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Unread 08-19-2012, 03:11 PM   #1
pinoycosplay
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Niche/Less known cosplays = handicapped for contests?

One thing I noticed at a recent con, which also reminded me of past cons, was that the judges often said when proclaiming the winners "...and this character is from one of my favorite series" or "this character has always been a favorite of mine."

I mean when was the last time you heard the judges say "I never heard of this character before, but the job they did was amazing" To be sure this does happen, but with less frequency than the above.

So this naturally makes me think if a cosplay is from a less popular series/game then it automatically has to work "harder" or be "better" in some aspect in order to compete against the better known cosplay. In effect it is handicapped against some of the other more known cosplays.

But what if your cosplay is already as close to reality as you can make it? I mean how are you supposed to increase the probabilty of getting the judges attention without altering the character beyond recognition?

For example does a naruto fan have to come up with some alternate version of him with with wings and a giant black rock shooter gun in order to garner the attention neccessary for recognition from the judges? How can he do this without altering the basic structure of the charatcer?
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Unread 08-19-2012, 03:16 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by pinoycosplay View Post
One thing I noticed at a recent con, which also reminded me of past cons, was that the judges often said when proclaiming the winners "...and this character is from one of my favorite series" or "this character has always been a favorite of mine."
In my opinion, that shouldn't even happen. Personal preference should never be a part of judging a competition. That they even said that when announcing the winner makes me a bit disgruntled. :/
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Unread 08-19-2012, 03:37 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by J_Otaku View Post
In my opinion, that shouldn't even happen. Personal preference should never be a part of judging a competition. That they even said that when announcing the winner makes me a bit disgruntled. :/
Thank you!! I mean I know we all have our own personal experiences and biases, but to actually hear them expressed out loud simply confirms the bias. It did leave a little bit of a cloud hanging over the contest from my perspective because what's the point of subjective contests if character selection is the key factor in deciding winners?

I view contests as a "any given sunday" type of event. What i mean is that if all things are kept equal with only a change of judges, then I wouldn't be surprised if the judges choose a completely different set of winners. I'm sure the judges would still agree on who the "stand out" cosplays were, but the winners would vary with the judges personal tastes in my opinion.
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Unread 08-19-2012, 04:12 PM   #4
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If the judges prefer popular characters they shouldn't be judges.
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Unread 08-19-2012, 04:32 PM   #5
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Yeah, it's definitely a handicap! I entered a cosplay contest once dressed as Ryoga Hibiki. I mean...Ranma 1/2 isn't that well-known because it's from the '80s, and so the judges didn't even know who I was supposed to be and then there was this awkward applause afterwards except for one person in the audience who was like "WOOOOOO RYOGAAAA!"

It's really a shame that some contests, you win because of WHO you're dressed as, not how good your costume is.
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Unread 08-19-2012, 06:07 PM   #6
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I think the Kuroshitsuji cosplayers have an advantage... >_<
At my local con, if you're entering the craftsmanship competition, it's considered good form to bring a reference of your character for the judges, in case they don't know the chara.
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Unread 08-19-2012, 07:46 PM   #7
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Yeah, I wouldn't want to enter a contest where the judges were known for picking popular characters over more obscure ones, or for picking their personal favorites, forcing original creations and less known ones to overcome a serious handicap in order to win.
That should not be happening, see my thread in the masquerade section "should popularity matter?"
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Unread 08-19-2012, 08:39 PM   #8
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Handicap? No. It's a sign of crap judging if the judges are legitimately picking their favorites.

I will always repeat this: I won Best in Show at a regional sci-fi con as Ferid Egan, an NPC from an obscure Japanese RPG that I guarantee no one knew. It had nothing to do with popularity or obscurity, but the quality of my craftsmanship.

But I will also say this: how do you know, unless you ask the judges themselves or were a fly on the wall in the judging/deliberation room, that they chose the winners because they were popular or favorites, or if it was merely coincidence and they decided to (gauchely) say that the character was a favorite during the awards process? The fact of the matter is, most of the time the contestants don't know, and often when grasping for justification will turn to villifying the judges and calling them biased when it could very well be untrue. Make sure you have actual proof that the judging in a particular masquerade is biased before crying foul. However, if you do? If you really do know because a judge opened their big mouth or were there in the deliberation room, then don't enter at that masquerade anymore. Vote with your feet. Patronize masquerades and contests where your experience has made you feel like you got legitimately and fairly judged regardless of whether you won any awards.

