MAGFest 2018: The Elephant at the Con

Elephant at the Con is a campaign by Uplift dedicated to shining a light on convention safety issues by collecting attendee stories and quantitative data on harassment, identity, and other con safety issues. See the others in our Medium collection. Want Uplift to run a similar survey at another con, have additional thoughts on MAGFest, or questions about this project? Tweet or Email us!

Intro

MAGFest (Music and Gaming Festival) is a four day-long event dedicated to the appreciation of video game music, gaming of all types, and the gaming community that took place in Maryland in January 2018. Many attendees are MAGFest veterans, having attended for several years. When asked what keeps them coming back, some said the concerts, some said the cosplay, many said the fact that it’s a twenty-four hour show where you could play video games at 4 in the morning. A lot of people come with their friends every year. Some have moved a way and still travel back every year for the festival.

Clearly MAGFest is a special event and an important community for many. At Uplift we understand the power of communities and work with organizers like MAGFest to ensure that these important communities are safe for everyone. With this in mind, we conducted a survey of MAGFest 2018 attendees on safety and inclusion.

The Survey

In addition to these questions on safety and harassment, we asked demographic questions on race, gender, and sexuality. All questions were optional and open-ended so attendees could describe themselves in whatever terms they wished.

The Data

In total we surveyed 1118 attendees.

Demographics

The demographic data we collected from attendees was optional, so not all surveyed chose to share. Data was collected through freeform text, so for the purposes of the below charts, some identities were bucketed into larger categories. For example, an individual specifying they are Hispanic and Asian would be listed as multiracial here and an individual specifying that they are Japanese would be listed as Asian for the purposes of this high-level report. Anyone expressing that they were unsure about their sexuality was listed as Questioning for the purposes of this report.

We did not specifically ask attendees to share whether they were cisgender or transgender, so many specified and others did not. The first chart buckets cis /trans identities for the overall gender breakdown. The second chart adds in cis/trans data where it was available.

The Stories

Quantitative data like above paints a specific picture of MAGFest, but the important thing to remember is that behind every harassment statistic is a person with a story that matters. Only 2.5% of attendees were sexually harassed or assaulted at MAGFest, yet that represents 28 attendees from our survey.

The Positive

“I never feel uncomfortable at MAGFest, I know that if anything did happen, that MAGFest would advocate for me.”
“I was blown away by how respectful and awesome everyone was.”
“I really enjoyed MAGFest and truly appreciated the inclusion of the pronoun tags to go on badges. People were kind and friendly.”

Accessibility

“ People press the Deaf/HOH doorbell on accessible rooms which can wake people up. A PSA about what those buttons do might help! (They screech like a fire alarm and flash flights)”

Additionally, a lot of people were openly mocking others for taking the elevators. While this may have stemmed from frustration at having to wait for an elevator, people with disabilities (whether visible to you or not) are all around us and assuming that someone does not need to take an elevator is wrong.

“When I first got there, on Friday, I was overwhelmed. There were so many people bustling and, no matter how hard I tried, it seemed like I was always in someone’s way or someone was brushing past me. Maybe some dedicated quiet / resting spaces would take a little of the edge off, though that might be more like a band-aid than a true solution to an atmosphere that may be making a lot of people uncomfortable.”

Our friends at TakeThis offer an AFK room at events like MAGFest exactly for this reason. Their AFK Room is a safe space for people who need it, staffed with volunteers and clinicians who can answer questions and offer support for people who are stressed out.

“Mosh pits give me severe anxiety, but I thought they were banned so I thought concerts would be anxiety-safe. It ruined the second half of the concert for me once I realized mosh pits weren’t banned. Now I know to stand by the back walls or not go at all.”

The MAGFest code of conduct does not mention anything about mosh pits, one way or another.

“There was a dude in the elevator playing music really loudly and dancing for about an hour, dressed as The Sun Knight. My partner has sensitivity to light and sound due to physical disability so this meant she couldn’t use that elevator; and the guy was for over an hour. I think having clear boundaries between the con area and the hotel area would be a good solution. The signs that asked people not to “colossus roar” in certain areas were a really good start.”

