Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Daily Gripes as a Gaijin

So I'm in living Japan again, after about two and a half years.

I'm not coming here with the same feelings that I had the last time I moved here. If you're familiar with the opening to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (which I'm sure you are) when Will is skeptical about moving at first and says "Hmm, this might be alright!" that's a somewhat accurate representation of how I feel, only slightly less positive.

There's a lot I like about being in Japan, but not so much about living here.

Take for instance, separating garbage, which is a task in itself. I wish it was more like the U.S. in which we only have to separate trash and recyclables, not "burnable trash," "non-burnable trash," and then about seven or eight types of recyclables. It seems like a noble effort to save the environment, until you see all the plastic Japan uses for packaging items and the mountains of unwanted items on clearance at the secondhand anime goods shop.

I've also come to realize that I'm not fond of being in Tokyo on weekends, especially on Sunday. I was just there yesterday for a day trip, and I felt like everyone was walking so slow. There are tons of tourists. And because Sunday is a day off for many Japanese people as well, they're also around.

Dealing with bugs and pests also seems to be inevitable. Fortunately this time I'm not living in the deep countryside, so as far as I know, I don't need to worry about large spider webs and geckos. But for some reason, my new apartment has quite a few fruit flies that seem to love bothering me, and I'm spending money that I don't want to spend just to try to extinguish them.

The windows are also a joke. Apparently there is no such thing as insulation when it comes to windows in Japan, so my apartment is even colder than it should be.

My job, while not really a bad job at all, just doesn't give me the freedom and flexibility I want. I only get to take a vacation and travel during high-travel seasons, which tends to be more chaotic and expensive. In fact, my vacation days have actually been decided for me. (I'm not at liberty to discuss my work conditions in detail right now, but it's one of the main reasons why I hope to be working elsewhere a year from now).

But fortunately, it's not an all-bad experience. Even though all of the post offices are at least a ten-minute bicycle ride, at least re-delivery when I miss a package is much more flexible compared to the US. And even though the bus stop to go to central Tokyo is a 20-minute walk, at least I have affordable access to Tokyo (it's about $35 round-trip and takes a little under two hours).

Japan is no paradise. The average American right now may think their country is bad, but Japan has their own issues. (Anyone who might be reading this and is feeling angry by what I’m saying, is part of Japan's problem.) There are people who can easily turn a blind eye towards the things that make Japan problematic for its inhabitants (especially those who are non-Japanese or whose appearance doesn't otherwise conform to "Japaneseness"), but based on my experiences and observations, I can't say that Japan isn't some kind of "one-size-fits-all" wonderland for the people who come here. It's a beautiful, great place to visit for vacation, but living here isn't for everyone. And that's coming from someone who speaks Japanese and has lived most of their adult life in Japan.

There is a Japanese proverb that goes, "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down." For foreigners and Japanese people of mixed heritage, it can feel like we're nails being pulled out even as we fight to stay in.

That's why my slogan to answer the "How's living in Japan?" question I'm asked over and over is, ”It's life."

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Video Gamer Gauntlet: #CruiseCon, Cruise Controversy, Cruise "Conned"?

Back in June, it was announced that the grand prize for the cosplay contest at the inaugural Blerdcon in Arlington, Virginia would be an all-expenses paid trip for 2 to the 1st cruise for gaming and tech, the Video Gamer Gauntlet hosted by a company called Gamer Tech Events.

While I had entered the contest just to push myself, I was shocked to learn that I had won. Being recognized was all that was on my mind until I was reminded by the people around me that this cruise that was going to the Bahamas was the prize. I had never been to the Bahamas and had never been on a cruise, so this was exciting!

After getting info about registration and such, I looked up the event, looked at my calendar, discussed it briefly with my dad (who I selected to be my +1), and eventually registered through Eventbrite. All I needed to do was get in touch with the Blerdcon Chair about airfare to Port Canaveral, Florida, the place from which the ship was to depart.