If there is a bias, or a perception that obscure costumes never win, try to find out why. Why does it seem like the contest only rewards new and popular series characters? Is it coincidence, or is it fact? Do the people who bring the best craftsmanship and performance just happen to be wearing costumes from the next big thing, or are they getting by with shoddy costumes when people wearing better-made obscure costumes are standing there with no awards? If it's coincidence, then no harm, no foul. But if you really feel like a masquerade consistently has this going on, and they use the same judges and staff every year, or you feel like you're not getting fairly judged, then speak up and say so. Or don't enter there anymore. If the judges are ignoring you or pushing you through your judging in a minute or less and then spending ten minutes fawning over their fandom favorite, that's just bad judge behavior regardless, and should be brought to the attention of the director/staff. If they don't care, then find a better masquerade to enter.

Nobody should have to deal with crap judges who are just in it to feel superior or as a favor to a friend. Every masquerade performer has a right to fair, quality judges who make every person who enters feel like they did their best. It should have absolutely nothing to do with whether you're wearing a popular fandom character or an original design or anything else, but solely how good your workmanship and performance are. I have been judged unfairly in crap masquerades before, but I have also had wonderful experiences with quality judges who put their personal interests aside in the judging room. In a good masquerade, there is no handicap for obscure or original costumes.
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Unread 08-19-2012, 11:05 PM   #9
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Thanks for the detailed response CapsuleCorp.

I guess this subject must be sensitive since the post was reclassified to a less populated subforum.

As I had stated I believe that if all things are kept equal with only the judges switched, then the outcomes would have a high degree of variance. I am not faulting the judges per se, just saying that a cosplay contest is highly subjective and is subject to a high degree of systemic errors.

systemic errors = errors in observations usually come from the measuring instruments. They may occur because:
there is something wrong with the instrument or its data handling system, or
because the instrument is wrongly used by the experimenter.

Look at the olymipics. There can be a wide range of scores for something has seemingly straightforward as diving. Now look at the job we are tasking judges to do. How can judge A who favors straight seams highly possibly judge the same as a judge B who gives extra credit to a cosplayer that holds character correct poses? It's impossible.

Anyways I think it is pretty much common knowledge going popular is a given if winning an award is really that important to you. On a personal level awards are just a bonus to me, not a goal. I'm proud to represent characters that I love that just happen to be on the rare side at cons.

You're right, with a knowledge gap about what the judges discuss or value, it is difficult to know wheither bias exists. However having observed the outcome of many contest I can say that cosplaying a popular character has a strong mathematical significance to winning an award.

And I don't begrude a judge who happens to pick a character that they personally enjoyed and who finds the cosplayers depction to be "absolutely perfect" while also being a "personal favorite" It's just a shame that the judge couldn't be as familair with all the characters in order to determine who else may have been "perfect"

This wasn't a rant against the judges. Just an honest attempt to figure out how to "level the playing field" or if obscure/lesser known cosplays will always be the domain of cosplayers who value the character first, and an award second.

I've basically consigned myself to the fact that systemmic errors are always going to exist and that these systemic errors are always going to be in favor of more popular cosplays.
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Unread 08-20-2012, 11:21 AM   #10
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At least in my personal experience, I haven't found that popularity of character makes a huge difference, but maybe it's the cons I go to. Good costume and presentation will win out, or at least it should.

Yes, judging is very subjective, and every judge will have their own viewpoints and biases even if they do their best to be objective. That's why ideally you should have a panel of judges whose experience and skills are varied, so they can sort of balance each other out. It doesn't always work, of course, but that's the goal. Regardless, a judge should never be so unprofessional as to gush about their favourite fandom in regards to winners.

(I think the thread was moved simply because this is the masquerade discussion forum, not for any 'sensitivity' reason)
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Unread 08-20-2012, 12:15 PM   #11
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That's why ideally you should have a panel of judges whose experience and skills are varied, so they can sort of balance each other out.
Agreed. Really the only way that systemmic errors could be reduced is to follow an olympic style system with several judges where high and low scores are thrown out. That way outliers could be eliminated.

