A guide to Anime Conventions- For the first timer

This blog entry may be titled ‘Anime Conventions’ but in reality it applies to most any convention where cosplays are present. If you are reading this and will be attending a convention for the first time, congratulations! You are entering a different world that which you can escape to for a weekend (sometimes longer!) that is filled with many new sights and sounds and an amazing hobby known as Cosplaying.

What is Cosplaying?

First let me say that it is NOT NECESSARY TO COSPLAY FOR A CONVENTION! You don’t have to ‘dress up’ to attend, however I will note you may feel a little out of place (I know I did!). Cosplaying is where one buys or creates a costume for a character/thing from a series they love and dress up as that for the day/weekend at a convention. It’s partly a way to tell others something about yourself, and a great way to meet new people with similar interests. Allot of people when cosplay as their OC (original character) which is most times, not always, a character from a fan fiction they have devised. An example might be someone cosplaying a girl with long red hair while wearing an Akatsuki cloak from Naruto who tells you she is cosplaying as her OC Sarah who is the daughter of Sasori and Sakura….these things just happen! 

Why do people cosplay at conventions?

As I said above many do it to represent a fandom, or as a way to find others with the same sorts of interests. However if you ask most cosplayers why they cosplay they will give you a range of reasons. Some do it because they enjoy the hobby. Learning new things and being able to showcase their hard work brings them great pride and joy. Cosplayers generally get allot of photos of themselves taken while at a convention, so the attention factor is also there.

Now that we got what cosplaying is out of the way, below I have a list of ten things you NEED TO KNOW if you are a first time convention goer. As always check the website for the convention you are going to attend for a forum or contact page if you need more information, and never be afraid to ask your questions! Someone is always there to help.

10. If the convention offers ‘free food’ Don’t assume you can live off just that for the weekend.

Unless they have a buffet of free food all weekend long chances are you are going to keep more than what is being offered for free at a convention. My first convention was Anime Midwest 2013 and this great convention has Free ramen and Soda all weekend long. They even had Rice that year. So I went with the intention of eating that for a few meals and only brought some sweet snacks for my hotel room. I was new to the area, did not know about any local food, and yea…it wasn’t so great for me. Point being: If your convention lists ‘free ramen’ don’t plan to only eat that all weekend. Your body needs Fruit and Veggies. It need’s more than a cup of salty noodles to survive a Convention. I cannot stress this enough!

9. Find out about parking ahead of time.

Again, using Anime Midwest as an example, I learned very late about parking. Always check the area your convention is going to be in and understand where you are allowed to park and how much the cost of parking is per night. The Hyatt Regency in O’Hare Illinois (where Anime Midwest is) had $10 parking a night if you booked a room with them. This was only for one car. So my roommate had to park elsewhere. I didn’t know this beforehand, Oops! You can always ask around and locals can help you get an idea on cheap/free parking lots/garages, as well as average distance of walking.

8. Don’t get the con sickness!

Avoid it like the plague it is. The best way to not get the con sickness is the following these ‘rules’. 1 Shower a day, 2 MEALS a day, and at least 6 hours of sleep. You may be saying ‘Oh I only ever get four hours of sleep a night it’s my normal’ well guess what, at a convention its not! You are excited, tend to not eat well, and the moment you take all the factors a convention tosses at you that is not a part of your normal daily life you will get struck with the con sickness. Stay hydrated. Drink water, not just energy drinks/soda/coffee. Water is your friend. My general rule is whenever I walk by a fountain or free water stand I get a cup and down it. Your body will thank you if you take good care of it.

7. If you are sharing a room keep your valuables safe.

You may be rooming with friends, or even  people you have yet to meet for the first time. To avoid any loss or drama keep anything of yours valuable safe. This may seem like common sense but you really don’t want something going missing and you accusing or suspecting a roommate. Doesn’t make for a good convention.

6. Book your hotel in advance.

It’s stressful if you wait last minute. Odds are the hotels may all be booked if you wait too late and then you’ll be searching for the shared rooms ads and yea…that can go either way. Cant afford a room by yourself? Plan ahead of time to share with friends! Let them know what the price would be for each person then decide on who will book the hotel. Most have to have a credit card or debit card on file, however you don’t get charged until after your stay. 

5. Don’t assume that any schedule of events posted online will be the same the week before the convention.

Some conventions will share the ‘so far’ list of events, and this may or may not include times. However be on the lookout for an official final schedule release to plan on seeing the events you want to at the correct times and locations. It’s not uncommon for some panels or events to be moved either by location or time while at con, but signs are usually posted if that happens. You will get a booklet when you arrive and pick up your badge that will also have the schedule of events listed as well as a map and rules. When in doubt at a convention, ask a staff member!

4. If you are registering at con Arrive Early!!!

If you have not registered online for the convention you plan on attending and are registering at con to get your badge (weekend or day badge) arrive early. For the larger conventions such as Acen and Anime Midwest arrive with an hour or two of leeway time, because depending on the day and time you will be waiting in a line. If you pre reg online you can go into a different line at con to pick up your badge. This line moves much faster then those that did not prereg, and some conventions will even mail your badge to your home address. When in doubt, check the website for the convention you are attending or contact staff and ask.

3. Respect convention attendees, staff, and yes that means Cosplayers too.

The staff work really hard to make the convention a safe and fun place to be. So being rude to them is a no go. Period. If you feel a staff member is the one being rude, ask to see another staff member. Convention attendees means anyone with a badge/pass attending the convention. They may be in or out of cosplay, but either way you should show respect. This means no name calling, labeling, disrespect of personal space. With cosplayers this means absolutely no glomping (agressive hugging)! Always ask to hug or touch i.e. put an arm around a cosplayer. Don’t just assume this is okay for anyone, in or out of cosplay. Respect the cosplayers stuff. Be it the costume itself or the props they are wielding. Do not assume its okay to touch or hold for photos. Allot of work is put into their cosplay and should therefore be respected no matter the skill level.

2. Only bring what money you CAN spend.

Money for hotel, check. Money for dealers hall, check. Money for parking, check! But oh no! You now don’t have any money for food because you blew it all on day one at the dealers hall buying Final Fantasy Plushies. See what I mean? Make sure you have the money needed for each and only bring what you can afford to spend inside a dealers hall. What is a dealers hall? It’s this magical room with lots of tables where people will sell you Anime/gaming related items such as: Plushies, Playing Cards, Wall scrolls, Pillow Cases, Wigs, Cosplay accessories, Manga, DVD’s, Cosplay props (katanas), and so on. They almost always have an Artists Ally too, which is a section of the dealers hall where people create items to sell that usually go with a fandom or fashion. This could be things like: Lolita fashion, Digital Artwork, commision artwork, handmade jewelry, and so on.

1. Have fun!

You will have the time of your life, and what’s more when you get home after your first convention I can pretty much guarantee you’ll already be searching the web to find the next local convention to attend. Have fun at the con you choose to go to. Meet new people. Go to panels. Learn about things you are interested in, and I highly recommend going to a panel about something you have never heard of just to try something different. Find what it is about conventions you really like and apply to it your next one, wether it be getting into cosplaying, making things and having your own Artists table to sell stuff, hosting/running a panel, the list goes on and on!

Get out there! Enjoy the convention! Until next time everyone, Happy Cosplaying!

-HappyCosplayer

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