It was from Hilton that I found out about the incident, and so I went to investigate, starting with social media. If you look up articles, tweets and videos about this event, you can get more information than what I'm willing to outline here, since I don't like to be repetitive by reporting what other people already have; I'm writing to express my thoughts about matters connected to the incident.

"Why hadn't I heard about this cruise?" 

I don't know the logistics behind getting sponsors and charters and whatnot, but when it came to gaining awareness among the gaming community, the biggest issue I noticed was inefficient use of social media. The Gamer Tech Events Twitter had been around since May of last year. I get that getting reach on social media is hard, but when you scroll through their Twitter feed, there is a glaring issue: Many of these pro gamers and some of the cosplayer guests who were invited were either tagging the incorrect Twitter/Instagram handle, or at some point in time Gamer Tech Events decided to change their handle, thus making all previous mentions invalid.

At the time I am writing this post:
  • The official TWITTER handle for Gamer Tech Events is @gamertechevents.
  • The official INSTAGRAM handle for Gamer Tech Events is @gamertechevents.
  • The official Facebook page title for Gamer Tech Events is Gamer Tech Events, with an @ handle of @VideoGamerGauntlet.

For the past few months, the mentioned handles I’ve been seeing are @vgugamergauntle on Twitter and @vgugamergauntlet on Instagram. If you try to look those up, you get what looks like a fake account and no account at all, respectively. Since I wasn’t there from the beginning, I’m not sure if Gamer Tech Events decided to change their handle along the way, or if these guests/sponsors were typing in what they thought was correct and just picked the first name that showed up in their suggestions. I’m guessing it was the former.

See that Twitter handle on the right? Look up "vgugamergauntle" and see where it leads.

So even though @gamertechevents, the current Twitter, was retweeting all of these people who were mentioning their event, there was little to no engagement there. Judging from their feed, their reach was quite impressive; I was surprised by the people they had managed to get to promote (or at least mention) this cruise on social media. But either the wrong username was tagged, or Gamer Tech Events unwisely changed their name at some point. While low social media outreach isn't necessarily a death sentence, the username problems/changes are not good for a company that is JUST getting started.

"I've heard both sides--who do I believe?"

I won't tell you who to believe. This is at least the second time that I've been connected with something that had accusations against them, either for being a scam or for not being transparent enough. And after the fact, I take a look at things to try to gauge my trust in someone. I always try to see both sides in everything, and not just hearing what a person is saying or showing us in pictures, but looking at how they behave. I'll say that it's easier to trust someone and give them a chance when you have nothing to lose. For me, this cruise was gonna be free; if it didn't happen, I'd just move on. For people who invested hundreds and thousands of dollars? They'd probably be a little more anxious than me.

" it really a scam? And if it isn't, is it still gonna happen at this point?"

Believe what you will, but honestly, I think it's reasonable to believe in either outcome. I think Curtis (the CEO of Gamer Tech Events) had every intention of making this cruise into a reality, and I think he's still trying. The idea of gaming and being on a cruise is an awesome idea, and I think everyone would LOVE for something like this to happen and be a success, regardless of what it's called, when it is and where it's going.

One thing for sure is that poor planning, poor advertisement, poor public relations, low social media outreach, and not a lot of time is more than enough to dismantle an event. Dashcon and Fyre Festival were disasters due to poor management, and because of that, people are very wary of these new cons and festivals popping up. I hope that people can learn from experiences like this. We're living in a "startup age" (one that may end soon) where everyone has an idea. But not all founders make great CEOs.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cosplayer Profile: celsius

While I've never really spoken much to celsius in person, I became familiar with her through MaeMae Twin, the cosplayer I featured in April. I was delighted to find out that she shares a deep love for Japanese anime and games like I do! As a fellow UtaPri fan, I hope I can cosplay with her sometime soon!!

