Bored Ape Yacht Club company Yuga Labs says it is "aware of the eye-related issues" suffered by attendees of the ApeFest Hong Event that took place over the weekend, and is encouraging people experiencing symptoms "to seek medical attention just in case."
ApeFest Hong Kong was a three-day event for Bored Ape and Mutant Ape owners. It was basically blockchain BlizzCon: A Mecca for NFT true believers promising community events, meetups with fellow JPG owners, "exclusive merchandise" (of course), and a series of musical events to close things out. Initially at least, it seemed that a good time was had by all, although the festive atmosphere may have been dampened now and then by moments of commiseration over the very big, ugly, obviously-this-was-going-to-happen NFT market crash.
Not long after that closing concert, however, something appeared to be not quite right with ApeFest attendees. "Anyone else’s eyes burning from last night?" Feld4014 tweeted on November 5. "Woke up at 3am with extreme pain and ended up in the ER. I saw a couple reports but just trying to figure out if there was a common thread."
It was indeed a common thread.
In a more detailed breakdown of his experience, crypto_birb said he was diagnosed with "photokeratitis," a condition that occurs when eyes are exposed to UV light. Welding without adequate eye protection can cause it (commonly known as "arc eye"), and snow blindness is another form of photokeratitis. It's basically like a sunburn of your corneas, and like sunburns, the good news is that in most cases the condition is temporary (as long as you stop doing whatever it was you were doing to cause the problem in the first place) and the bad news is that it until it clears up, it can be very painful.
Eventually, Yuga Labs acknowledged the issue via the Bored Ape Yacht Club Twitter account.
"Apes, we are aware of the eye-related issues that affected some of the attendees of ApeFest and have been proactively reaching out to individuals since yesterday to try and find the potential root causes," it tweeted on November 6, the day after reports of injuries first began to surface. "Based on our estimates, we believe that much less than 1% of those attending and working the event had these symptoms.
"While nearly everyone has indicated their symptoms have improved, we encourage anybody who feels them to seek medical attention just in case."
In a statement sent to PC Gamer, a Yuga Labs representative said it is "aware of the situation and are taking it seriously."
"We are actively reaching out to and are in touch with those affected," the rep said. " We’re also pursuing multiple investigative lines of inquiry to learn the true root cause.
"Based on our estimates, the 15 people we’ve been in direct communication with so far represent less than one percent of the approximately 2,250 event attendees and staff at our Saturday night event. We are not in a position to confirm the cause or speculate on how we'll avoid it in the future, until the investigation is complete."
I don't want to come off as overly critical, but 'we temporarily blinded fewer than 1% of the people who came to our show' doesn't strike me as a particularly great response to people who suffered potentially serious injuries at your event. That's especially true if your 'proactive outreach' is only targeting people who posted on social media about it: It's not clear how exactly Yuga is approaching the problem but if, more than 24 hours after the incident, it's only managed to speak to 15 of the 2,250 people at the show, at the very least I have to think that maybe it's not really seeing the whole picture.
A rep later clarified that Yuga Labs is "reaching out to those affected, and some of those also reached out directly to us."
"We are distressed by these reports, as nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our community, many of whom we spent significant Facetime with over the weekend—they reached out directly by DMs on social media, and we monitored other community members posts and reached out to them when we saw they had been affected," the Yuga Labs rep said. "Right now, we are continuing investigating alongside our ApeFest vendors and contractors to identify the potential source(s) of these issues. We will provide updates as we can.
"Any impacted attendees are encouraged to reach out to us via social media DMs and share information about their experience and symptoms to assist our investigation. We are grateful for our community’s patience and cooperation, and continued good spirits about ApeFest 2023."
It will be very interesting to see what happens next but I strongly suspect, as others have suggested, that lawyers will be involved.
On the other hand, it's possible that the Bored Ape Yacht Club really doesn't see this as anything to worry about—a flash in the pan, so to speak. A couple hours after tweeting the "sorry we blinded you" message, it retweeted a video of the event that allegedly blinded people. The responses did not disappoint.
I've reached out to Yuga Labs for more information and will update if I receive a reply.