I don't expect a small con to go to that kind of effort, but I do wonder if they do something like that at the big national/world cosplay contests.
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Unread 08-20-2012, 11:20 PM   #12
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No, throwing out scores isn't really viable because it's tough (especially at international level) to get 3 judges, let alone 6-10. And when it comes to costumes, really, too many cooks spoil the soup. 3-4 is an ideal number of judges, I like 3 because it allows for a tiebreaker. If the scores are tallied numerically for ease, it also allows for a decent average. That way, if one judge is needlessly gushing and gives everybody 9's and 10s, there's bound to be balance with the other two as long as they're not biased.

Amusingly enough, even though numbers are usually used and we'd all like it to be uniformly statistical, what really counts in cosplay judging is the expertise of the judges. I wouldn't be at all surprised that a small con, particularly one that doesn't really value their cosplay contest as a big, important thing that lots of people like to participate in or watch, can't find some classy experts to judge their contest. I know when it comes to CostumeCon/WorldCOn, half the problem of finding judges is the fact that most of the experienced masters who would be qualified would rather compete! Small cons, on the other hand, might just not have a very big pool of experts to pick from. As long as they're willing to admit that maybe they could use a little help, I'm sure there's people in the area they could tap who might not have even known there was a con nearby. I've known anime cons who completely ignored the fact that they had an ICG chapter packed full of friendly, helpful expert costumers from all genres right in the same city, because they were too busy thinking "anime anime anime anime" and didn't think that someone who primarily did historical costuming might actually know how to judge their masquerade. And really, since it's not physically possible for any judge to know every single series, movie, video game, and comic out there, it helps to get people who are just plain costuming experts (and nerds in general), because it means they probably won't know half the characters anyway and won't care if they're popular. I enjoy judging precisely because I DON'T know most of the popular characters, and I get introduced to all kinds of things both popular and obscure when I judge.
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Unread 08-21-2012, 11:52 AM   #13
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I can understand where pinoycosplay is coming from. Sometimes it does feel you've been judged unfairly but it's probably because we do not understand where the judges are coming from and how they are judging.

However, I never thought the obscure or old animes were difficult or handicapped in competition. Matter of fact they probably have heard more about those characters rather than the brand new characters. And I agree with what CapsuleCorp has said. Most judges will try very hard to not be biased and really look at the detail of work and the stage presence of the character.

For as many contests I've competed in for performance there's no difference in large cons versus small cons. I've seen both good and bad judging. Heck one of the largest cons in the Midwest has had the same contestant wear the same costume 3 years in a row and winning a major award all three times. Twice in a row for Best in Show. I don't compete in that contest anymore because I know that it's biased. It sucks if you want to compete, but knowing that it might happen again is not worth the upset at the end of the competition. You just have to move on.

This year will be my first time being a judge in a cosplay contest. I'll be judging performance only because that's what I'm good at. I'll do some scoring in costuming but my numbers are not as important as the craftsmanship judges. I've already been thinking about it and yes I can tell it will be difficult to try not be biased but everyone has their preferences. We just have to be smart about it and make sure everyone is judged fairly.
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Unread 08-21-2012, 09:04 PM   #14
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.....let me guess, ACen?


It also helps (advice for judges mainly) if you take care to eliminate anything that could give people the impression of bias. Recuse yourself from judging friends, or at least ban any friends who may be interested in competing from showing or telling you anything about their costumes. Don't talk about your favorites. Don't talk about other contestants. Just focus on what's in front of you.

Contestants, make sure to talk up all your good points. Bring reference. Bring notecards if you get nervous and might forget to tell the judges something important. Then go out there and rock it. And if you don't win when you legitimately think you had a shot, it IS kosher (at least in the circles I run in) to politely ask a judge what you can do to improve for next time. Don't ask why you didn't win! Just ask, privately in the hall after the show, if there was anything you could have improved or done differently. Based on the answer you get, you may be able to tell whether the judge knows their stuff or just played favorites.

And good luck in all your future masquerades, everybody!
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Unread 08-22-2012, 09:42 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by pinoycosplay View Post
"...and this character is from one of my favorite series" or "this character has always been a favorite of mine."
You know them saying those things might just be scripting to make the whole thing sound better even when they know little to nothing about the character or series. It also kind of helps to boost lesser known series/characters because a lot of people are going to think, Oh thats such a cool costume and the judge really likes it. I think I'll go check it out. Then poof just like that the lesser known series is the new Naruto or Bleach. So really unless you know for a fact that the judge is saying that because it is their favorite character or series then there really is no reason to complain about what they said and just move on.
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