Arietta the Wild from Tales of the Abyss - Dark Alchemy Photography

Name: celsius
Nationality: African and Native American
Gender: Female
Top 3 Favorite Series: Shin Megami Tensei Persona series, Tales of series, Uta no Prince-sama
Special Talent: Voice acting... at least I would like to think I'm good at it.

When and how did you get into cosplay?

I remember watching Sailor Moon at 6AM am during my grammar school days and always wanted to be a senshi (because who doesn't want to be a kickass female who is a defender of love and justice at age six?). As I grew up with anime, I discovered more and more characters I resonated with. And even when I did my first cosplay (Rinoa from FFVIII) at seventeen I didn't realize that cosplay was a thing in line of “dressing up as a character”; I just wanted to be the character. I may have started cosplaying in 2003, but I didn't really consider myself a cosplayer until 2006.

What’s the biggest distinction between yourself in costume and yourself out of costume?

Pulling the Persona card here, but I'm a huge hermit. I social overload pretty easily now to the point where after a con (doesn't matter if it's one or three days), I'll disappear for weeks on end. It used to only be a week. I like being around people, learning new things, and doing panels at conventions, but I can't handle it like I used to. Extrovert turned introvert I guess.

Also in cosplay, I make it a point to not look like me... so people sometimes have a hard time recognizing me outside of cosplay and honestly, I rather keep it that way haha.

Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4 (Photo: Soul Drive Photography)

What difference has cosplay made in your life?

It's made a substantial difference. I may look happy and super interactive on the outside, but I use cosplay as escape from the reality of how my life's card has been dealt, and believe me, I have a pretty crappy hand and I've gotten pretty good at bluffing.

In those moments of cosplay, I forget who I am, my problems, situations I'm unable to tackle at the moment to be someone else and enjoy the company of others. Of course, I have to go back to said issues, but that temporary escape is something I need in my life to I think what a lot of people tend to forget is that we're people too. Some of us have great lives and others not so much. So we need that break to just destress from real life (even though cosplay is it's own stress haha)

Negativity aside, I've made some good friends in this hobby and lost some too. But in doing so, I've been able to find out who I am and have grown as a person. Not to mention that my creativity has gone through the roof. I just need to challenge myself more.

What would you tell someone who wants to get into cosplay but is afraid of being ridiculed? What would you say to someone who would ridicule you or other cosplayers? 
Have you ever been bullied by anyone for your cosplay? Have you ever been sexually harassed by someone while in cosplay?

I'd like to combine these, if that's okay. I run Cosplay 101 panels and some times I get parents in said panel and they're worried about their child's safety physically and mentally. And I say, “cosplay is a way of self-expression and a way to challenge oneself. My dad used to ask me why I cosplay and why I decide to spend money on this. And I would tell him, 'Dad, would you rather it be 3am and you have no idea where I am or hear sewing machine noises coming from my room?''

I also tell them that as cosplayers and especially ones that are older, we've been through a lot of negativity and some of have had to deal with “Cosplay is not consent” ourselves. But if you worry about your child and these events, one thing is us cosplayers look out for one another. So if something is going on, tell them to never be afraid to approach another cosplay with their concerns. Hell, if I'm at the con, come find me. A lot of us know how to handle situations with being harassed. We shouldn't be, but we do.

Otoya Ittoki from Uta no Prince-sama: Debut (Photo: Otaku-Haven)

We do this hobby for ourselves. Some may do it for fame and others not so much. But we do this for ourselves and not for anyone else. I've gotten side comments for people who just see it as immature dress up and some other comments of calling me outside of my name because of the color of my skin. I grew up in a time where 4chan was a prominent side of trolling and cosplay hate. But when you do something you love, you can't let what other people think get you down. Don't let people trample on your passion. It doesn't matter if it's for cosplay, theater, arts, or just getting ahead in life (as long as its within the law). Don't let anyone put you down.

