Due to the nature of going public with my experience, I have omitted one section to protect the friend mentioned in that section. [Editor’s note: This was originally submitted directly to a Blizzard community liaison, but Miss Ravencrest agreed to share this publicly. It has been edited to reflect this.]
It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to consider putting it down in words and sending this out. I worry that my time to get my experience across to hopefully change things has passed. I worry that I will be treated with hostility if I attended and attempted to enter again. However, I have been encouraged to write and send this by friends who had their experiences tarnished as well. It’s not too late. There is still time until the next event, even if I will not be attending. I am not writing this as an essay, but rather a personal experience. I am going to speak with my heart, not with my school words.
I have been to a total of six Blizzcons now, and unfortunately, 2018 may have caused the end of that. I don’t know if it’s a permanent end or temporary. I have participated in a total of four costume contests now. While I did not expect to win or be recognized, the highlight of my con was walking up on that stage and showing off the hard work of the past year to millions of fans watching. It got my heart racing, an ear to ear smile blooming, and my nerves shattering, but I loved it.
I have seen two contest changes. The change for 2017 was actually very nice. Having us go up and line up in groups, it gave the contestants more time on stage to be seen and to highlight all of the artists of the community more, as opposed to how 2018 felt.
I entered the contest not expecting much, but expecting more than how I and many others were treated. The biggest shock was the 25 contestants. [Editor’s note: This refers to a change in which there would only be 25 contestants total during the main event on the main stage, as opposed to 100 in previous years.] For those of us who haven’t placed or been honorable mentions, this was gut wrenching. For those who had placed or been honorables, they took it as an amazing change. Because they had already been acknowledged, they were not as worried. It took me four and a half months to complete my costume and due to some complications with scheduling at work, I was not able to submit the video that I wanted to showcase my costume to the judges. I quickly learned that didn’t matter. A friend submitted a video and got quick affirmation that it wasn’t even watched fully. She was heart broken. My immediate thought was, “Well, good thing I didn’t waste time and money to try and do something that didn’t matter.”
Then came the “pre-judging” for the contest on Thursday just before Blizzcon. I use pre-judging very loosely. Some contestants walked in there and were handed slips saying they are in. The judges hadn’t even seen their costumes in person, yet they were accepted. This seemed very unfair and premeditated. This got several people’s cogs turning wondering if something was up. Various other costumers got their slips. While it seemed unfair, it was what it was. We were told it was a small amount. I came to the conclusion after talking to fairly many contestants that it was a good sized amount, enough to lessen many people’s hopes of getting in.
Finally, it was time to go talk to the judges. I was told they would ask questions about our costumes and process and then tell us about the next days events. The judge I spoke to was male. He seemed like he didn’t want to be there and didn’t care to ask about my costume. He made one comment about it but didn’t bother to ask me anything about my costume. It was, “Oh, you’re doing this. Is it part of that big group? Cool. So tomorrow you will show up at your allotted time for the exhibition…” Immediately I realized it didn’t matter that I entered. He didn’t care. My friend who previously was mentioned, with the video, had questions asked about hers. So why not mine? It seemed like a weird occurrence but I would see how the next day went.
Friday was one of the worst days I have had in a very very long time. There were many things I noticed that in the end added up to make me believe this contest was just a publicity stunt and we weren’t cared about anymore. It was about getting big names on the stage, drawing in their fans, and pushing off the people who didn’t make the money to a smaller, crowded stage in a completely separate building. That’s what it felt like.
I talked to Narga and Aoki about their entry; I’m even a patron to them. They stated that they entered as a duo. Together, one entry, two people. I saw them each in costume, being talked to for at least 30 minutes at a time by the same judge who spurned me the other day. Each of them got a full session with this judge. He cared what they said, what they showed. I later learned from a friend that the only reason she managed to even get to see a judge was because she ran into them in the con and they saw her costume. She was able to get a top 25 because she accidentally got judged.
Fast forward to the exhibition. We were lined up, walked on stage, and disrespected. Peoples names were incorrect, some almost had their real identities spoken to the whole world, which could put them in danger. I know of one such person. She was also not allowed a handler backstage, despite being on stilts. Yet, the cosplayer behind me was allowed her handler because she could not see. This friend was put in danger of getting hurt and being exposed to people who intend harm. Another friend had her true name read on stage, and she had not put down her name to be read. Cosplay handles were asked for and then not even used. A third friend, thankfully the angel that Jackie is, managed to get her cosplay name only because Jackie recognized who she was and spoke her handle, after discarding her notes. The notes were incorrectly ordered, people were read off for incorrect costumes. It was announced a Tracer, then a tauren walked out.
I walk on stage. I’m proud to do my little walk and go be judged. I’m confident in my costume. I had even been told the other day, “at first your progress was very slow but you picked up at the end and we were really impressed with your work.” I walk off the stage, and I get directed into a group and pushed against the wall. A blizzard employee walks out and says, “If you’re in this line, we don’t need you here. You can see the judges but you didn’t make it.”
How could they have made that determination? They didn’t see my work, they didn’t see the countless other talents behind and in front of me. But we were cast off as useless.
My costume cost me over $700 and at least 100 hours time worked (Unfortunately, I lost the exact number due to file corruption on the app I was using). I spent 4.5 months advertising, promoting, and living day and night in my craft to make this costume to have a chance to walk on stage with 25 other contestants. Did I think I would make it? No. Did I think I would be given a fair chance and at least a judging opportunity? Yes.
I did not bother to see the judges that had discarded me. I began peeling off pieces of a now hated costume, sobbing as I walked through a sea of people. I found the first empty spot on the floor that I could and I collapsed. I called my mom, crying, feeling like my heart had been torn to shreds. The passion project that had curbed my depression for months, made me feel happy and confident, didn’t matter anymore. I hated it. I didn’t want to make more if that was how these judges would treat me. I did not want to return to this convention.
Then the matter of the actual contest itself. Another friend of mine was put in a category that was entirely wrong. How could a character with a black sheet and no face possibly win in makeup & FX? Artisan, big builds, or solo would have fit much better. He deserved a fair shot. Then the matter of Narga and Aoki. They were split up into two separate categories, despite even them thinking they would be competing together as one. Both of them ended up winning their category.
Of the 25, 8 of the final contestants were in the official Blizzcon book. It’s just enough to go unnoticed if you didn’t look into it much. The following day, those 8 people then had a signing. I do not fault these people one bit. I am friends with probably 90% of the Blizzcon cosplay community. But on the side of the contest, it just seemed oddly convenient. “Buy our book, watch our cosplayers we put in the book walk the stage, go get your book signed by them.” I am not the only one that noticed this fact.
It has now been three months after the fact and when I think of cosplay, I no longer care to make anything. It used to be all I could think about. Now, it’s just a wasted hobby that I don’t know if I should continue pursuing.
I understand this was the new organizer’s first round doing this contest. I do not fault her for all of this. Those under her were responsible for ruining an experience I looked forward to since the day I left Blizzcon the prior year. But these experiences matter. They are what shape the coming events. While I wish I could say that I would be attending as a fan and see those changes, it’s not something I plan to do. If there is another way that I can help to make Blizzcon better and avoid mistakes of the past, I would love to do that.
Blizzcon is home to thousands of people. Us cosplayers just wear our love on our sleeves in a far more intimate fashion. I hope the community and Blizzard hear these words and know that they are simply to express grief of how some individuals acted and correct these behaviors. There is potential for things to be fixed and bettered.
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