I’m tired of hearing how great things “used to be.”

Don't you miss the good old days when this was considered awesome cosplay photography??? Yeah, me neither. (Baby Lulu as Umbreon at Phoenix Comicon 2010)
Don’t you miss the good old days when this was considered awesome cosplay photography??? Yeah, me neither.
(Baby Lulu as Umbreon at Phoenix Comicon 2010)

Author’s note: I would like to preface this by saying a) I am a bit of a social media apologist… but I work in social  media and my experiences running my own social media accounts (as well as those for local conventions) helped me get my job. b) I make an honest effort to be a positive force in the community, but I am not perfect, nor will I ever claim to be.

I’m newer to the cosplay world than most of my friends. I began going to cons in January 2009, and began cosplaying in April of that same year. When I look back on it now, I think this is just when things started to change. Facebook fan pages were a controversial topic (why are YOU so important that you need a FAN page??) I ordered my first wig from Cosworx (which became what is now the Cosplay.com wig store, for you newbies), Wonderflex was the thermoplastic of choice, and I would wave hello to Jessica Nigri in the hallways at small, local conventions.

2009-2011 really was the tipping point. The community here in Arizona reflected those changes. 2009 was the last year Ani-zona ever happened (a local convention that many of my friends attended and still speak fondly of to this day). In 2010, Tucson got its first anime convention (Con-nichiwa) and Phoenix Comicon moved from Mesa to the Phoenix Convention Center (this was A Big Deal). In 2011 SabotenCon (now the largest anime convention in Arizona) moved from a small Mesa hotel to a beautiful Phoenix resort, and TaiyouCon hosted its inaugural year. This year alone saw the addition of two new comic conventions (Fan Fest and Comic & Media Expo) and Sabo is moving to the Sheraton in Downtown Phoenix, a hotel that PCC uses (again, this is A Big Deal). I’m almost used to seeing local cons in new venues and new events added every year… but when I look back I’m always amazed at how our backwoods state has cultivated a thriving geek and convention culture. If you were active in your local community in these years, I’m sure you witnessed a similar phenomenon.

I guess I don’t feel nostalgic for those simpler earlier years because I grew up alongside the community. I don’t remember what it was like when you could only buy wigs in one shade of blue, but I remember when having 500 likes on your page was a big deal. I don’t remember taking a disposable camera to Walgreens after the con, but I do remember staving off post-con depression by scavenging Facebook for my hall shots. As my costumes slowly got better, so did the photographers who captured them. As I became pickier about my materials, things like Worbla and budget-friendly lace front wigs went up for sale In many ways, I was lucky to start cosplaying when I did. The community was smaller and so was I. We grew up together – maybe that’s why I’m so defensive of it as it is now.

As I mentioned, the majority of my friends (including non-cosplayers) have been attending cons far longer than I have. So it’s not uncommon that I hear about how much “better” things were back in the day. No social media, no business cards, no competing for the attention of certain photographers, etc. “I feel sooo bad for new cosplayers, the community isn’t about friendship anymore whine whine whine!!” I get so angry when I hear this. If I was new to cosplaying, I’d certainly be turned off by the rat race for popularity… but I’d also be sad to hear the people I should be able to look up to saying, “it’s not fun anymore. It’s not about fun anymore. It used to be soooo much better.” Instead of condemning the current state of the community, why not work to improve it for everyone, veterans and newbies alike?

And as I said in a post I made not two days ago – social media is not the problem here. It’s the people who use it, and how they use it. Social media didn’t ruin cosplay, shitty people using social media to amplify their shittiness is what ruins the hobby for many people. If you buy likes, constantly beg for share-for-shares, or determine a cosplayer’s worth on their likes especially to the point where you won’t invite them as a guest or take photos of them because they don’t have a certain amount – YOU are part of the problem. You are helping to perpetuate the idea that any number can present a single snapshot of a cosplayer’s friendliness, helpfulness, and talent. A preposterous belief in and of itself, made even more so by the fact that likes and followers can be easily bought with real money and are therefore almost meaningless.

Just as easily as social media works as a shit amplifier… it can also be used as a means of spreading positivity. It can be difficult to cut through the noise, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Thanks to social media I’ve met amazing people, joined cosplay groups could only dream of, done things and been places I never imagined. We can find tutorials, meet new photographers, and find that perfect wig (or wig stylist!) with relative ease. Social media isn’t leaving. You don’t have to be crazy like me and meticulously update all your social media sites AND your website on a regular basis… but you can learn to adapt. And you can choose to be one of the good people in this community. And you can learn to use social media to amplify that.