I've been trolled, low key sexually harassed, and stalked in cosplay. But I've also been admired, a role model, and inspiration for others in this hobby. I do cosplay because it feels good and right. It may hurt with a couple of pricks of pins, iron burns, and being stabbed with scissors to the hip (and yes I've done all of these things), but I'm still here and surrounded by amazing people.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Be encouraging. Be uplifting. Be true to yourself.

Kagamine Rin from Vocaloid (Pair of Wintry Winds). Photo by Kema Photo

Celsius has gorgeous cosplay photos and also offers services on her Facebook page as a voice actress and a panelist as well! You can find her on the following:

Want to tell your story or know a cosplayer who might be interested in telling theirs? See my Cosplayer Profile Questionnaire here!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Stapre: An App for Getting LINE Stickers

I know there are still a lot of people who still want to get Japan-exclusive LINE stickers and have given up because all of the guides floating around are out-of-date and/or require a VPN and tiptoe-ing around account settings.

If you have an Android phone, there’s an app called タダでスタンプ取り放題&登録不要!スタプレ (スタプレ or Stapre for short) that you can use to collect coins, which you can exchange for stickers and themes in the Japanese LINE Store. The app is found in the Play Store, but if you don’t have a compatible Android device, you can Google Search for an APK file of the app and manually install it.

The app is entirely in Japanese, so if you need help I made a quick guide: 

Some extra notes:
  • You can get coins from other activities like downloading apps and signing up for stuff, but because it’s a Japan-based app, you won’t be able to download and run some apps to get the credit, and signups may require a Japanese address or phone number. So I recommend sticking to games.
  • After your very first play of a game it will ask you to input a name for posting high scores and such. This resets after 24 hours and you’ll have to input a name again, so just watch out for that.
  • Some bonus coins aren’t granted immediately; wait 24 hours and they should show up in the app.
  • If you enter an invalid URL when applying for stickers, it could take as long as a week for them to return your coins, so make sure you get the URL right the first time!
Depending on how much time you have to play the games, it can take a few days to a few weeks to get 100 coins, but it definitely works! I'm still pretty new to using the app so there are still some features I haven't used yet.
Unfortunately I haven’t found an equivalent service for iOS, so iPhone users will have to find a generous Android user who’s willing to play games and get stickers for them. I can confirm that you can have stickers sent to someone other than yourself, provided you have their LINE URL.

Hope this guide helps! Have fun!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Cosplayer Profile: Luna Mirage

Lisa, AKA Luna Mirage, is not only a fellow Sailor Moon and Uta no Prince-sama cosplayer, but was also my travel buddy during a recent trip to Tokyo! Her passion and loyalty are such treasures that any friend would want to have on their side--it's no wonder she makes a perfect Sailor Moon and Kurusu Syo, and even her birthday is in the same month as the two characters! Happy Birthday, Luna Mirage!

Sailor Moon (Event: Anime Boston 2014)

Name: Lisa or Luna Mirage is my cosplay name
Nationality: Italian, First Generation American
Age: 31
Gender: Female
Location: NYC
Top 3 Favorite Series: Sailor Moon, Uta Pri and Ouran HS Host Club
Special Talent: Not sure, I like learning all kinds of things, so I do a bit of everything. ^^;;

When and how did you get into cosplay?

Back in 2009 I made new friends at a local con, one day they invited me to go with them to Otakon and asked if I can cosplay Basil from Reborn. I wasn't sure at first, but since it was normal clothing & didn't have to know anything about the anime to take photos I thought "why not?"

After having lots of fun being in cosplay and enjoying the photo shoots I thought, I want to do this again! I had a friend help me make Sailor Jupiter for the next Otakon gathering. It was so much fun!!! Then I decided to make my own cosplays, it could be fun to do. I never sewn or used a sewing machine in my life! I did lots of research and practice to make my first cosplay, Sailor Moon, in 2013. It was very challenging, but I was so proud of myself making this cosplay on my own that I wanted to do more! That I did! I went from cosplaying many characters from Sailor Moon to Syo from UtaPri! There is so much I want to do now, but so little time, lol.