MAGFest takes place at the beautiful Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. There is not a clear boundary between the convention area and the resort and this can lead to disturbing the hotel guests with a MAGFest signature “colossus roar” or in the case of the above, people riding the elevator for hours and preventing other attendees from accessing their room.

“My boyfriend uses an oxygen tank/has severe asthma. While in the men’s bathroom Saturday night, a man in the stall next to him was smoking a joint of Marijuana, causing him to go into an asthma attack due to the amount of unfiltered smoke. I went to con security to report this and two staff members were very understanding and got a group to go investigate but another staff members replied ‘its not a big deal’ or ‘its what you expect Saturday night at MAGFest’ or ‘its just pot’.
“As a disabled person, I found it a bit hard to move around at times. At one point I dislocated my knee and went to the medical room, but they didn’t have ice or ice packs. I also had trouble standing in lines because I have a fainting disorder.”

This story highlights how there is not a one-size-fits-all method for accessibility. It is likely that had MAGFest known that this attendee had trouble standing in lines, they could have accommodated this by letting this person check in without waiting in line. If not already, MAGFest registration should include an easy way for people to share accessibility needs.

“Elevators were crowded and too tightly packed and made me feel very claustrophobic and anxious. A persons per elevator policy or something similar would definitely help this issue.”
“I saw a number of attendees this year using mobility aids such as wheelchairs and walkers. I witnessed a number of these attendees having difficulty navigating the Con particularly the expo rooms.”
“I waited with one attendee, who used a wheelchair, for an elevator we waited for 15 minutes before an elevator came at all. When it did come the elevator did not have room for the attendee in the wheelchair, and I continued to wait with them for another 20 minutes before an elevator came that could accommodate us both.”

Trans + Nonbinary Inclusion

This year MAGFest piloted pronoun ribbons that attendees received at registration if they desired. Pronoun ribbons allow you to share your pronouns with other attendees in a lightweight manor.

“I LOVED the gender identity ribbons!!”

The gender identity ribbons overall cultivated an inclusive atmosphere at MAGFest.

“I did not witness harassment, nor did I experience it myself. This occurred even when I was expressing my sexuality & gender non-conformity through appearance and dress.”

But coupled with the pronoun ribbons, there was an alternate pronoun ribbon that said “We Paul”, a reference to the fan-following that Paul, president of MAGFest, has cultivated. While this was likely intended as a gesture of support for Paul, pronoun jokes stigmatize trans and gender-nonconforming people.

“The We Paul ribbons made me uncomfortable. It was a joke only a subset of the MAGFest population understood, and its presentation as a parody of the pronoun ribbons delegitimized the pronoun ribbons people chose.”
“Some con goers joked about the pronoun stickers and trans people.”

One volunteer pointed out that the pronoun ribbons resembled the shopkeeper badges, which made identifying who had access to the expo hall challenging.

“It led to volunteers stopping and questioning pronouned people to figure out if they had unique permissions like a shopkeeper, and I’m sure some of them did not appreciate probably being singled out for this.”

Despite these ribbons, misgendering occurred.

“Somebody also said they couldn’t tell if I was a girl or a boy because of the sick mask I was wearing.”
“I and others around got misgendered a lot. It sucks but people then corrected themselves.”
“I was misgendered a lot, even after correcting them. I still don’t feel comfortable presenting as my preferred gender.”
“My friend who is visibly non-binary experienced several instances of misgendering despite wearing a pronoun tag, telling people their pronouns. They also received several rude comments about what they were wearing, particularly from groups of drunk men.”
Ashley Wylde weighs in on what you should do if you misgender someone. The short version is apologize and go back to treating them like a regular human being.

Some attendees made homophobic and transphobic jokes.

