Where Are The Metal Detectors? Security At EVO Needs An Upgrade In 2019

Jason Fanelli,

August 13, 2018 8:20 AM

EVO 2018 went off without a hitch, but security at the FGC event was dangerously unprepared for a potential issue. We take a look at some examples and what could be changed for the future.

EVO 2018 was two weekends ago now, and honestly I can’t say I’ve ever had more fun at a gaming convention or event in my life. Don’t get me wrong, events like E3 and PAX certainly have their moments and I wouldn’t trade the ones I’ve been to for the world. But, something about EVO just sticks out for me. Perhaps it’s the limitless supply of competition to be found, or the rambunctious crowds surrounding each screen, or just the energy of the room that gives it life, EVO 2018 is an event I will always treasure.

However, as I reflect a full week on what was an incredible weekend, I have to address a concern that entered my mind while I was there, lingered the entire weekend, and still hasn’t gone away a week later: the security of the event. The expo was not completely bereft of security, as there were plenty of people walking around and making sure everyone was behaving. However, there were a few things that did stick out to me as I walked around the expo.

First, there were no metal detectors outside of the expo hall on Friday and Saturday, the first two of the three days of the event. What’s more, none of the security staff that I could see had metal detecting wands for those coming in during those days. The most that staff was doing was checking bags, and even then bag check was simply “open your bag, okay you’re good to go”, and that was it at most. They didn't even do that much to those with VIP or Media credentials and only waved you in if you had a badge saying so. While something is better than absolutely nothing, this isn’t exactly going to stop a potential threat from moseying on into the expo, especially if they had a badge.

The second part of my chagrin came during the Sunday Finals day. The entrance to the arena this time did sport full walk-through metal detectors and wands, as well as a ban on backpacks and bags for non-media attendees, so the issues I had with the first two days were immediately alleviated. However, it’s when we got inside that some pretty worrisome security issues started to creep up.

For example: you know how when Sun-woong "LowHigh" Yoon won the Tekken 7 tournament he was swarmed by some of his Fursan teammates? Those two guys ran right up to the center of the stage and climbed onto it, all while two security guards sat there and watched. No attempt was made to stop them, no reaction was seen to their arrival, just a clear path to the stage. The EVO medal presenter (whose name I can’t seem to find, he is real right?) then approached the two security guards and started shouting “that can’t happen, that can’t happen” right in front of the crowd. Apparently those two guards were meant to prevent a stage rush like that, but did it happen? Nope!

Meanwhile, if you watched the streams of Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, Super Smash Bros Melee, and Tekken 7, you may have noticed a man in a pink polo shirt and shorts sitting front row center for three of the five competitions. He was approaching the stage after matches, taking pictures of the players on the stage with no issue, and the security just left him alone after seeing the blue wristband on his arm.

Here’s the problem with that: the wristbands that were supposed to give him access to take pictures were purple and said "Staff", not blue blank ones. Secondly, that blue wristband wasn’t even issued by the venue for the event, it was from the Bar Fights EVO party at the House of Blues the night before. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the seat he was sat in wasn’t even his seat, he just moved up to front row center early in the Guilty Gear tournament and no one said a word or checked his ticket. He could have stayed there for the entirety of Championship Sunday if not for other appointments.

How do I know so much about the pink-poloed man? Because I am him. He is me. I donned the pink shirt on EVO Sunday, and it was scarily easy to move to the position I was in. Same goes for my editor that moved seats to sit with me, also donning a blue wristband. Not a single security guard approached either of usm questioned either of us, or anything like that. In fact, as my editor as going through the metal detector, the guards even commented that he was with the staff and to just let him in with "no need to use the wand." I, on the other hand, just sat my butt down, acted like I’d been at EVO before, and I was good. The fact that I was able to plant myself in the best seat in the house, front and center, without so much as a raised eyebrow is not a great look.

So besides the obvious “this could have been really bad,” what makes this underwhelming security presence such a problem? For me it comes down to two things: first we were in Las Vegas, a city which unfortunately is no stranger to tragedy considering the horrific events of last October, also at the Mandalay Bay, which is where EVO was held as well. Anyone who flew into McCarran and saw the giant banner signed by what seemed like the entire city was reminded of that fairly quickly.

The EVO 2018 Street Fighter V pools gather a crowd.

Second, and perhaps more egregiously, there was an active threat made against EVO back in March. The EVO brass even had to address it in a Tweet:

How could a threat posed just four months before the event be met with such a lax showing? Thankfully nothing happened and everyone had a safe and sound EVO. But, security at future EVO events must to be better.

If the folks that run EVO want an example of how to respond, look no further than E3. 2017’s event garnered the same sort of reaction regarding security, a less-than-stellar effort lamented by many on social media. The ESA responded in a big way in 2018, with metal detectors outside every entrance, designated exits, and multiple guards throughout the venue. There were a few slip-ups, particularly regarding the public accessing the meeting rooms upstairs and swarming a few popular developers, but EVO already being a public event doesn’t have that issue.

I do not want to sound like EVO did nothing, because that is absolutely not the case. There were definite efforts made to keep attendees safe, and the security personnel that were working the event did their jobs well in particular areas. Despite this there were some problem areas that need to be addressed sooner rather than later, like the lessened security at the expo and the folks rushing the Finals stage in a packed arena. Iron out those wrinkles and I have no doubt EVO 2019 will be one of the safest places in the industry. Until then these questions will remain, and all we can do is hope they’re answered the right way.

For more EVO coverage, check out our interview with CyGames BEAST's Gamerbee on Street Fighter V being the top FGC community, as well as the controversy surrounding the Super Smash Bros for Wii U Grand Finals.


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