BOSTON (CBS) – The PAX East gaming convention kicked off in Boston Thursday without one of its biggest players. Sony decided not to participate because of concerns about the coronavirus. The convention was crowded, but some people are taking precautions.
For the 11th year, PAX East is packing the Boston Convention Center with the latest and greatest in the world of gaming, filled with color, sound and hands on fun. People with funny costumes are everywhere, and this year, so are some not so funny medical masks. “I just wanted to make sure that I was a little more prepared,” said one gamer through her mask.
That concern is on a lot of people’s minds because of the move gaming giant Sony made, deciding to pass on PAX East because of coronavirus concerns, saying in a statement: “We are disappointed to cancel our participation, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”
Gamers are confident too, and still excited. Many waited patiently for the convention floor to open Thursday morning. Organizers say they’re expecting more than 100,000 people over the course of the four-day conference.
“I’m taking the risk because I want to go have fun and be a nerd!” said Haley Thompson of Concord, New Hampshire. “I’m not mad at them for playing it safe. It’s better safe than sorry.”
“Everyone’s just being careful because of the virus. Sony didn’t come today because of that so, better safe than sorry,” said another gamer.
The convention is a moneymaker for the city, so Sony’s pull back drew a protest from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh who wrote the Japanese company a letter saying: “These fears reinforce harmful stereotypes that generations of Asians have worked hard to dismantle.”
“We’ve been working hand and hand with the building and the city itself,” said Ryan Hartman, one of the organizers of PAX East.
One step was to install more hand sanitizers than usual. “There are going to be roving cleaning crews that the building is enacting, basically wiping down and cleaning off congregation spots, doorknobs, things like that. Just a constant rotation,” Hartman said.
And most gamers WBZ talked to are taking it in stride. “There are some concerns, but I packed sanitizer and I wash my hands whenever I get the chance,” says Richard Marley, a PAX East regular.
PAX East runs through Sunday, and worries about the coronavirus don’t seem to be keeping people away. Friday and Saturday are sold out.
Health officials say that right now 231 people across Massachusetts are being monitored under self quarantine at home for possible symptoms. But overall, they say the threat of a coronavirus outbreak in Boston is low.