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Thu, Sep. 27th, 2007, 10:26 pm
codename_windy: Costume Contest Problems

I'm far from being a local con attendee; I'd even venture to guess I was the most far away person present, this including the Japanese guests of honor and two girls of Scotland. I live in Finland and I have come to enjoy the USA anime convention scene, so I try to attend to a con per year, seeing as that is as much as is even distantly possible finantially for a university student. Last year I went to Anime Expo, due to their choise of guests and this year I wanted something a bit better organized and friendly. I had had very good experience with Nan Desu Kan previously and it had been one of my favourite cons by far, so I was happy to return there. However, this year I was let down and disappointed by the organizing of the costume and cosplay event to the point where I don't see myself returning to NDK again.

I love cosplay and the cosplay&costume contest is always the highlight of any con I go to. Regardless of guests or programs, I have come to count on the con being worth it because of the cosplay. Two years ago, when I was at NDK the previous time, I participated in the costume contest with no problems and was looking forward to part-taking again. My local friend, whom with I was, works in the dealer's room and I had agreed to help her out with her booth, since the dealer's room can be quite hectic at times. Over an hour before the costume&cosplay contest sign up, we went to talk to the information booth in the dealer's room and they said they didn't know anything and send us to ops for more information.

Anyone who has worked at the dealers' room knows that it can get quite crazy and overhelming for a single person to handle, so we were hoping that we wouldn't need to stand in line for the costume&cosplay contest. After checking with the ops for what time the cosplay&costume contest sign up would start, we explained our situation to them and they assured us that since we were dealers, it would be certainly ok for us to just stop by when the signing up began and not have to stand in line for over an hour. With relieved and reassured state of mind, we went back to help provide the other con attendees with their much desired merchandise.

At the correct time, my friend went to sign us up, but rather soon returned saying that the cosplay sign up stuff had refused to do so. I was baffled and upset and we got a friend of ours to mind the booth as we run to try to sort this out. We pleaded our case, explaining how we were dealers, how we had been told by the ops that we could do this, how if we had been told we need to line up, we would had found a way to do despite its inconvience and would had been first in line, how I was from Finland... and we got the cold shoulder. The volunteer staff was sympathetic but the head of cosplay&costume, who had the ultimate say, refused to do anything and told us we should had signed up online if we wanted to make sure.

I have now looked at the online cosplay&costume sign up. Neither of us had really *noticed* the online sign up possibility before (which we also explained), but we were told it was "very clearly there". It is indeed stated at the end of the costume&cosplay rules, but we really had not seen any real obvious reason to go read the rules through carefully, since we have done this before and there had not been big notices of changes. We did notice the big news box "Cosplay Competition Signup is LIVE!", since we did keep frequent eye on the page and the forums due to our dealer status, but that news refers to only *cosplay competition*, which we had learned in our previous NDK costuming times means solely the cosplay contest and not the *costume* contest, which is what we wanted.

However, none of that really matters, because we *could not have* signed up even if we had understood from the vaque information that we should do it. The online sign-up was only available for people who have pre-registrated as individuals, which we had not since we were, as mentioned before, dealers. Dealers badges do not have our names or anything, just the store we represent. All this means is that we were told we should have done something that was not made available or possible for us and since we had not done this impossible thing, it was our own fault.

I don't really have words to explain how shocked, upset and disappointed I was. I broke down crying right there and my friend had to guide me back to our room. On our way, we run into several con attendees as well as staff members, who expressed their concern over me. We told them the situation and all of them very really shocked. They all told us that surely if we explained the situation, there could be some arrangements made and they were even more shocked and clearly felt bad for us, when we said we had explained and had gotten such rude response. One of the staff members told us that maybe we should go to the ops to get them to help us plead our case, since they did give us the misinformation and maybe them confirming that would help. We were desperate, so we went to get one of the ops, who helpfully did come with us and did confirm our story, but it was still to no avail. Nothing we said or did got any other reply than "too bad, sucks to be you".

To sum it all up: we were not given an actual chance to sign up ahead online, we were given misinformation on how to go about it and were denied the chance to enter the costume contest, added with more misinformation given with a superior attidute (of how we should had signed online if we wanted to assure getting in).

Also, I feel the type of attidute we encountered from the cosplay staff head, of seeing con-goers as inferior is especially inappropriate when it comes to costume and cosplay contest. It is one of the most popular events of the con and the very point of that event is created by con-goers themselves; the cosplayers. With most events, the superiority of the staff could be understandable, if still inappropriate, when it is events that the staff has created for the con-goers to enjoy. Costume and cosplay contest however are created and made possible just as much by the con-goers, so looking down on them is just baffling.

As I said, I love cosplay and it is always the highlight of my con. This time that highlight was totally ruined and destroyed. After the way we had been threated, added to the depression of not being able to do the contest that I had planned for half a year, I could not even find it in me to go as audience. When you spend 1300 dollars on plane tickets alone, having the main event of your con experience be denied in fashion such as this and with such rudeness was a huge blow and disappointment.