What’s the biggest distinction between yourself in costume and yourself out of costume?
I feel that when I am in costume, surrounded by people who are similar to me, I open up more and can be myself. It feels very free that I can be my true self. I tend to talk a lot more and my shy/quiet self goes away. Otherwise in normal wear in an average life, I feel I have to hide my true self and be the “standard” person in order to avoid people giving weird looks or judging me.

Though I have realized over the years, who cares if people judge you, be who you are! It is because I started to cosplay many years ago, I started to open up more to new people, make new friends and stop, not completely, being quiet and shy. It broke my shell of many years of hiding in it.

In the last 2 years or so, I have started to open up myself to my coworkers with a show and tell of my costumes. They love seeing them and encourage me to do more. I was afraid of judgement this whole time, when there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place.

Human Luna from Sailor Moon

Is there a recurring theme for your costume choices? If so, what is that theme?

Yes! At first my goal was to do all the Sailor Senshi & certain side/villains characters from Sailor Moon. As of right now, I am missing 3 Sailor Senshi and a few villains, but I’m slowly changing it to just cosplaying my favorite characters. I love cosplaying the characters I can relate to and understand them. I feel a close bond to them and want to dress as them so I can be them when I wear it. Will I go back to my original goal? Maybe? As of right now I have more fun being a character I can relate to.

What would you tell someone who wants to get into cosplay but is afraid of being ridiculed? And what would you say to someone who would ridicule you or other cosplayers?

I learned things the hard way, but my best advice is to do what you love and who cares if people judge you. Never let them get to you! It’s your life and your happiness. You want to cosplay your favorite character, but afraid of your weight/height/race? Who cares! Just cosplay that character! I personally am short and yet I cosplay Sailor Jupiter--one of the tallest characters--because she is one of my favorites. Yeah, there are people who will judge me for not being accurate, but I don’t let it get to me.

Cosplay is for fun, not a competition. You do it because you love it. If anyone does something negative to you, tell a friend, relative, people running the con, security, etc.. There are people in the community that will help you out. You are not alone. I am rooting for you! You can do it!! ^o^

If someone were to say something negative to someone about their cosplay, I would cheer up the person who got hurt by that comment. That person who started it isn’t worth my time or energy to talk to. The person who matters the most is the one who got hurt by that comment. If that person were to keep on going I would confront them and asked them to leave after they apologize. I have been really lucky I never gotten in that situation before, but I would always defend those who were hurt.

What would you like to tell others about cosplay in your own country?

It’s a lot of fun and the community is really friendly. I love that during a con we can go out and eat in costume and no one minds at all. I have even gotten compliments on my way to a convention in NYC wearing my cosplay. Some even ask for more information about my outfit or the convention.

Syo Kurusu from "Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love Revolutions"

In addition to cosplay, Lisa does other crafts as well as drawing and is very devoted to collecting Sailor Moon items! She also took many photos on her first trip to Tokyo, during which I accompanied her! You can find her work and other activities on the following:

Want to tell your story or know a cosplayer who might be interested in telling theirs? See my Cosplayer Profile Questionnaire here!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Cosplayer Profile: MaeMae Twin

Notes from Sooyong: Despite having cosplayed for a few years, I didn't really have any cosplayer friends and becoming long-term acquaintances with cosplayers was difficult until I met MaeMae during Otakon 2011, due to our common love for Dynasty Warriors. While our cosplays don't overlap very often, meeting her was one of my most memorable experiences when it came to expanding my social circle as a cosplayer.

