A PAX East Enforcer died from coronavirus after working at the convention last Saturday. Dawn “Deestar” Wood was well-regarded by other Enforcers who donated to the GoFundMe for her funeral (which met its goal in a single day). The organizer for the fundraiser emphasizes that Wood had “the most fun she had in years,” but her death has led some members of the gaming community to question the necessity of in-person conventions.
PAX Enforcers are workers who handle planning and in-person operations for the annual gaming convention. They are paid the local minimum wage and given a four-day pass for the extended weekend. According to a press comment given to Fanbyte, Wood had been a PAX Enforcer since 2014.
According to the official PAX East website, all attendees were required to show proof of vaccination and wear face coverings while attending the event. A few days before the convention, Boston dropped its mandate for masking while on public transportation. And it’s unknown how consistently masking mandates were actually enforced. Kotaku reached out to PAX East for a comment, but did not receive one by the time of publication.
According to the GoFundMe page, Wood returned home sick from the convention, and her symptoms were so severe that her mother Robin Basset took care of her throughout the week. Basset called the police for a wellness check on Saturday after her daughter failed to check in with her, and they discovered that Wood passed away overnight.
The fundraiser is currently at $11,615 of its $10,000 goal, which would be used to pay for Wood’s cremation and funeral expenses. Her sister Margrette Domingue was running the fundraiser for her funeral, but she also caught covid from attending the convention. Their mother currently runs the fundraising page while Domingue is in the emergency room. She wrote: “Thank you all so much for all the support and your many contributions. I wish that Dawn had known in life how very many lives she touched.”
Some members of the games industry have spoken out against the necessity of in-person conventions. They were difficult to justify once companies and independent creators realized that they could run conferences online, and they’ve only become more contentious as E3 was canceled, covid spread rampantly at the Game Developers Conference, and MAGFest became a spreader event.
Update 05/03/2022 4:16 p.m. ET: A representative of PAX released a statement to Kotaku.
Dawn was a beloved member of the Enforcer community who first joined us in 2014 and over the years Enforced in both the Expo Hall, supporting the Exhibitors and Attendees of the show, and in “Enforcerland,” a department solely dedicated to supporting other Enforcers. She was a warm and welcoming presence, and someone who always took the time to help others. She loved PAX and gaming, she was a voracious reader, and she loved baking, crafting, and sharing her creations with others. Our community is devastated by her loss and she will be sorely missed.