So, NOVA Open was this past weekend.
I’ve been in a turmoil about it for a while. I love NOVA Open; there isn’t one I haven’t been to since it was over by Dulles and I had to miss most of the actual event for a wedding. But: I’m not gaming in stores because I’m not eager to get COVID… why would I be unwilling to game in a store but not a convention?
In the end, I slapped on an N95 and ran out first thing Thursday morning to get a badge so I could feel like I’d been there, buy a t-shirt, buy a copy of the con exclusive Lost & Damned I’d been waiting for since 2020, and drop off some stuff for the Infinity tournament.
This was the right decision: even though I was thwarted in my attempt to buy a t-shirt (early con shakedown issues; perfectly understandable and would have been solved if I’d waited around an extra hour) and the book (truly in excusable, GW), I was able to nip any and all FOMO in the bud. I got to look around, chat with some folks, and make a few unplanned purchases (a Steel Rift starter and a WarCry box I’d just been thinking about picking up if I could find it).
It was also the right decision for me to bug out of there after about two hours.
I want to preface this by noting that this isn’t a criticism of the convention. I’m friends with several people running the event, and I greatly respect them as well many more of the folks running the event. They had a published COVID-19 policy that, while insufficient for me, personally, was more than some other events had. I know for a fact that this policy pushed the event into the risk tolerance for some folks. It required vaccinations and masking.
So you can imagine my surprise to see so many people running around without masks.
It quickly became apparent that a total masking requirement was utterly unfeasible: they couldn’t mandate masks for hotel staff, or random other folks not involved in the convention. I was told they had to pivot to “masks in the gaming rooms” but looking around: even in the short time I was there it looked like they had a serious enforcement problem.
And that sucks, right? Convention staff have enough on their plates without having to go around and tell sociopaths to please respect the rules. I don’t care about how worried those individuals were or weren’t about catching COVID: the convention had a policy that required masks, and some people were there because they’d been told the folks they’d be gaming around would be masked.
I’ve said this elsewhere but might as well say it here, too:
If you showed up to NOVA, which made it clear that (at least in certain contexts) everyone was to be masked, and then decided that rule didn’t apply to you: I think you’re a sociopathic asshole and I don’t want your hobby to overlap my hobby.
I don’t know what else convention staff could have done to addressed the problem beyond formalizing consequences for it (which could only have helped, but I can’t imagine it would have solved the problem totally).
Between my few hours there Thursday, and what I saw in posted photos: I’d have either packed up my shit and hit the bricks midway through Round 1 or I would have lost my shit screaming at some dickhead at about the same point.
So I’m glad I got to touch down at NOVA, but I’m also glad I hadn’t planned to stick around. I hope and pray things are different next year.