So as a new-er cosplayer, I beg of the veterans – tell us what the old days were like. Before cosplayers had access to 3D printers and professional photographers. It’s truly amazing to hear how far our hobby has come in just a few years! But don’t say that the community is worse off now and in the same breath complain that all the good people are gone. That attitude helps keep the “good people” scared off. If you can’t find the good people, you can choose to be one. Share your knowledge and help newer cosplayers. Leave a nice comment on your kouhai’s photo. Invite the shy kid to be part of your cosplay group. These are things others have done for me that have helped shape my outlook on the community – and in return I want to do the same for others. Veteran cosplayers have a bigger impact on the newbies than they probably know. It’s probably not a responsibility you asked for… but it’s there. So I hope you’ll help leave this community as good as it was when you found it… or it really will become the hate-filled cesspool so many think it is.

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5 thoughts on “I’m tired of hearing how great things “used to be.”

  1. Nah, I feel like cosplay has become like Let’s Plays in a lot of ways. It was easy to just wave at someone at Magfest a few years ago. Now there are too many cooks and only so much attention can go around.

    It’s rather demotivating and hard to get into serious cosplay when the top people clique together, and when your success as a cosplayer seems to be based on how many traction you get on social media.

    It’s created a weird environment where I talk to people who either have too many people to talk to that are inherently more interesting or better than me, or they just fake the interest so they can get an extra like on their Facebook fanpage. The very same environment where a bunch of cosplayers I follow have nothing new to show and keep spamming something called “Share4Share”, which is where a cosplayer advertises someone’s page for an advertisement in return.

    I’ve had the chance to interact with artisan-level and master-level cosplayers, a good portion of them simply don’t get the attention I think they deserve, a Journeyman cosplayer cosplaying a popular character just seems to get more attention from the crowd. It feels that there’s a disregard for the craftsmanship involved in cosplay.

  2. I know what share-for-shares are… I mention the same phenomenon in this piece. I know how demotivating likes/popularity can be, but my point is to rise above that and just enjoy cosplay for what it is and what it can be.

    I agree that craftsmanship is disregarded, but mostly by those who aren’t cosplayers themselves. Unfortunately the only people who really understand how much work goes into costumes are people who have actually tried their hand at it… and they’re the minority.

  3. I apologize, I originally made that comment for someone’s Facebook post who shared your article and I thought I’d post it on here as well. So I wanted to make sure my comment was self-contained, and I just reposted it on here without editing it.

    I agree with you. Having the opinion that the cosplay community sucks at the moment isn’t an excuse to not try to do your part in making it better. And as much as cosplayers know how much effort goes into cosplay, the ones that I see on my wall are trying to please the people who are watching, whom in majority, are non-cosplayers.

    I think that the current ecosystem in which cosplay resides is corrosive; a lot of it is popularity driven, there are good people here and there who by nature, are altruistic. It is very hard to ignore. I do not understand why so many people are into this cult of personality when they do not understand how to market themselves or how to build a brand that is actually profitable. From a monetary standpoint, it makes a lot of sense for a Let’s Player or a Twitch streamer to get a bigger audience. But for a cosplayer? Not always. Yaya Han, for instance, know show to diversify her brand, the entirety of her business doesn’t simply sit on her making cosplay. Same for Kamui Cosplay; she managed to sell her books countless times and as of now, her storeenvy page counts more than 16000 purchases.

    I’ve staffed many conventions as a media liaison; I would deal with the media. And I’ve done my share of videography for myself and other people. This is the part where I’m going to rant about photographers; In almost all of the conventions that I’ve been to, the staff works for free; they are the required foundation in order for the convention to function. Meanwhile, tons of photographers ask for monetary compensations from cosplayers who also cosplay for free. These people have run the words “Photographer” “Studios” Productions” “Professional” into the ground since anyone with a few hundreds can go buy a Canon Rebel Kiss (AKA the Txi series) and call themselves “Super Professional Photography Studios Productions” on their facebook page. I am sick of them. /end rant.

    We need to have our own groups that are by cosplayers, and that exist to help cosplayers.

  4. As a veteran myself, thank you. I know how things used to be, but I see the potential for how they can be moving forward from where we are now. Like all things in society, we still have a learning curve when it comes to realizing and actualizing the capabilities of social media within our spheres. We still have a lot of growing to do with the media and the exposure it brings, but I believe having a willingness to change and adapt as a community could bring about a period of new and better innovations. We simply have to think positive and be a force for positive change.

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