HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas Confirms Positive COVID-19 Case, Why In-Person Events Need to Wait
Super Smash Bros and fighting game fans, in general, have been stuck in limbo since the coronavirus pandemic began. It put a ground-shattering halt to competition this year, canceling Smash World Tour, Evo 2020, and most events that didn’t take place online, as most states went into lockdown to attempt to flatten the curve.
Those efforts started to work with many states reopening as soon as things started to improve, and the outlook began to look good. Unfortunately, reopening also meant that existing cases went out into the wild and infected folks and that the cases have begun spiraling out of control. Amidst all of this, there has been some mild debate among Smash and FGC players that locals should reopen as well, as players attempt to gain some kind of normalcy once again. However, we now have a case study of exactly why that shouldn’t happen.
One of the cities that has seen a big impact from the reopenings has been Las Vegas, where the Esports Talk HQ is located. Many businesses around the city were forced to shut down as part of the COVID-19 lockdown, but have now begun to reopen as part of Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s plan for recovery. One of the major players in Las Vegas is the casino industry, which meant that the Luxor (which houses the HyperX Esports Arena) could reopen.
While Allied Esports did have a stringent anti-coronavirus response and safety protocols, it’s now clear that sometimes those aren’t enough to keep everyone safe, as one of their staffers has become infected with the virus. The company has stated that this staffer didn’t have any direct contact with customers. At the same time, he was symptomatic or even in the presymptomatic stage, but of course, even him being present at the arena could have infected someone.
Esports Arena Responds to COVID-19 Confirmed Case
Allied Esports issued a statement on the situation, which has been transcribed below for posterity.
“Yesterday, we were notified that a staff member at the arena tested positive for COVID-19. As such, we wanted to provide our communities with some information on the timeline and steps we’ve taken to ensure the safety of everyone who comes to the arena. This individual informed us of the symptoms on July 8th, which was the last day the individual was present in the arena prior to obtaining yesterday’s positive test result.”
Esports Arena has been employing various coronavirus responses, including social distancing of at least six feet within the arena, requiring that all players wear masks and constantly clean their equipment by arena staffers. All stations have also been spaced at least six feet apart by closing each subsequent station, which while this may limit playing area. It’s designed to keep everyone in the arena safe for play. A staffer’s infection at the arena means that this person could have had contact with multiple parties, something that Esports Arena denies vehemently.
“Our actions have followed our company’s COVID-19 procedures and the recommendations of health professionals. Based on contact tracing exercises, we do not believe this person had any exposure to customers in the arena while experiencing symptoms. We have continued to monitor the health of our staff and continue to believe that our COVID-19 protocols and actions are working to ensure the arena remains a safe place to play. “
Esports Arena’s response also notes that while tournament play will continue uninterrupted in the arena, that some broadcast shows or in-arena shows will discontinue. This suggests that the person who was infected might have been a production staff member, but Esports Arena did not specify if this was the case. The simple fact that they aren’t doing a stage show or broadcast suggests that the company may be pausing these to have all of their production staff tested and their area disinfected to ensure that the virus doesn’t continue to spread among staffers.
“As such, the Friday Frags and Saturday Night Speedway tournaments will take place as scheduled this week, however, there will be no in-arena show or broadcast. We continue to stress to all staff and guests at the arena to wear a mask, practice responsible social distancing, and please stay home and self-quarantine should you not feel well. With everyone’s cooperation, we can get through these truly crazy times.”
What Does This Say About Smash Locals Reopening?
Here’s where things get interesting. The thing is, HyperX Esports Arena is a multinational company with seemingly unlimited resources. They run their events on the Las Vegas Strip, which while maybe a high traffic area with a lot of people coming and going thanks to the massive tourism industry, shows that they have the money and staff to ensure the safety of their visitors supposedly.
Now, compare that with your average Super Smash Bros local. The most these folks are going to be able to do is check people’s temperature, ensure that folks are wearing masks, and attempt to establish social distancing guidelines in usually very crowded LAN centers, comic shops, and the like. Anyone who has been to an event like this knows it’s very hard for someone running an event or participating in an event to navigate without tripping over an attendee, let alone give all the competitors space to compete.
The hygiene among gamers also is not the best it could be, and young people tend not to take the pandemic seriously enough as it is. These tournaments could become hotspots for an outbreak very easily, something that no responsible tournament organizer should want.
These shop owners don’t have the resources to employ people to follow their competitors around and make sure that they are following guidelines, let alone cleaning the shop and disinfecting in the middle of an event. Most venues are lucky to have the staff clean up before and after events, let alone anything extravagant. Employing these folks, especially when these shops are already hurting from coming off of the COVID-19 lockdowns, wouldn’t be feasible.
It seems that Smash players and other FGC heads are going to have to deal with horrible online netcode (unless you play Melee, thanks to Project Slippi, that is). It may not be a fun thing to do. Still, it’s the responsibility of every Smasher and gamer to ensure that we can one day reopen and get things back to normal rather than perpetuating this crisis indefinitely.
For more on this, you should check out a recent podcast where Max Ketchum and other Smash Bros figureheads discuss exactly why Smash locals absolutely can’t reopen