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SAN DIEGO — At least two TwitchCon attendees said they were severely injured after they participated in an interactive exhibit that featured a shallow pit of foam cubes scattered over bare concrete.
The exhibit was part of the weekend-long event for the livestreaming video platform, which this year was held at the San Diego Convention Center.
Run by Lenovo and Intel, the exhibit invited attendees to “battle” one another by standing on one of two platforms suspended over the foam pit.
Participants, who were asked to sign waivers, could win by knocking their opponents off of their platforms using unwieldy foam noodles. The platforms were about 2 feet high, and the pit was about a foot deep.
Many in the Twitch community expressed outrage over the exhibit, which they said they felt was unsafe. It was one of a handful of issues that attendees said they had with the convention on social media.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Twitch referred NBC News to Lenovo’s PR team. The spokesperson did not address the other criticisms some attendees made about the convention.
“We are aware of the incidents of TwitchCon visitors who sustained injuries in the gladiator game soft foam pit at the Lenovo booth,” a spokesperson for Lenovo said in an email statement on Sunday evening. “The area has since been closed for any further use while we work with event organizers to look into the incidents.”
News of the “pit” injuries began circulating on social media after streamer Adriana Chechik tweeted Sunday that she broke her back in two places when she jumped off the exhibit’s platform and into the foam cubes.
“Well, I broke my back in two places and am getting surgery to put a meter rod in for support today. Send your support. When it rains it pours and I am definitely feeling the rain right now,” Chechik said. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Saturday, Chechik celebrated winning by jumping off her platform and straight into the pit. The foam cubes appeared to do little to cushion her fall, and in multiple videos that have circulated on social media, Chechik is seen landing straight on her back and rolling over in pain.
Streamer LochVaness said she was also injured when she participated in the exhibit Saturday. She posted a photo of herself in a wheelchair after the incident, reassuring followers that she was all right.
On Sunday, LochVaness, who wanted to be referred to by her TikTok username out of concern for her privacy, told NBC News that she was “very sore but OK.”
She said she decided to jump off the platform that after she won her round Saturday.
“Once I had jumped off and my foot hit the bottom and my ankle rolled and then my kneecap was on the side,” she said. “I couldn’t move … I had almost passed out if it wasn’t for one of the staff guys calming me down.”
All these injuries could have been avoided if the floor underneath all the foam wasn’t pure concrete.
— Streamer LochVaness, on The pit exhibit
Medical responders were able to set her kneecap back in place, she said. After she went to the hospital Sunday morning, doctors confirmed she had no broken bones. However, she said, she will need to see a sports medicine specialist for “further help” with her knee. She said she also needs to get an MRI scan to assess whether she will need surgery.
Despite the reported injuries, the exhibit remained open Sunday morning. Staffers invited passersby to try the exhibit — after they signed waivers — but attendees seemed wary. Curious attendees flocked to the pit and took photos but refused to participate.
A staff member with Lenovo confirmed that the exhibit closed at noon PT.
By Sunday, the final day of the convention, the hashtag #boycotttwitch had begun trending.
Some raised concerns over the crowded halls and long lines. Twitter user fentysimp said on Twitter that two people fainted behind her as they waited in line for events.
Others said they felt the convention was not accessible for attendees with disabilities. The convention had initially said masks and proof of vaccination would not be required, but it reversed course in August under criticism from those who wanted stricter health measures.
Another Twitter user said event security did not appropriately respond when an attendee who appeared to be drunk harassed them during TwitchCon’s Saturday night after-party.
“i just want to be clear, i’m nervous tweeting this and i never want to seem ungrateful since i am here at twitchcon. i just felt like people should be aware of this, ESPECIALLY if youre at the party,” Twitter user dtkqluvbot wrote Saturday.
Some attendees also criticized Twitch for misgendering streamers in official programming — a graphic for one panel misgendered the creator Aimsey, who is nonbinary.
LochVaness, who spent Sunday icing her leg instead of attending the convention, said she hopes future TwitchCon events will run more smoothly.
“Be very careful and protect yourself,” she said when she was asked what she wanted other attendees to know. “And for the staff who set this up to make sure they properly set this up next year so no more injuries happen. All these injuries could have been avoided if the floor underneath all the foam wasn’t pure concrete.”
For her, attending future TwitchCons is unlikely.
“This was not safe and I won’t be going to another convention in a long time,” she added.
Morgan Sung is a trends reporter for NBC News Digital.
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