I am also not upset simply because of the loss I experienced in making the bad decision of putting so much time and money into attending to NDK, but because the type of cold, inflexible and superior way that we were threated was something no rule-abiding con-goer should have to face. Even if it had not been me, I feel that the cosplay&costume high-ups should had actually tried to be helpful, especially since our situation was purely due to being misinformed by official con staff. Making extra special case of taking an extra entry surely would not had bumbed the schedule that askew or even taking us into the line, since that is where we would had been if we had been told correct info. Had I been in the line and someone with our situation had showed up, I'd been upset if I didn't fit, but would had felt it was the fair way to go. I feel at the very least they should had taken up our information for a possible cancelation slot, in case there somehow turned out to be room.

The rest of my experiences with NDK have still been very positive and I would like to add my thanks and praise to the wonderful people who made those other events and general order. I'd also like to thank all the other con attendees who were nice and friendly; especially the ones I met in my crushed state. However, with how important cosplay is to me, that single rude, unfriendly and unreasonable experience very nearly ruined the whole con for me and I cannot see myself taking that risk with NDK again, as sad as it makes me.

Thu, Sep. 27th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)

Have you thought about putting this up on the NDK forums? It might really reach more people there and perhaps quite a few of the staff. It'll help to bring the problem to the fore front.

I'm sorry it didn't work out well for you, that's a horrible way to experience a con, and I assure you I've heard of a lot of the same type of situation, both from audience, judges, and those who participated. Either way, it might be better to post it there as well.

Thu, Sep. 27th, 2007 08:08 pm (UTC)

I agree. I don't believe a lot of the con staff reads the livejournal forums. Post this directly to the NDK forums and hopefully that will help get your story heard.

There were a lot of snafus with the masquerade this year of which staff is well aware, but having you give a unique perspective is very helpful.

Thu, Sep. 27th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)

Thank you for the reply. Posting to the forums was definitely in my plan, and has been done now. I posted here as well because I felt the issue deserves to be seen by as many people as possible to hopefully ensure that no one else has to face similar thing in the future.

Thu, Sep. 27th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC)

First I want to say I'm so sorry that this happened to you. I wasn't on the cosplay staff, merely a guest judge, but I know how heart-breaking that must have been, especially from coming from so far away. What's even sadder is that it has ruined any want to come back to the con in the future. Again, I completely sympathize with the opinion, but I know I would love to see you in the contest at some point. So please don't give up on the con as a whole without making sure that's what you really want to do. If it is, I think everyone would understand why.

I'm glad that you posted in the forums, since I know that the cosplay-head actively checks there and she'll be sure to read it.

Thu, Sep. 27th, 2007 10:00 pm (UTC)

Nearly the same exact thing happened to me last year. Actually, I was shocked reading through your post because there are only a few minor details in your story that don't match up with mine. I had my fair share of complaining last year, and this year I'm reporting all the other commissioners and contestants who competed, but did not enter in the Masters Category and/or their correct category like their supposed to. If you're going to set up a system with all these rules and categories, then it should apply to every contestant and not only "select" contestants that are more well-known. I admit the cosplay/costume contest went a lot more smoothly for me this year. For Example, the times were actually on the schedule, which is really nice when ops and other staff members tell you the incorrect information. I learned last year that I can't rely on the reassurance and information distributed by ops and the staff members because most of them don't have the slightest idea what the heck is going on with the cosplay/costume contest. This year I dealt directly with Katie, and I was actually able to compete. She even went out of her way to remind me of registration times during the convention. I can truly sympathize with you because I experienced the same exact thing and felt very cheated. I was so upset and stressed that I was just speechless.

I HAVE to enter the Masters Category every year because I commission costumes. Last year would have been my first year competing at the Masters level. Not having prior experience with working on large elaborate costumes, I took on Twinrova from the Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. Being a good business women I always put my customers before myself which left me with no choice but to finish sewing and working on my costume Friday-Saturday of NDK without any sleep. After all that work, I manged to get my costume completed to the point where I could enter it in the contest. Three different people I talked to throughout the day in Ops told me 6:00 is when the costume contestants were supposed to meet and sign in. So that's when I showed up. But apparently I couldn't compete because I didn't "follow" the rules and my pre-registered slot had been given away to someone who they had to ask to compete in the Masters Category, and they gave the rest of the slots to the beginners. So much for online registration. I'm also considering not returning to NDK.

Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 03:07 am (UTC)

The division system is a good thing. However, unless the people doing registration personally know everyone who is signing up, they need to take the registrants at the word that they are entering at the appropriate level. If the entrants don't know which division to enter, the people taking the registrations needs to be able to effectively question the entrants about their abilities and past accomplishments to be able to properly classify them. The person in charge should also have the authority to move people up if they are adequately informed in advance that a person is entered at a lower than appropriate level.

Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 05:06 am (UTC)

That's true. I have informed Katie of one person so far, but it definitely wasn't something I could address during the convention. Prior to the contest I wasn't aware of the categories any of the contestants were competing in.