The past year-and-half has been a bit rubbish. A global pandemic has completely changed the way we live and has seen many of us confined to our homes. It has been a truly dreadful time for humanity, with so many people tragically losing their lives to the virus. However, there has been one element of this whole pandemic which has introduced a positive, and that is digital events.
In our case, we are obviously talking about video game and tech events, but lots of events have taken place online. This allows attendees to take part from the comfort of their homes, and all they need is an internet-connected device and the internet. Not only is this method of running events far more accessible, but it kept many of us safe during the pandemic.
Evolving Digital Events in 2020/2021
Indie Game Expo announced a fully digital MMORPG video game today that will act as an expo for players to discover over 120 different demos. E3 was an entirely digital event this year, which allowed attendees to watch it no matter where they were. Coronavirus has made show organisers rethink how they host conferences, and it’s been great,
As we move out of the coronavirus pandemic, I honestly don’t want shows to move away from the digital format. Rather than going back to exclusively physical shows, organisers should adopt a best-of-both-worlds approach and offer physical and digital options. I’m going to explain why that’s best for everyone.
Digital Events are more accessible
The most important argument for the continuation of digital events is accessibility. There are a myriad of reasons why someone may not be able to attend a show, including both physical and neurological disabilities. Digital events open up shows to everyone, regardless of ability. This is ultimately a good thing as it allows indie developers and other exhibitors to reach a wider, more varied audience.
As someone who has been to numerous gaming events in the UK, I’ve seen first-hand that they are not set up well for those with disabilities. I would go as far to say that many are ableist, forcing attendees to stand around in long queues in cramped spaces for hours at a time. I’m an able-bodied person, and I still find shows incredibly physically demanding. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for someone who has a physical disability.
Digital shows are also more accessible to those who can’t afford to go to shows. Booking hotels and travelling is not cheap, so it isn’t even an option for those who can’t afford it. Online shows have the potential to get everyone involved. Many digital events have been free, allowing a breadth of attendees regardless of where they fall on the wealth scale. Ultimately, digital shows are just a better option for everyone.
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Adverse conditions usually bring out the creative side in people, and that’s been prominent through COVID. Game developers have had to get more creative in promoting their video games. This has pushed developers away from relying typical avenues of promotion. Last year, Summer Games Fest saw hundreds of game demos releasing online for all to play, instead of the thousand-or-so that can go to an in-person event. I've even seen some developers promoting their games on TikTok.
Summercamp Of Doom will feature over 120 games, all of which are playable from within the game itself. It’s a clever way to get gamers engaged. SoD has quests, experience levels and themed worlds to explore. In a world where physical shows were still an option, this kind of innovation would have been unlikely. As video games shift forward, we want the industry to continue innovating. Stagnation is what leads to repetition, and ultimately, worse video games.
It isn’t just video games that have fostered a sense of creativity in these unusual times. Numerous virtual reality platforms have held digital gigs for players to attend. Secret Sky, an entirely digital virtual music festival, took place last year. The event welcomed attendees from around the world to attend and watch artists like Porter Robinson and Madeon play sets virtually. Concerts and festivals also don’t have the best history with accessibility, so opening them up virtually in this manner could bring more people in.
That's without referencing the biggest digital concerts that have released in the past year. Held entirely within the video game Fortnite, the virtual Travis Scott concerts were a huge event only possible within a video game. Not only that, but they were entirely free to access. Since then, Fortnite has continued their concerts with Marshmello, Diplo, Noah Cyrus and more.
A return to the roots of conferences
Honestly, E3 for the most part, was primarily a digital show. Much like Gamescom now, E3 was originally locked off to the public, as members of the press could only attend. The public found out their news through news publications and tapes that were sent out afterwards. Game conferences were about news, and less about public showcases with lots of people at them.
There’s a balance to be found between the two. However. we shouldn’t let go of the renewed digital focus on shows. It’s one of the few positive developments to come out of this period of time, and a shift that benefits everyone.
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