“Homophobic and transphobic language did come up in conversation and even if it wasn’t directed at a particular person it made LGBTQIA individuals feel uncomfortable.”
“I heard people use disparaging language (e.g. faggot, anti-trans language, etc.). Not directed, just in conversation.”
“A friend brought one of their friends into our hotel room and he made homophobic remarks. I did not experience anything negative within convention spaces.”

Lastly there were not any gender-neutral restrooms at the convention. Gender neutral restrooms offer a safe place for anyone to use the restroom regardless of gender identity. As one attendee noted, with laws like HB2 in effect,

“we are not at the point where you cannot have access to public facilities listed in your code of conduct.”

Photography

Many attendees were confused about the con policy on photography.

“MAGFest needs a policy that defines what behavior isn’t allowed. Harassment is too subjective. People were doing things like snapping photos without asking from a distance which made me very uncomfortable.”
“On Saturday night, a group of men ambushed my friend with a camera and microphone without his consent and asked him political questions. He refused to answer them, and they dispersed. I considered calling security but was unsure whether this was a violation of the code of conduct or an actionable offense.”
“At one point I noticed a woman tell a man that it’s inappropriate to photograph a cosplayer without asking. He apologized and said he didn’t know because the code of conduct sign said that anyone may be photographed. It would be good if MAGFest could amend that statement with a note on etiquette for next year.”

The harassment policy of MAGFest’s code of conduct clearly specifies

Harassment of any kind, including but not limited to: physical assault, sexual assault, sexual harassment, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, or unwelcome physical attentions, will not be tolerated.

The confusion comes from the section of the code of conduct about Video and Audio Recordings.

“MAGFest attendees may be photographed or otherwise recorded by other attendees. By accepting a MAGFest badge, you are consenting to having your image published. If you prefer not to have your picture taken, please inform MAGFest staff. If anyone continues to photograph or record you against your will, it will be treated as harassment (see above).”

The issue here as highlighted in the story above is that general attendees who have not rigorously researched the code of conduct would assume that they did not need to ask someone to take their photo and some people took this further and harassed people who would not agree to a photo, a clear violation of the code of conduct.

“To the guy asking cosplayers for a photo and then surprising the subject by taking ‘ugly’ close up photos of our faces. We do not consent. To the guy who didn’t seem to understand that ‘no’ means ‘no’ when my partner expressed they did not want to be photographed and then forced his camera in their face and snapped a shot. We did not consent. To the guy who then blocked my partner in with his body and then proceeded to swing his camera around into their face to photograph them. They did not consent.”

This experience was very common.

“Heard a female cosplayer repeatedly say no to a guy asking for a picture. She should only have to say no once.”
“There was a photographer who approached my partner for a picture of his costume. After snapping the picture, he said he was making a project/collection of ugly cosplays. When I reacted by calling him rude, he told me “You’re not safe, either” and tried to get his camera close to my face for a picture. I said No, and turned away from him, and he reached around me with his camera in his hand and the flash went off on my face.”
“There was one dude taking pictures of cosplayers without consent (with a heavy focus on butt pictures). He was called out on it but simply shrugged and continued.”

Others experienced unwanted filming and photography without the opportunity to say no.

“There was several times I was videotaped with out my knowledge and it made me very uncomfortable.”
“Had a mic and camera shoved in my face and asked to answer some questions.”
“There was a person attempting to take upskirt photos while I was in the middle of a photo shoot in a quiet hallway on the 2nd floor, thwarted only because my significant other noticed.”
“Some event goers filmed a male passed out in a hallway and posted it online. The man was clearly in need of attention and instead of assisting in getting help, the people filming decided to attempt to ‘Logan Paul’ the experience.”
“While in cosplay, people tend to forget that you’re a person and forget the boundaries.”

Attendees were not the only problem. MAGFest and security staff should still be held accountable to the code of conduct.

“There was a woman in a provocative cosplay and I saw a security guard walk up behind her and took multiple photos of her booty without asking. He then continued to circle her while taking photos of her without her consent and knowledge that this was happening. He saw that me and my friends watched the entire thing and shrugged it off after we confronted him.”

