Digitising Events: How Participants Go Digital
Due to the effects of COVID-19 felt all over the world, more companies have started looking into digitising events. This is not something new, as the advent of social media and the proliferation of digital accessibility has prompted few parties to pave the road to digitisation a few years back. COVID-19 was the catalyst that drove the digitisation of events out of necessity during a time when physical events are not advisable. Due to the pandemic, companies are forced between two choices: either cancel or postpone their event indefinitely, or turn their events into online events. Some of these offline-turned-online events include San Diego Comic-Con and the Toronto Summer Music Festival.
To keep these online events from being plain boring live streams, event organisers enhance audience experience by providing a blend of audiovisuals with technology to keep things fresh, such as a green screen for changing the background, augmented reality where computer-generated objects are displayed within a real-world setting, and of course allowing the audience to comment live.
Let’s look at some of the other events that have gone digital this year:
AniManGaki, also simply known as AMG, is one of Malaysia’s largest annual anime, comics and games (ACG) conventions held in August every year. Each year, many local youths look forward to participating in the convention as exhibitors and attendees, especially those looking for opportunities to cosplay. Last year, AMG even managed to have as their special guests Yoko Taro and Taura Takahisa, the director and game designer respectively of the critically acclaimed video game NieR:Automata. This year, as Malaysia had to extend the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) until 31 December 2020, AMG opted to instead move their event online. Usually, AniManGaki is a paid event where exhibitors and attendees have to help offset the event space rental to display their wares and peruse the booths on display. However, AniManGaki Online was a free online ACG convention that served as a platform connecting artists, corporations, and ACG fans, with panels and workshops held over teleconferencing. Even cosplayers were not neglected, as they had a Cosplay From Home Contest as well. If anyone is looking into digitising events in Malaysia, this is one fine example.
Tokyo Game Show
Tokyo Game Show, a.k.a. TGS, is an annual video game convention held in September every year in Chiba, Japan. Its main focus is the promotion of Japanese games, but international game developers have also been invited to showcase everything from new games to new hardware such as the announcement by Microsoft that the price of the Xbox Series S will be reduced in Japan by $28. This year, TGS has also opted to transition the event to the net, as many participants from overseas were prevented from attending it due to the international travel ban. However, during the five days of its online event, it has managed to garner more than 30 million views worldwide. Most astonishingly, the vast majority of the viewers came from Chinese-exclusive video platforms like Douyin and Bilibili, with close to 14 million views from these platforms alone. Still, however, TGS would like to return to holding a physical event for next year, if circumstances allow for it.
Microsoft Build is an annual conference by Microsoft attended by thousands of technologists and developers from around the world. Microsoft Build is where many major announcements in technological breakthroughs take place, and attendee prices are around the $2,000 range. However, even at such exorbitant prices, tickets are sold out in as quickly as one minute. This year, rather than having the event held in Downtown Seattle, it was broadcast as a free digital event featuring multiple sessions.
Tomorrowland is an electronic dance music (EDM) festival held in the Belgian town of Boom. It is usually held over the last two weekends in July with a capacity of 70,000 where tickets are often sold out in just minutes. This year, they were forced to cancel the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, however, they announced Tomorrowland Around the World, a digital edition of Tomorrowland. It took place over 25 and 26 July, featuring over 60 different artists such as Afrojack, Katy Perry and Steve Aoki in 8 “stages” in a virtual festival created using Unreal Engine 4, an advanced real-time 3D creation platform. Tomorrowland produced and released the official “aftermovie” (as a virtual alternative to an afterparty) of their virtual music festival about two weeks later on 6 August 2020.
Comic Art Festival Kuala Lumpur
Comic Art Festival Kuala Lumpur (CAFKL) is a local creator-focused annual event featuring indie and pro artists. The event features artist booths, art demonstrations by guest artists both local and international, and forums for discussions about the arts in Malaysia. This year, in line with the practice of digitising events rather than cancel, the organisers of CAFKL have decided to take the event online. Apart from showcasing over 75 creative booths, having an online marketplace, forums and interviews streamed via Facebook Live, they also had an online Graffiti Wall where participants were all invited to join in and contribute their own drawing to an online canvas.
The above are all examples of events that transitioned online, if only for the time being, and still enjoyed great success. Events are all about the user experience, if not for data collection, and arguably, a lot more data can be collected via online events such as these. This opens up accessibility to almost everyone with an internet connection as otherwise, people face logistical difficulties in attending events outside of their area. Best of all for participants is when they can revisit content that has been streamed via video archives, so they wouldn’t miss out on any information. So for anyone who has events affected by COVID-19, consider digitising events to maintain a connection with your community.
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