Mitsuki Konishi from "The World Ends with You" (Photographer: Houkakyou Cosplay & Photography)

Name: Mae Mae Twin
Nationality: Chinese American
Gender: Female
Top 3 Favorite Series: Why three? So hard! Hahaha. If I were to choose--Trinity Blood, Dynasty Warriors, and Kingdom Hearts.
Special Talent: Illustration (digital and traditional pencil) and cooking

When and how did you get into cosplay?

Summer 2008--without realizing it was cosplay? I was playing one of my favorite series- Dynasty Warriors (6 to be exact) and played as Yue Ying, who was a character I loved. One day I decided I wanted to try to replicate her design into a real outfit. I went to the fabric store for the necessary materials, looked online for a wig, and even went to my first con- Otakon! This was all before I had known this was cosplay (I learned about it at the con and did later research). Since then, I’ve been cosplaying ever since!

Guan Yinping from "Dynasty Warriors 8" (Photographer: Plumvs project progress)

Is there a recurring theme for your costume choices? If so, what is that theme?

The theme changes so often, but one theme that I’m known for is choosing designs with the colors green, white, and gold without realizing it. And those aren’t my favorite colors. It’s blue.

Character-wise for the women/girls- I choose from the cute to the mature. It really all depends on the design grabbing my attentions. For men/boys- I only choose shouta characters because I know I can only pull of those types of characters based on my body type.

Leafa from "Sword Art Online" (Photographer: William Joseph Photography)

What difference has cosplay made in your life?

Cosplaying has been a positive influence on my life in a lot of aspects. It has let me become more outgoing and social while being able to learn how to be more observant of my surroundings and people while at conventions and events. I have also been able to meet amazing people that I can call my friends in real life. (Love you guys!) Cosplay also continues to let me learn new skills in design and illustration (a heavy influence), sewing skills, and how to gauge things like budget, mock-ups, etc. I’m going on to nine years and not sure how long I will keep doing this but I love it.

Are you open to your peers and family about being a cosplayer?

Yes and no. I base it on how I know the person and the “relationship” we have. Some of my friends and family are supportive while some think it’s a waste of time and money and/or it’s just plain weird. Those who support it enjoy the processes I go through for the cosplay making and the transformations. I even get to cosplay once in a while with my twin sister!

Dori and Gura from "Utawarerumono" (Photographer: Lazy Cat Cosplay & Photogrpahy)

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There are many things I would like to add but I will list what I think would be major points:
  • Cosplay is for anyone- no matter what age/gender/size/nationality. Do cosplay for yourself and not for others (and for fun!) 
  • This is an expensive and time consuming hobby- plan accordingly and don’t be afraid to go budget. If you can’t afford the expense- save up. 
  • Real life anything takes TOP PRIORITY over this hobby. If you need to put it on hold- do so. Cons will be around and so will cosplay. Your peers will understand. 

MaeMae has so many more amazing cosplay and work-in-progress photos that you should check out!! You can find her on the following:

Want to tell your story or know a cosplayer who might be interested in telling theirs? See my Cosplayer Profile Questionnaire here!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Guide to Cosplayer Gatherings and Fan Meetups

I recently volunteered to organize a schedule for cosplay gatherings and fan meetings for a new convention coming up this summer, and after I wrote up the form and the spreadsheet, I decided to make a guide for people who are unfamiliar with gatherings and meetups as well as those who want to host one. The terminology used here is my own and may be different depending on the convention; this blog post is based on my own experience participating in and running gatherings, and contains some general information on how such events might work.

What's the difference between a Cosplay Gathering and a Fan Meetup?

A cosplay gathering is a get-together of cosplayers from a particular series or theme. A fan meetup is a general meeting of people who are interested in a series or theme, regardless of whether or not they cosplay. The theme can be as general or as specific as you want. Here are some examples:

  • Dragonball Z Cosplay Gathering
  • Fans of Fighting Games
  • Harley Quinn Cosplayers
  • Lolita Fashion Enthusiasts
  • Pokemon Go Players
  • Cosplayers of Anime Idols

I'm not a cosplayer, can I still attend a Cosplay Gathering to watch and take pictures?