Verbal Harassment

“Someone came up behind me and said they liked my pants. They were way too close and made me uncomfortable.”
“A random guy passed by me at Chipspace and whispered ‘you’re sexy’ to me really creepily. This was really weird and uncomfortable.”
“In the past I have been approached by people and have been asked things like “Can I touch your butt?” And have been followed around by people who can’t take a hint. I was in cosplay at the time but that’s not a good excuse.”

Whether someone is wearing cosplay or not, there is never an excuse for harassment and stalking.

“While waiting in line to get a lanyard at registration there was a group of guys behind me talking loudly about how they disregard the no harassment rule because they enjoy harassing people.”

“Cosplay is not consent” signs are not enough, festivals like MAGFest need to build a community culture of consent, develop good incident response policies, and ensure staff are training to respond to incidents respectfully.

“Saw way too many instances of drunk white dudes dancing in elevators harassing women specifically.”

Harassment effects people of all genders, but at events where women are in the minority, gender-based harassment happens too frequently.

“I was introduced to a guy for the first time, and he wouldn’t shake my hand because I was a woman. I told him that was sexist and left.”
“I was running a panel and we asked a contestant who they would want to date out of their competitors. The competitors chosen were flattered, but when the reasoning was explained it was objectifying.”

Racism

“I heard a lot of white people use racially slurs around me. I am African American.”

A lot of people wrote in about a specific incident that occurred during the Quiplash panel.

“The Quiplash panel was horrendously moderated, with anonymous audience members casually submitting the n word and other racial epithets as answers.”
“Someone answered n***er in response to the prompt ‘what would be something inappropriate to have as a pet’. At that point I feel like staff should’ve intervened and given a warning that the game would stop if the slurs continued.”
“I know there’s not much way to stop these things and what could he have done anyway, but I wish the emcee had reacted more strongly.”

Panelists or moderators as people contributing official programming to MAGFest should be expected to uphold the code of conduct and speak up when their panel crosses the line.

Physical Violence

While we don’t know all the details of the below stories, it’s unfortunate that they occurred and we hope people were able to seek medical attention if needed.

“One of my friends was shoved so hard that she dropped everything she was holding. The person who shoved her basically played it out as a joke and didn’t bother apologizing until I sternly told him to. He also didn’t leave us alone until I got in his face and told him to “back off.”
“A friend of mine was shoved and almost fell to the ground. That person who shoved my friend (who I assumed was pretty drunk) just ran away without looking back or apologizing.”

While accidental pushing may occur in crowded areas, these seemed more deliberate.

“Someone purposely grabbed me by my shirt vest and punched me in the face during the start of a mosh pit. Other MAGFesters quickly stopped the pit and pulled her out and some reported her to security. (I didn’t have my glasses on so couldn’t identify and my nose was bleeding so I dipped out to a bathroom.) Moshing etiquette is real and that wasn’t cool but my fellow festers and the staff made me feel safe and took care of me otherwise.”
“Late Saturday night I witnessed the after-effects of an alleged attack. Two young women were escorting a third to the bathroom. The third lady was covering her nose, but I could see blood running between her fingers. A man was yelling at the three women saying it was karma and laughing. I’m not sure what exactly had happened, but I was relieved that my male friend was walking with me.”

Sexual Harassment/Assault

Sexual harassment is verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Sexual assault is unwanted touching of a sexual nature.

“I have seen numerous accounts of someone sexually harassing women in the gazebo area (grabbing at them/groping them) and inviting them back to their room. I honestly think there should be some amount of dedicated security in that area due to the amount of traffic and people that enjoy taking photos up there.”

While the gazebo area was not technically part of MAGFest, as it was connected to the convention center, most attendees considered it part of the event.

“I saw some people harassing artists in the alley.”
“I worked registration and there were a handful of men who made some rude comments about choosing my line over another one because “she’s hotter” or “she’s got tits”. It didn’t help that some of the “next” signs were just this side of explicit or raunchy.”

