Earlier this week Twitch quietly updated the health and safety policy for this year’s TwitchCon. Attendees will no longer be required to wear masks or show proof of vaccination. Twitch says that while masks are still encouraged, the change in policy is in accordance with current local guidelines. Despite the fact that San Diego Comic-Con required masks and vaccines at the exact same venue just last month, TwitchCon will not.
In June, convention organizer Reedpop made the same decision for the upcoming Emerald City Comic-Con, which takes place at the Seattle Convention Center August 18-21. Both conventions are dropping their Covid safety measures just months after Covid outbreaks were reported at the Game Developer Conference, Anime NYC, and at least one Covid-related death at Pax East 2022.
For both TwitchCon and ECCC, the reaction from creators and fans has been overwhelmly negative. The decision to lift mask and vaccine requirements amidst the ongoing pandemic creates an unnecessary risk for attendees, and many are refusing to go if these baseline safety measures are not reinstated.
Unfortunately, celebrities and comic creators attending ECCC may not have a choice. Fan events are a major source of income for some, and those that do the convention circuit rely on the ability to sell autographs, art, and books to fans. While many have canceled their plans to attend the convention later this month, the backlash hasn’t been enough to sway Reedpop into reversing the decision.
TwitchCon has entirely different circumstances. The convention is much more of a social gathering for creators and their communities than the typical comic-con, and because of the nature of their work, streamers have big, influential social media platforms. When Twitch streamers voice their opposition to this decision, a lot more people are going to hear it.
Since the policy was changed earlier this week, there has been a flood of partners opting out of the event. Streamers like Trihex, AnneMunition, and Meg Turney have all expressed their disappointment over the decision, while dozens of other partners are all canceling their plans to attend. A post criticizing the policy change on Twitch’s official UserVoice site has thousands of upvotes and hundreds of comments from creators that say they no longer plan to attend the convention. Twitch ambassador and AbleGamers director of development Steveen Spohn recommends that no one attend the convention until Twitch starts taking the health and safety of its staff seriously. Other creators like voice actor Anna Brisbin and screenwriter/Animal Talking host Gary Whitta also say they won’t attend if the safety policy isn’t reinstated.
There is no TwitchCon without Twitch streamers. The creators that are taking a stand publicly to prioritize the health and safety of themselves and their fans should be commended, but so far, it hasn’t been enough. There is a tipping point that will occur when enough creators with enough clout drop out of the event, and Twitch will be forced to reverse course. We saw it happen just last month with Anime Expo, which dropped mask and vaccine mandates a month before the convention, then reinstated the requirements once enough actors, artists, and cosplayers pushed back. If the top streamers start refusing to attend, Twitch will have to back down. The alternative is likely large swaths of its creators getting sick and being unable to stream, or worse. It’s entirely in Twitch’s best interest to protect the streamers and fans that keep the platform alive.
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