PAX West Now Requires Proof of Vaccination OR a Negative COVID Test and that Difference Matters

Reversing a prior decision, the show is tightening up some rules, but is it actually far enough?

Earlier today, ReedPop — the events company behind worldwide gaming conventions like PAX — announced that they are reversing an earlier position to not require vaccinations at their PAX West show in September, the first of its kind since the COVID pandemic firmly took hold in 2020. Previously citing optimism in vaccination numbers, which plummeted soon after, the company believed that requiring proof of vaccination despite rising COVID numbers and an emerging variant was going to too much effort. It’s the reason we decided not to go to PAX this year.

Now, PAX has changed their tune, but the phrase “too little, too late” is extremely applicable.

“Prior to entry we will now require proof of a completed COVID-19 vaccination series or a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test, each to be verified with a valid, government issued ID,” ReedPop Global Gaming Event Director Kyle Marsden-Kish wrote in a statement.

Proof of vaccination is great! That means people who are attending are relatively protected against the virus. It tells the attendees that the person next to them more than likely is not hosting the virus and, in the number-defying event that they are, it’s not going to be too much of a problem for them or the immunized person next to them. A negative COVID test, though, doesn’t actually do any of that. It means that person does not have COVID at the moment they took the test. There’s way less security there, to the point where that little add-on to the new guidelines undermines the entire change.

This is, like, a step in the right direction, I don’t want to argue that. It’s also clearly a cynical pivot based on the fact that PAX tickets (in which availability was once measured in minutes but this time have been on sale for weeks even for a limited-capacity event) but the gears of capitalism grinding out a compromised good result isn’t anything new. But it all stops short of being actually effective.

This is one of those situations where reacting to the news feels like a no-win situation because it’s so middling. Great, they made a change! Oh no, the change did not go far enough! Now no one’s happy!

That said, this statement from the press release kind of pissed me off.

“When PAX West 2021 badges were announced, the PAX Team made the decision to communicate what we could commit to at that time, rather than what we were working toward,” Marsden-Kish wrote. “While we let the community know the health and safety guidelines could evolve, we wanted to get it right and we feel confident that verification of fully vaccination or negative test, along with continued face covering requirements for everyone, will create an environment that promotes the wellbeing of our PAX community.”

Pretending that their main error was that they were still thinking about their policies a month ago and somehow accidentally blurted out the wrong guidelines is insulting to everyone’s intelligence. You guys probably could have made a statement that didn’t make you look like craven idiots just fine.