Whether you’re an attendee, shopkeeper, security, or staff, everyone deserves an event free from harassment.

“At one point, a strange dude I didn’t know came up to me to compliment me on my skirt, which was fine, but he then thought it was appropriate to touch my skirt without asking. He also tried to touch a pin I was wearing, which was right above my chest. I don’t think he intended to be creepy, just someone who doesn’t understand boundaries, but he was trying to find out if I was alone and I had to lie when he asked for my name.”

This story highlights how incidents like this can escalate. Especially at an event with so much cosplay, complimenting someone’s outfit on its own is usually fine and often nice, but that does not give you the right to touch someone without asking first.

Many people reported issues in the arcade area.

“A female friend of mine had her butt grabbed in the arcade.”
“I was playing a pinball game and a guy came up to talk to me. When he left, he put his hand on my breast without consent. I chalked it up to an accident and awkward hand placement, but it was a little weird.”
“The only time was a creep in the arcade who kept wanting to play games with me, but also touched my butt and asked ‘if I like freaks in bed’ after I made it clear I was not interested and simply wanted to play arcade games.”
“Someone did grab my ass. I was wearing a sweatshirt and yoga pants…”

Regardless of what you are wearing, everyone deserves a safe experience.

“There was one slightly uncomfortable situation I went through on Friday night. There was a man who seemed like he’d been drinking and he approached me from behind and wrapped his arms around my waist and whispered things into my ear. Luckily, he had someone with him and she sternly asked him to stop. He did and promptly apologized.”

It’s great that the friend was able to intervene and prevent the situation from escalating. Being drunk is never an excuse for harassment.

“Someone forced a kiss on my friend during the DJ Battle.”
“A con attendee grabbed me by the hair and kissed me without my consent, then insulted me. It was quite jarring and unexpected.”

Before kissing someone, ensure they’re into it. Don’t rely on body language especially with someone you may have just met, it is easy to miss signals.

“A guy walking past my group grabbed my friend’s rear end without consent. He rushed off before we could confront him.”
“I was followed around by others several times and touched, one time even groped.”
“While I was in the Gaylord pool someone took it from flirty to touchy without really saying anything and it made me uncomfortable.”

Regardless of gender, consent is critical.

“I did see a few girls forcing themselves onto what appeared to be random guys during the rave.”

All of the above is a violation of MAGFest’s code of conduct, but many attendees may not have reported. Luckily when this person did they were helped.

“My friend was creeped on/touched by a dude, MAGStaff was alerted and said they would take care of it.”

Late Night

From a safety perspective, the hardest part about MAGFest is that it is a 24-hour event. Most attendees really value the fact that it is a 24-hour event where you can play video games at 4 in the morning or stay up for late night shows. Finding the balance of attendee enjoyment and safety is key. Increasing security and staff presence especially in the late night hours is needed.

“I was approached in the atrium when I was alone and drunk by one of two people who tried to get me to go back to my room. They were very aggressive and said very uncomfortable things about wanting to dance close to my hips and how it was 2018 so it shouldn’t matter that I had a boyfriend. Kept touching my back as he followed me to the rave. He left after I told him there was no way I would do anything with him, but I saw him and his twin lurking the atrium again later. It really made me uncomfortable and almost ruined my night.”
“A man charging his phone near a game I played forced me into a conversation with him asking very personal questions that I tried dodging and redirecting to things about the game/con. . I would like to see a little more staff presence if possible during late night hours in the game rooms.”

Some people felt uncomfortable at the dances without necessarily deeming it serious enough to report.

“Mainly just during concerts or sometimes on the con floor when people pushed through me trying to get through. They’d usually grab me by the shoulders and move me.”
“The only thing that happened was while dancing someone tried to grab my waist, but I made it apparent that I didn’t want it.”
“There were just a couple of times at Chiprave and similar dance events when I was touched on the face or hair/stared at/creeped on to the point I was just uncomfortable enough to ask my friends to watch my back, but not enough to inform security.”

But here someone was more persistent, only stopping when someone intervened.

