Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Video Gamer Gauntlet: #CruiseCon, Cruise Controversy, Cruise "Conned"?

Back in June, it was announced that the grand prize for the cosplay contest at the inaugural Blerdcon in Arlington, Virginia would be an all-expenses paid trip for 2 to the 1st cruise for gaming and tech, the Video Gamer Gauntlet hosted by a company called Gamer Tech Events.

While I had entered the contest just to push myself, I was shocked to learn that I had won. Being recognized was all that was on my mind until I was reminded by the people around me that this cruise that was going to the Bahamas was the prize. I had never been to the Bahamas and had never been on a cruise, so this was exciting!

After getting info about registration and such, I looked up the event, looked at my calendar, discussed it briefly with my dad (who I selected to be my +1), and eventually registered through Eventbrite. All I needed to do was get in touch with the Blerdcon Chair about airfare to Port Canaveral, Florida, the place from which the ship was to depart.

It was from Hilton that I found out about the incident, and so I went to investigate, starting with social media. If you look up articles, tweets and videos about this event, you can get more information than what I'm willing to outline here, since I don't like to be repetitive by reporting what other people already have; I'm writing to express my thoughts about matters connected to the incident.

"Why hadn't I heard about this cruise?" 

I don't know the logistics behind getting sponsors and charters and whatnot, but when it came to gaining awareness among the gaming community, the biggest issue I noticed was inefficient use of social media. The Gamer Tech Events Twitter had been around since May of last year. I get that getting reach on social media is hard, but when you scroll through their Twitter feed, there is a glaring issue: Many of these pro gamers and some of the cosplayer guests who were invited were either tagging the incorrect Twitter/Instagram handle, or at some point in time Gamer Tech Events decided to change their handle, thus making all previous mentions invalid.

At the time I am writing this post:
  • The official TWITTER handle for Gamer Tech Events is @gamertechevents.
  • The official INSTAGRAM handle for Gamer Tech Events is @gamertechevents.
  • The official Facebook page title for Gamer Tech Events is Gamer Tech Events, with an @ handle of @VideoGamerGauntlet.

For the past few months, the mentioned handles I’ve been seeing are @vgugamergauntle on Twitter and @vgugamergauntlet on Instagram. If you try to look those up, you get what looks like a fake account and no account at all, respectively. Since I wasn’t there from the beginning, I’m not sure if Gamer Tech Events decided to change their handle along the way, or if these guests/sponsors were typing in what they thought was correct and just picked the first name that showed up in their suggestions. I’m guessing it was the former.

See that Twitter handle on the right? Look up "vgugamergauntle" and see where it leads.

So even though @gamertechevents, the current Twitter, was retweeting all of these people who were mentioning their event, there was little to no engagement there. Judging from their feed, their reach was quite impressive; I was surprised by the people they had managed to get to promote (or at least mention) this cruise on social media. But either the wrong username was tagged, or Gamer Tech Events unwisely changed their name at some point. While low social media outreach isn't necessarily a death sentence, the username problems/changes are not good for a company that is JUST getting started.

"I've heard both sides--who do I believe?"

I won't tell you who to believe. This is at least the second time that I've been connected with something that had accusations against them, either for being a scam or for not being transparent enough. And after the fact, I take a look at things to try to gauge my trust in someone. I always try to see both sides in everything, and not just hearing what a person is saying or showing us in pictures, but looking at how they behave. I'll say that it's easier to trust someone and give them a chance when you have nothing to lose. For me, this cruise was gonna be free; if it didn't happen, I'd just move on. For people who invested hundreds and thousands of dollars? They'd probably be a little more anxious than me.

"So...is it really a scam? And if it isn't, is it still gonna happen at this point?"

Believe what you will, but honestly, I think it's reasonable to believe in either outcome. I think Curtis (the CEO of Gamer Tech Events) had every intention of making this cruise into a reality, and I think he's still trying. The idea of gaming and being on a cruise is an awesome idea, and I think everyone would LOVE for something like this to happen and be a success, regardless of what it's called, when it is and where it's going.

One thing for sure is that poor planning, poor advertisement, poor public relations, low social media outreach, and not a lot of time is more than enough to dismantle an event. Dashcon and Fyre Festival were disasters due to poor management, and because of that, people are very wary of these new cons and festivals popping up. I hope that people can learn from experiences like this. We're living in a "startup age" (one that may end soon) where everyone has an idea. But not all founders make great CEOs.

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