With TwitchCon in two weeks and more and more PAX and gaming convention events being added each year, it’s a relevant time we had a little chat about personal safety at these events. There are additional factors of a heightened national sense of fear of large gatherings and the fact that TwitchCon will have many first-time attendees due to the introduction of the Affiliate Program.
It’s important before I start to establish several things:
- You are never completely safe/secure, but there are steps you can take to prepare and perhaps you’ll be able to prevent some of the more obvious and common threats
- The point of this is not to alarm you. In fact, I highly encourage you to attend events and live your life to the fullest. A life lived in fear and isolation isn’t a fulfilled one. But a little common sense won’t hurt along the way.
- The things you take for granted are often the things that have the highest chance of causing you grief, versus something like a terror attack. So try not to dwell on worst-case and focus on what you can control.
So what are the more-common obstacles you’ll face at a convention:
- Sleep deprivation
It’s common to only have a few hours of sleep at a convention. With the late-night parties and the later-night Denny’s trips. But you should realize that a lack of sleep makes you far more vulnerable to poor decisions, weakened immune system, and lack of awareness about your surroundings.
Thankfully, TwitchCon 2017 is the first convention I’ve seen which seems to be embracing the fact that streamers can’t be fussed to do anything before noon. So, sleep in! And there is no shame in naps as needed along the way. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
This is way more common than a lot of people seem to realize at conventions. Dehydration can make you feel tired, dizzy, give you a headache, and make you more susceptible to PAX Pox or other diseases.A huge portion of that is due to alcohol, which flows freely at the parties and after-parties at conventions. Alcohol decreases the body’s production of anti-diuretic hormone, which is used by the body to reabsorb water. With less anti-diuretic hormone available, your body loses more fluid than normal through increased urination. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also cause vomiting, which depletes the body of fluids and can cause further dehydration. The effects of alcohol vary from person to person, but in general the less a person weighs the less alcohol it takes to cause dehydration or vomiting. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that men and women drink no more than four standard drinks on any single occasion.So please, alternate water and alcohol throughout the evenings (if you’re a drinker) and know your limit (and stop before that limit). Also consider carrying a water bottle with you on the convention floor to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. If your mouth feels “sticky”, you’re borderline and need to fix it.
So you won’t be able to completely limit your exposure to the type of germs that will give you PAX Pox or Purple Fever (or whatever they call the TwitchCon Crud), but you can limit your risk a little bit:
- Resist touching your face – Especially after touching someone else’s hands or communal things like handrails
- Wash your hands – Wash hands semi-frequently, using hand sanitizer in-between
- Get a flu shot – Now, actually. Takes two weeks to fully take hold in your system.
- Pump up your immune system – Healthy foods and habits go a long way and maybe some zinc and vitamin C
- Plan Ahead
Bring a spare battery pack so you can stay connected. You should know where you’re going ahead of time, and please make use of the mobile apps, such as the TwitchCon app, saved locations in Google Maps and attached locations on Google Calendar, as well as your airline, Uber/Lyft, and ticket apps like Eventbrite. If you have a good sense of where you’re going and the best way to get there, you’re less likely to be a lost straggler who is wandering into the wrong parts of the local city and suddenly at risk for a mugging.
- Buddy System
If it’s your first convention or the first time in a certain area, you should absolutely try to buddy up. Criminals are far less likely to target anyone in a group. Safety in numbers. Plus, you’ll have a higher chance that someone in that group knows where they’re going and the best way to get there. A roommate is a great buddy. Or… find someone at the same hotel you’re at who you can ride with. A bonus is that you might make a new friend.
- Watch your drink
You’re probably thinking I’m over-reacting by including this. I want to explain this one a bit more, because I’m not just making this one up. I’m aware of at least three reported instances at TwitchCon 2016 and at least one at TwitchCon 2015 of people having roofies slipped in their drinks unaware. I got the chance to talk to Crasskitty, a partnered Twitch broadcaster, about her experience last year. The following are excerpts from that talk:
I had a few drinks in me and was at the TwitchCon party. I had a drink sitting on the bar and I was talking to someone I can’t recall. In fact, no one knew who it was I was talking to when I asked later.
At one point I recall feeling uncomfortable and standing up and almost falling over. I couldn’t feel my legs or my arms. My last coherent thought was ordering my Lyft.
A few friends saw me stumbling to the car and put me in it. The next day I felt like death. I had the worst hangover is ever had and didn’t recall how I got home. It wasn’t until later in the night when I was still sick that a viewer (who is a nurse) suggested I may have been roofied. It all clicked. I’d been trying to figure out how two or three drinks had made me black out but roofies had seemed out of the realm of possibility.
I did end up going to the hospital the next day and they did confirm it was a roofie. I struggled with side-effects due to a conflict with my medication for the next month.
No matter how safe you feel with your Twitch family, someone out there is a predator.
Keep your hand over your drink; hold it at all times with a claw machine grip. Be alert, be aware, be cautious. Don’t take drinks from strangers. Watch everything as it’s poured. Don’t even set your drink down to hug someone.
- Be careful about accepting fan-made food items
This one is more rare, but there is at least one reported case of tainted food being handed from a “fan” to a content creator at a convention which was tainted. Probably best not to accept homemade items from people you don’t know fairly well.
It’s important to point out an inconvenient fact about the area we’re heading into, Long Beach, and the crime rate in that area. Long Beach is in the top 13% most-dangerous cities to live in. The overall crime rate in Long Beach is 26% higher than the national average. And there are certain areas you’ll want to avoid. This crime map shows the hotter areas around the convention center (marked with blue x):
The sources I’ve talked to and researched say that the closer to the water you are, the less likely you’ll run into trouble. Questionable areas appear to start around West 9th street and continue further west of the main center of Long Beach. Travelers rate 7-9 streets from the water as being about the furthest you’ll want to wander out. This is especially true for after-hours on dimly-lit streets and traveling by yourself. So, you’ll want to get a Lyft/Uber if you live in a hotel further away and travel in groups when at all possible. Seeking out dive bars a long way away from the convention center is regarded as unsafe in this city.
I’ve reached out to TwitchCon 2017 organizers about the following questions, but at time of releasing this article, I’ve received no response. If they do respond or post more information publicly, I will update this article accordingly. What is Twitch doing to make TwitchCon attendees secure? If a broadcaster feels like they have a specific, credible threat to their safety, who do they report that to at the event? Is there a number people can call to give tips or request assistance while at the event? Do you have any generalized tips for attendee safety that you’d like some additional awareness of? Since they have not commented on those items or confirmed what type of security they’ll have at the event itself, watch their FAQ for the most up to date info.
Important Phone Numbers:
Long Beach Police Department (Non-Emergency): (562) 435-6711
Long Beach Fire Department (Non-Emergency): (562) 570-9400
Long Beach Convention Center: (562) 436-3636
Long Beach Convention Center Security Direct Line: (562) 499-7695
Be safe, have a good time, be aware of your surroundings, and help your fellow convention-goers if you see they need assistance!
Oh, and on that note. I’ll be there. I’m just one guy, but if you see me and need assistance, I will try to help escort you out of difficult situations, contact security with you, or walk you back to your hotel. I will also be carrying items such as extra charged battery packs and sanitizer at all times. Don’t be afraid to ask. And there’s plenty of other people like me who are also willing to help. Have a support system. Be a support system.