“During the rave a guy approached my female friend asking to dance. After showing little interest, he kept asking her questions until she asked me to step in.”

Alcohol

Accompanying the late night activities, many attendees consumed alcohol which led to a general feeling of unease among sober attendee.

“The elevators and room level hallways feel unsafe Saturday evening/night. I wish there was a way to have a floor for people who are not interested in partying.”
“I only felt a little uncomfortable here and there when some attendees, namely those who were drunk, would make unwanted remarks.”

Some drunk attendees harassed others. Being drunk is never an excuse for harassment.

“Friday night I heard a woman loudly shouting ‘No’ but I think and hope that it worked because I didn’t hear anything else.”
“Three drunken men approached me and my girlfriend and attempted to grab us while shouting “I love you” in a slurred way, chasing us up the stairs.”
“My friend was propositioned for a kiss (from someone who was likely drunk)”
“There was one man on Thursday who was quite drunk and would not leave one girl alone. It was taken care of peacefully though.”

On attendee even realized his mistake the next day.

I am guilty of kissing another patron without his consent. We were at the rave and we both had been dancing seductively together, and I was drunk. It was wrong of me make such contact without his permission, regardless. I took the initiative to find him apologize, and he has forgiven me. My actions were inexcusable and I hope my story can be used as an example of teaching consent among all crowds, not just heterosexual/normative attendees, for future events. Alcohol and dancing are not excuses.

In addition to drunk people harassing others, some people (drunk or otherwise) took advantage of drunk attendees.

I witnessed others attempting to take advantage of impaired individuals.
“Drunk people trying to drag more drunk people (both genders) into the bathrooms to snog, past 2 am hours. They’re probably just having fun, but people could potentially get hurt.”
“There are guys wandering around on drugs who could be victimized very easily as well. I had a friend wake up in someone else’s room and not know how he got there on several occasions. Could there be safe dancing/partying info around the con in the form of signs and pamphlets? I feel like promoting a larger culture of safety in the con would be really cool. And I don’t mean by prohibiting drugs and alcohol completely, but by encouraging people to take care of each other and to not let people wander alone if they’re clearly trashed.”

Ultimately MAGFest policies will dictate whether alcohol and drugs continue to be such a large part of MAGFest late-night, but like this attendee highlights, assuming that they are going to be part of MAGFest, there needs to be a cultural shift towards looking out for attendees who are in a bad state and taking care of each other.

Panels

“I attended a few panels where women were constantly talked over and ignored by their male peers.”

Additionally, diversity, inclusion, and anti-sexual violence themed panels like Uplift’s #MeToo panel and Diversity 101, were down-voted in the Guidebook app before MAGFest even began. If these ratings are used to determine which panelists are invited back, this is particularly concerning. While it is impossible to prevent trolling, it would be great if the Guidebook app or MAGFest could ensure that any ratings submitted before the panel occurred were not counted.

Bystander Intervention

One of the hardest parts about experiencing harassment is when no one steps in to defend you. It can make you feel very alone, as these two stories highlight.

“Twice this year I was approached by two different people at different times who cornered me and made me wildly uncomfortable. They would tell me how cute I was and kept leaning in like they were going to kiss me so I was horrified. One of them backed off after finding out I was taken, but the other didn’t let me go until another guy came over and put space between us then pulled me away. I wish I’d made friends with him because he stayed alongside me for an hour or so after that from how shaken I was. I just don’t understand why nobody else thought to come check and make sure everything was alright.”
“I saw men harass two women, begging for a hug then going off on them because they didn’t want to be touched. It ended with, ‘well fuck you too bitch you’re ugly anyway’. Tons of people saw this and no one did anything.”

One of the hard parts about intervening is that you are not always sure if there’s really an issue.

“On the outskirts of breakdancing area, I was worried someone was being molested while unconscious, but other people said were just LARPing vampire. I was worried but also didn’t want to interrupt their LARP.”
“I saw two big guys carrying an unconscious girl into the hotel. I’m not sure if they were her friends, and they were taking her to safety, but out of context, it was a little unnerving.”

