Boston mayor says PlayStation’s decision to pull out of PAX East reinforces ‘harmful stereotypes’

The Boston mayor has issued a public notice to Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, asking the company it to reverse its decision to pull out from PAX East this year owing to fears about the coronavirus.

Sony pulled out of PAX East last week, just a few days after confirming the company would be at the convention with several of its upcoming games, including Naughty Dog’s highly anticipated The Last of Us Part 2, Sony revealed “the safest option” was to “cancel its participation”, adding “the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern”.

“Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”),” Sony said at the time on the PlayStation blog. “We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

Consequently, Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston – which is the US city that hosts PAX East – sent a letter to Yoshida stating that the decision to pull out of the convention only served to reinforce “harmful stereotypes that generations of Asians have worked hard to dismantle”, stating it was going ahead with the show in order to “dispel these harmful and misguided fears”.

“These fears reinforce harmful stereotypes that generations of Asians have worked hard to dismantle,” Walsh wrote (thanks WCVB, via VGC). “They trigger our worst impulses: to view entire groups of people with suspicion, to close ourselves off, and to miss out on the opportunities and connections our global city provides. Boston is united in our efforts to dispel these harmful and misguided fears.

“As a large, international company, you have an opportunity to set a good example,” he added. “As a leader in technology, you can show that you are motivated by facts, not fear. As a leader in gaming and culture, you can show that you believe in connection, not isolation.”

Sony has not, as yet, publicly responded to the correspondence. 

The world’s biggest mobile phone show, Mobile World Congress (MWC), was cancelled after organiser GSMA said that fears concerning the coronavirus outbreak had made it “impossible” for the event to proceed. At the time of writing, GDC – which is scheduled to run next month – is still going ahead, but “due to stringent U.S. travel and safety restrictions implemented on February 2nd, 2020, all China-based exhibitors (around 10 out of the 550 companies hosted at GDC this year)” are no longer attending, having had their participation “pushed” to 2021. China-based conference attendees will also not be attending this year.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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