without prior permission.” The diversity, equity and inclusion advisor and safety consultant for Gen Con, Kelsey “Magpie” Danger’s (@mx_danger) advice was “Do not engage. In the most literal sense of the phrase, don’t feed the trolls. Just report them.”
Twitter users have already voiced their responses to Danger’s comments, especially when they stated, “Normally I’m very much about speaking your truth, but in this case, it may actually be putting more people at risk to do so. Instead, you can contact me, Gen Con’s policy team, or any staff member and we’ve got your back. Be safe out there!”
Dr. Tanya Pobuda (@PobudaTanya) posted a thread disagreeing with the actions taken by Gen Con staff. She shared, “A few words about harassment at #GenCon2022 Telling people suffering the abuse to be silent about their experiences, encouraging folks to avoid discussing the issue is NOT good advice. Asking people to ‘maybe try to disappear a more’ as a means to staying safe is…wrong.”
While this Twitter post below may have seemed like something exciting and normal pre-pandemic, it could be concerning for those slowly getting more comfortable being in public and attending conventions again. Gen Con’s health and safety page noted that face coverings and full vaccinations were required but may have missed the key part about physical distancing.
Public health issues have risen even more with the emerging dangers of monkeypox floating around the web from various conventions and convention locations. The latest was in San Diego, California where there was an official state of emergency announced recently as one Twitter user noted: “Hey there TwitchCon and potential attendees, San Diego specifically is now in an official state of emergency regarding monkeypox, as well as California as a whole. Again, COVID is not the only major public health issue. Just fyi.”
The TwitchCon health policy has not changed from its ‘no vaccination proof required’ status nor has Twitch Con issued a statement yet. However, the lack of health guidelines has already discouraged some fans and prospective attendees from going.
One Twitter user stated, “For those that were excited for me to be at TwitchCon, sucks to say I’m not going, the current health guidelines (or lack thereof) put forth, and their doubling down has made it clear Twitch is all show about caring for their streamers’ well-being, and it’s not a risk I’m taking.”
The monkeypox attention was even brought to attention at Toronto’s largest anime convention, Anime North this year when multiple tweets warned about the potential monkeypox outbreak that may have spread on the weekend of July 26-28. One tweet read, “Oh also to add to this my husband and niece and I got Monkeypox from Anime North so if you went to AN go get tested or keep your eyes peeled for symptoms here’s a screenshot of what it can look like, if you’re a woman you may need to be more demanding as I had to go to 3 Dr’s.”
Anime North did not issue any official statements yet. They had only addressed the long lines and bottle necking issues for the admissions lines, stating, “We have identified where the bottlenecks were, and things have improved greatly. We expect tomorrow and Sunday will be much smoother.”
Over the weekend, the situation had slightly improved, but attendees still had to wait in the blistering sun with intricate, yet warm cosplays that ranged from Genshin Impact, Attack on Titan to One Piece, and more. The convention centre only provided water indoors; the only way to replenish fluids outdoors was buying a drink from the food trucks or neighbouring restaurants.
So, the ultimate question still remains: Do Conventions Take Health & Safety Seriously? They may very well be taking all the precautions they could be taking on paper, if they are following the national health guidelines on COVID-19. As for the harassment issues, it seemed like the only solution Gen Con proposed could help was for attendees not to appear as easy targets…kind of? In all seriousness, if you are at Gen Con this weekend and need some help from real staff members, reach out to this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe out there, friends!