It’s time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week, after our E3-related hiatus, we’re already looking at another gaming event. But this time it’s not virtual. PAX West 2021 will be in-person this year, so it has us asking Kotaku: Do you feel comfortable attending PAX or another in-person gaming event yet?
Hrm. I’m not yet fully vaccinated (Japan’s rollout is staggered and where I live seems behind), so I would probably say no. If I were vaccinated, I would definitely be interested.
Wearing a mask, even now, I would feel okay attending an outdoor event, such as the cosplay area at the Tokyo Game Show, but I would definitely be reluctant to spend all day in the main convention halls or the claustrophobic, windowless press room. I do hope things can return to normal soon as I missed TGS last year (well, I covered the virtual show and will be doing the same this year). The in-person events are important and necessary.
Ok, to be more specific, I’ve been spotty with my enforcement of how I interact with the public post-vaccination. After my partner and I got vaccinated, we went to an anime convention. We wore masks in non-convention areas but were more lax about masking up on the convention floor and at the waterpark where we spent most of our time. And though it appears that I don’t have a problem attending conventions in a “post-covid” world, a sparsely attended anime convention in bumfuck Ohio vs. Pax-muhfucking-West? Nah, fam. I’m good, Y’all be easy though.
Crowded convention floors made me anxious prior to the pandemic, and that’s probably only gotten worse now that I’ve spent over a year largely avoiding people. I’ll still go if the job requires it, but I also hope that events make more of an effort going forward to livestream material. Digital options open the door for a wider variety of people.
I miss gaming events a lot. No matter how much I hate being there in the moment, I always look back at them fondly and anticipate the next one. That said would I go to PAX West this year? Hell no. I’m a month into being vaccinated, and while I have no underlying health issues I have zero desire to get lost in a sea of people in a confined building right now.
People come back sick from those things with one weird flu-like germ or another as it is. I’m certainly not upping the ante while the pandemic is still raging. Between Delta variants and the possibility of new “dense outbreaks,” I’m perfectly content to take things slow and approach reopening with caution until the spread has actually been controlled rather than severely hobbled by rising vaccination rates. Plus the food at PAX is always terrible.
No, I wouldn’t attend such a busy event right now. I’ll focus on PAX since that’s what sparked this convo.
Point one: I don’t think it’s a good idea to jam so many people together in such close quarters at this stage of the ongoing pandemic. I feel fine going to a non-busy restaurant to have a meal with a similarly vaxxed friend, but that’s a far cry from the situation we’ll have at PAX, even with crowd-control measures in place. Close-quarters indoor settings packed with people who’ve traveled from all over are the exact conditions that promote the virus’ spread.
Point two: It’s irresponsible for PAX organizers to not at least require proof of vaccination to attend. Of course determined enough asshats can fake that, but it’d still discourage a bunch of non-vaxxed folks from trying to go, making it safer for people who do decide to attend.
Point three: The story of the covid-19 pandemic in the United States is in part the story of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, once considered apolitical, having its institutional authority undermined when partisan political interests began brazenly interfering in the organization’s science, damaging the credibility of recommendations it’s made on topics such as whether or not it’s safe to fully resume public life.
Another part of the story is the stunning failure of government at all levels to financially support the American people (and small businesses) in this time of need. What stimulus we got was both vital and a pittance compared to what was truly needed by those who most suffered. Our leaders instead chose to recklessly sprint toward “reopenings” that placed greater value on a coveted return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity than on public health, and attempted to sell this as a triumph.
That all in mind, of course I think it’s too early to go to a damn nerd convention.
Point four: This past weekend, after I wrote the above, news spread that the World Health Organization reversed course and once again recommended everyone mask up and resume the practice of social distancing to help reduce the spread of the troubling new “Delta” variant. While the WHO hasn’t come out of this politicized pandemic smelling like roses either, it’s pretty obvious that attending a large gaming convention with thousands of other people, many potentially unvaccinated, does not mesh well with its latest non-drastic, reasonable advice.
As much as I want to go back to the way things were, I’m not comfortable going to a large in-person event, especially with the Delta variant going around. I’m fully vaccinated, and cases in New York City, where I live, have thankfully gone down tremendously. But the vaccine, like all others, does not provide 100% immunity. I know I would probably be fine as a healthy, vaccinated person in my late 20s. But the possibility of passing on the disease to someone else unknowingly scares the shit out of me. I don’t want to gamble with other people’s lives. So things like PAX are not in the cards for me right now. The tiny reward of going to an event is nowhere worth the risk.
I feel extremely fortunate that opportunities to do things like eating outside are abundant where I live, especially with the weather getting warmer. I’ve been to the movies a couple of times at a place that I felt had good social distancing practices in place. But I’m now rethinking even that in light of new guidelines with the rise of variants. I’m thankful for a lot right now. I’m healthy. I have a job. I’ve been able to get vaccinated. I have a support system and don’t live alone. Things are getting better every day, especially in my community. I’m gonna stick to being grateful for all of that right now rather than getting greedy.
Kotaku is staying home this year, but how do you feel? Let us know, and—as always—we hope everyone reading and their loved ones are getting by...whether you’re a fan or a comment troll. We’ll be back next week to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!