Yes! You can take pictures or watch the cosplayers, but please be sure to not distract them, as their character may be called by the organizer for group photos. If you are looking to take photos of a particular cosplayer, it's best to wait until the organizer has wrapped up and/or the cosplayer is ready to break away for solo shots. If you happen to come across a group of cosplayers during a convention, make sure you find out whether it is a gathering or a private shoot. Cosplayers and their photographers may find it distracting and rude when a passerby stops to snap a picture during a private shoot. At a meetup, always ask first before taking photos. Some meetup attendees may feel self-conscious or may not want their picture taken for privacy reasons.

What is the role of the gathering/meetup organizer?

As organizer of a cosplay gathering, you are responsible for scheduling the event and deciding the location. You should also show up to the location early to welcome spectators; let attendees know in advance what you'll be wearing (or provide a photo) so they know who to look for and talk to. During the event you're in charge of calling out characters for group pictures (ex. "All Harley Quinns for a group photo!") and keeping track of how much time they have before they break for another group to come in. Taking photos typically lasts no longer than a minute or two--when it's time to wrap up, count down, "5! 4! 3! 2! 1!..." and be ready to call the next group.

For fan meetups, the activities are up to you--you can have a fun game planned, take selfies, or just let everyone chat. Don't feel alarmed or upset if people may not want to do what you have planned--the most important thing is that everyone attending is having a good time. But if you really want something to happen, make your plans known in advance so that people know what to expect.

If you are hosting a gathering or meetup for the first time, consider themes where 20 or less people are to be expected, or have someone be a co-organizer with you, as large groups can be overwhelming to manage. You should also be good at being a leader and projecting your voice so that the group knows that you are in charge. And most importantly, be polite! Don't be too controlling or bossy with directions and after the gathering/meetup has wrapped up, be sure to thank everyone for attending!

I've seen "unofficial" and "official" gatherings. What's the difference?

"Official" gatherings are usually those that are published in the convention schedule or sponsored by a company, while "unofficial" gatherings are not. Official gatherings take place in spaces designated by the convention and may or may not be managed by a staff member. If a staff member has been appointed for an official gathering space, all members (including the organizer) should listen to them for any directions. When submitting a gathering idea to a convention, always read their instructions carefully!

"Unofficial" gatherings are those organized privately and take place in locations other than convention-appointed spots. You usually won't see unofficial gatherings published in the convention's program guide, but may find them posted in the forums or on Facebook. While unofficial gatherings may not get the same attention, it does have its advantages, such as a longer amount of time in a location not claimed by other organizers, potentially smaller groups, and no having to contact staff if you need to relocate, change time, or cancel. It's highly discouraged that unofficial gatherings take place in official spots unless there is an opening in the schedule and permission is granted by staff. All gatherings taking place on convention grounds, official or unofficial, are subject to the same weapon policies, dress code, and other official con regulations.

How do I find people to attend my gathering/meetup?

Creating a Facebook event page and sharing across social media is a great way to get people to attend your gathering! You can track how many people plan to attend and how many people are interested, and it's also a good way to get new information out to everyone at once. Don't worry if the number of people who RSVP is low--sometimes people don't want to fully commit to attending but will still attend when the time comes, or may not want to imply that they are attending as a cosplayer but may want to take pictures.

What do I do if I have extra time left during the gathering/meetup?

Sometimes photography at cosplay gatherings wraps up early when all members have been photographed. If you're an organizer, ask your group if anyone has any other photo requests, such as for popular couples, certain poses, or retakes in case some cosplayers have arrived late and missed their turn the first time. (If you're an attendee, let the organizer know if you have a request.) Organizers can also wrap up activities early and allow people to mingle freely, but make sure everyone clears out before the next group comes in!

This guide will be updated to address other common concerns as I think of them. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment below!