Copernicon 2021 did something remarkable. They decided not only to reproduce their venue in the IT environment. They reproduced large part of the old city in Toruń. There were some issues (I’ll cover them later) but in general what they did was absolutely amazing.
Toruń in Gather.town
Copernicon was held in Gather.town. In normal circumstances conventions spans across old city of Toruń. They use multiple venues and the distance between the farthest parts of the con is over 1 km. When going online they decided to map part of this territory in Gather. They limited themselves to “only” two buildings and part of the historic city centre. On top of that they added many rooms based on some popculture franchises.
I admire attention to details they applied. It was fascinating to see not only the programme rooms but also many other spaces moved to Gather. And of course – the city itself. We were able to see the Old Market Square with all the lovely buildings around it.
The number of hidden (or even clearly visible) special locations and Easter eggs was astounding. From the top of my head I recall visiting The Wall from Games of Thrones, Moria, Rick and Morty garage, Mos Eisley Cantina, USS Enterpise and Narnia. I also managed to see DeLorean, characters from Gothic and Skyrim games and many more. The space was build in a way that was allowing us to explore it. Although I spend a lot of time walking around the con I am sure I missed some places.
Yet there were some issues with convention space. It was too big for the number of participants. There were a few hundreds of us (and there was no point in time when everywhere visited Gather). The space was so big that if you moved outside of the main programming locations it was quite unlikely to meet anyone. There were two other issues in the beginning – low number of teleports and missing map of the whole convention space. Here I must say that the team did a terrific job in improving the venue during the con. I saw that many teleports were added. They also put some arrows on the ground near the starting point. Lastly we received a map of the city showing where each of the buildings is.
Surprising Approach to Socialization
What struck me was how strangely the social aspect worked. I was basing my Gather experiences on Confusion. People there were walking around the venue with their cameras on and it was easy to find someone to talk to. At Copernicon almost no one was using cameras. I also did not have too many occasions to talk to random people on the corridors. I am not sure what is the reason for such a big difference between those two cons using the same platform.
Having said that I don’t want to leave you with false impression there was no social aspect to the con. I had a great time talking to people. One of the fans decided to run a spontaneous programme item in the evening. She decided to have in the toilet in one of the buildings (don’t ask me why). It was announced that it will start after the official programme on the first day. Well it was huge! In the peak moments there were around 80 of us there. It was a loose discussion about online conventions. I had a great time. For the second day she planned another items. Organizers were kind enough to “build” a bigger toilet for that purpose. Because of the cool discussions we had on both Friday and Saturday I went to sleep way later than I expected.
Another opportunity to socialize with fellow fans was when we tried to create a big heart at the end of the con. We made it on the main square. It took a long while to make sure everyone are on the correct spot. Then we were trying to make wave of people showing heart emoticon. It was far from perfection but I had a great time.
Copernicon had a lot of programme items. Way more than I expected. There were nine programme steams. On top of that there were multiple places to play games (board games, video games and RPGs). There were also some adiditonal progrrame items held elsewhere. As the number of members was not very high many of the items had small audience but some were pretty “full”.
The app that was used for the programme was Zoom. Yet there was one issue – links to Zoom were available only in Gather. In order to attend any item one had to go the appropriate room in Gather. In front of each room there were announcements boards with links to the items for the whole day. I started Saturday and Sunday with a tour around all programme rooms to save the links so I would have them at hand later on. Organizers wanted to invite all members to use Gather. I do understand the reasoning but I still believe it would be better with the links available in other way. Some people don’t like Gather and for some it may be impossible to use it because of the access needs.
Despite some issues I spent a great weekend at Copernicon. It was a nice mixture of programming and socializing. I would prefer to visit the con in person. I truly love the city of Toruń and walking by the streets to get from one venue to the other is magical. Yet the on-line version was remarkable and I’ll remember the con for a long time.
My next post will be published within next two week.