With the numbers of coronavirus cases still rising daily and the uncertainty of vaccine distribution, it feels like this pandemic will never end and our lives will never get back to normal. Only last October I was eagerly anticipating our first North America consumer show, PAX East in Boston, hoping that, against all odds, the expo would by some miracle still happen. This was only after I was sent a questionnaire about my opinion on what safety measures would satisfy GUNNAR staff enough to exhibit at the event. I’m pretty stoic about things in general, which allows me to be cautiously optimistic at the worst of times, so I was hoping that the show would indeed go on! But that wasn’t the case and the organizer announced several weeks ago that PAX South was cancelled (no surprise there) and that PAX East would move to June (3-6 if you’re interested)! They stated the following in their announcement, which I think pretty much sums up what most event organizers in the gaming industry feel, “As much as we miss, even crave, the togetherness and magic of a PAX, we will not put attendees, exhibitors, or our guests at risk for the sake of an event if things aren’t on the up and up.” Now, even that’s in jeopardy given the rise in cases due to holidays and slow vaccination roll out.
So, where does that leave us? More working from home, more schooling at home (yes, I am one of the millions of parents out there who’s kids are dying to go back to school now, and they loathed school before the pandemic), more kid time playing video games on their own with friends and fellow gamers online – more screen time, for all, all round! Hoorah!
Gaming Events Landscape in 2021
As we look at the game industry in general, events are being cancelled or pushed to the back half of 2021. However there are some major esports tournaments which are still being planned as in-person events for the players ONLY, while fans have to make do with watching online with a more content rich offering from the organizers in the way of interviews, new trailers, tactical analytics and more, to, in a way, get them even more involved with the behind the scenes action of what’s going on. Which just adds more hours to our screen time. The ESL Pro Tour CS:GO for example announced that they are still having esports athletes compete in person under new COVID safety measures for the first half of the year. Ubisoft’s 6 Siege Invitational – the World Championship of Rainbow Six Siege (a competitive online tactical shooter game set in Tom Clancy’s universe) – announced in early December that it would be held in France in February, also without audience participation for obvious reasons. Spoiler alert – we have an exciting new product announcement tying in with this event, so keep your eye on February! Normally at one of these events, if you’re a fan and you’re sitting in a big arena from up high watching a major match on a big screen, you miss out on this type of thing. You are more than likely checking your phone for content like this in between takes, so in a way this is a better experience. However, you do miss out on that underlying excited energy of anticipation, shock, awe and surprise that only a large mass gathering of like-minded fans could truly understand and experience. I liken it to the ‘hive-mind’ experience of human connection at an event.
Getting the Gaming Industry Back to “Normal”
So, the question is – when the heck do we get to connect with our hive-mind friends and colleagues again? When do we get to experience the live action of a match, consumer show, meeting and greeting each other with a (god forbid) hug! Well, not any time soon, so online it will have to be. But there is hope! As mentioned, right now, PAX East could in theory happen this June – organizers are getting ready and as soon as I get the forms in hand, to start setting up our booth, I’m doing it! ESL is also selling tickets for ESL One Cologne, Germany, an event currently scheduled on July 16-18 with a big bolded ‘WITH LIVE-AUDIENCE’ sub title at the top of the page. I’ll take that as a good sign for things to come.
With renewed optimism I’ve set my sites on this summer as the return of live esports events, local esport / LAN centers opening back up properly for amateur play, and the kick start to the many esports industry consumer and trade shows many of us are missing right now. Sure, it’ll probably look different security wise and apart from our fashionable mask accessory (for some anyway), we may even have to show proof of vaccination to travel or attend, or even get a rapid test at the door with a nice prod up the nose to gain entry, but I’ll take it. Online interactions or competition with friends, family and even strangers only give us so much, even when we are making our digital experience better for our eyes with GUNNAR’s performance enhancing gaming and computer glasses (had to get that in there, lol). Human interaction and communication is what makes this world go round and I want it back.