When I first saw the movie Akira I saw it for what it was, entertainment. Over the years I didn’t think too much about the cautionary tale that was veiled by the story. That’s changed a lot for me in the past 30 days. In the United States I have watched and read the news of thousands of events being cancelled or postponed due to the spread of a new pathogen. Knowing how quickly Geek has risen as a subculture I have started to examine how these cancellations may have a positive impact of the current situation.
Bring Fourth the Masses
Each year hundreds of thousands of people flock to Conventions to supports their favorite fandoms and celebrities. That doesn’t take into account the tens of thousands of vendors that come from all over the world to sling merch and showcase their upcoming projects. These events are held at convention centers and hotels in major cities around the world. Many of the larger event such as San Diego Comicon and New York Comicon boast of attendance numbers over 200,000 people. Those number do not include volunteers, staff or vendors. That means you have over 200,000 people mingling in 40,000 to 80,000 feet worth of space. Within that space there are booths with tables that cut into the actual space for people maneuver through. There are also usually areas set aside with tables for people to take a break, sit down and eat and take photos with friends in front of backdrops that advertise the event. Conservatively I would estimate that reduces the space for people to get around by 40%. Working with conservative numbers if you take the 80,000 square foot space account for the space removed by the various booths and tables you have just reduced that space to 48,000 square feet. Now you Put 200,000 attendees in that space, that is less than 1 square foot of space per person. I understand that not all 200,000 people will necessarily be in the event at the same time. There also may be some separate spaces for panel rooms and demonstrations. But no matter how you slice it that is still a lot of people in one space. For those of you who have ever attended one of these events, looking at the numbers it’s really easy to see how easy it is for people to get sick after a 3-day event such as this one. In the Convention community we refer it to Con Crud.
The fact that conventions cause an illness that con goers have given a name to, is confirmation that large events like this can easily spread a contagion. This is in part because people don’t always make responsible choices. These events are a great escape from our daily lives. Many of us plan all year for these events and we set aside and spend a lot of money on these events. From ticket costs, to hotel expenses and paid celebrity photo ops conventions are big business (we will talk about the dollars and cents in another article). With thousands of dollars at stake it’s understandable that many people won’t let a “minor cold” or feeling a little “under the weather” keep them from attending the event they have been planning for all year. There in lies the reason many event promoters are doing the responsible thing and canceling or postponing events. So far there have been announcements cancelling E3, WonderCon, Fan Expo Dallas and SXSW, which includes Indie gaming in it’s events. These are just a few major events that have announced cancellation due to COVID-19. Some event coordinators have simply postponed their events for a later date or they will be refunding those who had already purchased their tickets. With these major events being cancelled there will undoubtedly be a an economic impact to the geek community. I will be doing more research on the potential financial impact of these and many other cancellations. For now however, understand that your safety is the most important factor that these events are concerning themselves with. Without the geek community there is no geek culture.