Another thing that has proven to be extremely popular at virtual events? Online games. ReedPop, the company that puts on NYCC, also produces the PAX video game conventions. This year, those conventions evolved into PAX Online, which aired on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Live, and other platforms. The event also had a very active Discord server, something that could easily be configured for future non-gaming events, allowing “attendees” to take a break to play. Among us or other games between sessions.
Bringing great Twitch energy has been a goal for planners of events of all kinds this year, including even political planners. While the Trump campaign has continued to organize large in-person rallies and other events – with predictable public health outcomes—Democratic candidates from top to bottom have moved their campaign operations online. The party’s national convention this summer looked like a Zoom call. Fundraisers, meanwhile, took place on all kinds of digital platforms.
Kind of like watching a Verzuz Battle on Instagram Live, people who engage in political theater – or any type of theater – online want to be able to interact, says Eli Stonberg, CEO of Hovercast, who helped organize live broadcasts for Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Unlike many one-way streams, Hovercast’s tools made events interactive by sharing comments and questions from audience members within the broadcast. “Zoom was okay when the pandemic hit, but soon after, people wanted something more interactive and engaging,” Stonberg says. Ultimately, Hovercast wants to offer its platform for all kinds of live events, such as concerts and panels, allowing viewers to comment on them as they unfold and even screen those. discussions on stage with the show.
Even with all of the success of virtual events this year, organizers can’t wait to be able to host more traditional in-person gatherings once again. “We’ve done a bunch of conventions online now through our video game shows, some esports stuff and NYCC, and what we’ve found is that the fans really like it,” says ReedPop president , Lance Fensterman. “But they’re not in love with it. Not surprisingly, the missing element is this shared emotional experience. It’s the physical, tangible benefits of conventions, like chatting with strangers or sharing cosplay, that are still hard to replicate when everyone is away.
Concerts, conventions, festivals and other events are big business too, bringing millions of dollars not only to the companies that organize them, but also to local economies. In 2020, Sundance grossed $ 150 million in Park City. Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals generated over $ 700 million just a few years ago. This money is not spent if people cannot physically show up. The cancellation of SXSW, for example, led to an estimate $ 350 million affected tourism revenues for the city of Austin. Many people will want to see these events return in person as soon as they are safe.
This doesn’t mean that everything will look exactly the same. Some events will not come back at all. Earlier this month, for example, ReedPop announced that it “retirement” BookExpo and BookCon. And even events that come back to business as usual could still see changes, thanks to the lessons and opportunities of 2020.
Shari Frilot, who runs Sundance’s forward-looking segment New Frontiers, admits that while planning a film festival in a pandemic proved difficult, it also “felt like an opportunity to do something new. She was able to move much of her programming online and, through a partnership with Oculus, get all of the filmmakers’ VR headsets. As a general rule, directors were only able to discover New Frontier’s XR offers if they went to a dedicated festival area; now everyone can join. It might be a cold solace, but it connects the creatives in a way they might not otherwise have.
For Frilot and his compatriot Jackson, Sundance’s mission to showcase the work of filmmakers has taken on new meaning amid the pandemic. “At a time like this, things just don’t make sense. How to make sense of it? Jackson said. “So in that sense, even during the most fleeting moment of reflection, ‘Should we even have a movie festival at times like these? the answer came back with a resounding “yes”. This is what we are here for. ”
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