Every fall, Complex puts on an expertly curated weekend-long convention to exhibit special moments in pop culture, fashion, art, music, food, activism, and more. While ComplexCon is the event of the year for hypebeasts and underground aficianados alike, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about how this festival, and festivals as a whole, are starting to operate. Gathering in large crowds for music and culture events is on an extreme and indefinite hiatus, but even when the world goes back to the way things were, they won’t really be going back to the way things were.
Complex couldn’t let the culture down, so instead of throwing their regularly scheduled annual ComplexCon, they have taken to the virtual universe to put together ~ComplexLand~. This free and immersive experience features exclusive merch drops, food partnerships, collabs, streetwear brands, panels, screenings and performances over the course of five days (December 7-11).
After registering for the event, you’re given your own hypebeast avatar to customize with a bunch of options for your hair, designer/street tops, bottoms and shoes, and even your aura (mine was yellow). In ComplexLand, there are five “neighborhoods” you can travel to and find different marketplaces, monuments, stages, etc. Starting Downtown, you can access the schedule of the day’s video content, as well as some virtual Complex shops and food trucks. You can literally open the delivery menu at each truck and check out which IRL cities they’re in, and order a meal from ComplexLand to your door!
Next is The Boro, a marketplace where artists are mainly featured, including Manual NYC, Fidia, Kano, Trouble Andrew, and Greg Mike. Here, you can purchase their sculptures, signed copies of books, exclusive prints, and more. HiBye is a neighborhood/digital marketplace that features exclusive streetwear brands and drops, including Carrots, Feature, Rokit, and more. The Astral Market is where shows, panels and performances will be put on throughout the week (which I definitely plan on watching, all at the Showtime Theater). The Sunset Lagoon is a spot to “kick it” and have NPCs tell you about stuff like the music that’s playing, easter eggs hidden around ComplexLand, and more. Attendees are also able to interact and engage with each other the whole time using a chat feature.
Learning and educating ourselves in a period of rapid social change has become so important to this generation, that we have even learned how to best support and elevate people in ways that do matter and have an impact. And lastly, restaurants are one of the countless industries affected negatively by the pandemic, and ordering food from a truck in a video game to your door is absolutely nothing any of us could have expected to see (or even need) this year.
The passive participation of digital experiences, even with COVID-19, is starting to become challenged by this entirely new world built and driven by passion and creativity. ComplexCon was a place for creators and consumers to come together and celebrate and shape pop culture. ComplexLand still does that, but more importantly the virtual convention reflects the issues and conversations that are so prevalent in a COVID-world, from entertainment to fashion to art. The capabilities and features of this virtual universe are ones that we never thought we wanted (or needed), and I don’t think we can ever go back to how the culture functioned before.