But even if it’s clear, you may not know the person and may assume someone else is taking care of it.

“Someone woman very clearly drunk collapsed in the middle of the hotel hallway. I’m not sure if she was helped or not.”

But it is better to check-in and know for sure, then leave someone in a potentially bad situation and wonder later if you did the right thing. When intervening in a case where you are not certain if there is an issue, it is helpful to calmly approach the people involved and start up a conversation, perhaps about an unrelated topic while you access the situation. If someone is by themselves, you can always ask “are you okay?”. Our video on bystander intervention has more tips.

Kat Lazo moderates a panel on simple ways to intervene as a bystander.
I saw others in difficult situations (some girl was VERY inebriated), but I was able to take them to MagFest’s medical room and they were taken care of.

When someone does step in, you contribute to them having a better experience at MAGFest, and people really appreciate it.

“I was verbally harassed. However, the community is great and in my case, someone else rose to the occasion.”

Conclusion

As we highlighted at the beginning, MAGFest is a special event for many, a place where they can have fun and enjoy themselves with their friends. The extensive staff training MAGFest does through MAGCon certainly helps make the event what it is and MAGFest’s policy of having staff readily available and information easily accessible on badges helped many report incidents painlessly.

Keeping in mind the above stories, we recommend the following changes for next year:

  • Handing out pronoun ribbons at registration were a great first step in creating an inclusive environment for trans and gender nonconforming attendees. Continue using these, but ensure next year the ribbons look distinct from other role-specific ribbons and discourage joke ribbons about pronoun stickers. It would help to specifically mention that preferred pronoun jokes are a violation of the code of conduct, whether in ribbon form or otherwise.
  • Provide gender neutral restrooms. Ensure the restroom is well-marked, and include information about its availability on the FAQ of the website, in Guidebook, in signs throughout the convention center, and on the badge, if possible.
  • Clarify mosh pit policy — If mosh pits are not allowed, the code of conduct should clearly say so and the concert areas should contain signs and have staff / security prepared to intervene if they occur. But if they are allowed steps should be taken to ensure they are safe. One case above highlighted a positive culture of mosh pits. Work to elevate cases like this.
  • Clarify photography policy both in the code of conduct and via the convention center signs. While crowd photos should be encouraged, photographers should ask before taking close up or individual photos of people. If someone declines to have their photo taking, pressuring someone to take their photo should be classified as a violation of the code of conduct.
  • Train staff to avoid phrases like “this is not a big deal” or “this is what you should expect at MAGFest” when attendees report incidents, even if that is genuinely what they believe. One bad interaction with a member of staff can prevent people from reporting further incidents and result in legitimate concerns not being taken seriously.
  • Add additional staff / security for late night activities, especially in the gazebo, arcade, and concert areas. These people should be trained to recognize signs that someone is uncomfortable and calmly intervene in a manor that de-escalates the situation, if needed.
  • Add a section about providing accessibility accommodations to the MAGFest FAQ and during registration, allow attendees to share any accessibility needs.
  • Panelists or moderators, as people contributing official programming to MAGFest, should be expected to uphold the code of conduct and speak up when their panel crosses the line. Develop a policy for panelists violating the code of conduct. For example, after one violation, a member of staff will intervene, and after the second violation the panelist will no longer be allowed to speak at MAGFest. Ensure staff working in panel rooms know this is their responsibility and ensure speakers know they will be held accountable.
  • Ensure Guidebook ratings that occur before the panels occur are not taken into account when deciding whether to invite panelists back. If certain attendees are particularly targeting talks about marginalized identities with these tactics, ideally these attendees will lose voting privileges, but that may not be possible with Guidebook.
  • Encourage culture shifts among attendees to report incidents, stand up for each other, and take care of people who are drunk or otherwise impaired. This can be done through awareness campaigns and communications prior to the event, signs during the event, and continuing to train staff and volunteers on these issues at MAGCon.