Episode 67: Reimagining Online Events with Em Lazer-Walker

Enjoy the Vue

With the advent of the pandemic era, events and conferences, as we knew them, that sustained tech and gaming communities in such a large way have all but disappeared. We have seen many organizations turn to online and virtual versions of the gatherings which have helped fill the gap to an extent, while also presenting a new array of challenges and shortcomings for organizers and attendees alike. Joining us on the show today is Em Lazer-Walker, Senior Cloud Advocate at Microsoft and one of the minds behind the amazing Roguelike Celebration. The event, which has consciously tried to avoid the usual connotations of a conference, hence the use of the term 'celebration', made the switch to a virtual experience in response to the new normal and we get to hear from Em about how they approached this tricky feat and the priorities which remained in sight for Em and the team. Ultimately, the goal was to create a fun world that people would get excited about, and we get to delve into the many practical layers of this mission. Em talks about accessibility, the chat platform, social cues, and a whole range of subtle features that might not immediately come to mind! We also discuss what the event might look like post-pandemic and how listeners can get involved and take some inspiration from the open-source nature of the platform. Tune in to hear all this and much more!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Memories of the last conferences before the pandemic and thoughts on virtual events.
  • Em's experiences running Roguelike Celebration, and some history of the related games and community.
  • The event's transition to online-only in response to the pandemic and how they weathered the storm.
  • The considerations that go into planning an event with a focus on community and meaningful conversations.
  • How Em went about building the infrastructure that matched the strengths of online games.
  • Video chat versus text-chat; the two camps that exist and accommodating both groups.
  • Ways that Em and his team are simulating the social environment and cues of in-person gatherings.
  • How accessibility concerns were addressed for Roguelike Celebration; text, color, chat, and more!
  • Thoughts on the future of the online event and how it might change and grow.
  • Challenges with the interface; dealing with concerns around confusion and similarities to other platforms.
  • The question of chat histories and digital hoarding, and why Em decided against newer chat trends.
  • Scheduling and timing issues for the conference and the big request for more free time from attendees.
  • The approach to post-event interaction and conversation and the impromptu way things played out.
  • Possibilities for the growth of the video chat feature for the event in the future.
  • How listeners can get involved and check out the open-source space.
  • This week's picks! TV series, movies, audiobooks, games, and more!


  • “I think trying to have a digital-physical hybrid event is inherently a flawed strategy. I don't think it is possible to do it in a way that the people who are attending one of the two events don't feel like they are getting the sub-par experience.” — @lazerwalker [0:26:22]
  • “Providing a novel space itself is inherently valuable, because you are giving people the chance to escape and this feels like something new in a way that a physical event space feels like something new.” — @lazerwalker [0:27:31]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Special Guest: Em Lazer-Walker.

Audio Player