NärCon Summer 2016

First of all, my con report from last year got spread a lot, I feel obligated to add a disclaimer:
This is just my personal experiences and thoughts from NärCon Summer 2016. They are not facts.

I learned from last year that it’s definitely worth it to arrive the day before the con so sort of “ease into” everything. I was surprised to see so many people there.

I had a small shoot with my Strike-Commander Morrison cosplay, it was a great warm up because I found some things that needed fixing before pre-judging.

I decided to enter the cosplay competition (Intermediate), this would be my first competition in three years, and my first pre-judging where I’m not the one doing the judging. They were already behind schedule when I was let into the room (How!? I was the first one to be judged), and one of the judges wasn’t even there! After the pre-judging I change into a casual version of my cosplay.

The Novice competition was the first thing on stage, and it really set the very low standard for every other stage event during the con. The hosts say some things, introduces the judge (singular!), cosplayers does their walk on, then they all walk on a line. After this the audience is left with a “ten minute” break (which in reality became closer to 30) where nothing happened. No middle act, no entertainment. NOTHING. AT. ALL. We were expected to just stand on the asphalt and wait. After the ten (30) minutes the winners were announced. It all felt lifeless and without passion. There was no heart in the competition.

There are so many bad things with this. But let’s start with that there only were a single judge (Yaya Han). Yaya was noticeable annoyed by this, she even said that what NärCon had done was very “sneaky”. A competition should never be judged by only a single judge, and to put Yaya Han to judge Novice!?! It felt like a disgrace to her skill and abilities.

Secondly, why have a break where nothing happened? If you are going to announce the winners immediately after the show then at least give the audience something to watch while we are waiting! But why rush the announcement? Novice didn’t even have pre-judging, which I thought meant that they would have the classical “the top 10 cosplayers will be called to an interview”-style of judging. But nope!

After the Novice competition I went to watch the Cosplay Skit competition, which for some reason was NOT held on the main stage, but had been shoved away to the “Amphitheater” where the skits would get bothered by the noise from GottCon, and various technical dificultuties (One of the skits had very obviously counted on to be able to control the lights.). It was as if NärCon had brought back the skit competition just to spit on it.

But! The groups where all amazing, and I was very happy to see that the spirit and passion are still there! Cosplay skits might not be dead after all, but they need to be encouraged and supported, they need a better stage, and they need an audience. Otherwise cosplay skits will not grow. I would also love to see audience choice as a price category for skits, because skits are first and foremost supposed to entertain the audience.

I watched the beginning of the Opening Ceremony, and the only thing I have to say about it is: Everything that didn’t happened on stage was good.

Team Cosplay was really cool. It was impressive to see what a whole team can do when they are allowed to work on a single cosplay. I want more of this. However… this show also had the “ten minutes” of dead time before the winners were announced. It feels like the organizers hasn’t even thought about the fact that the show will have an audience, an audience that need to be entertained and hyped.

I start the day by visiting the infirmary because I had gotten something in my eye and it hurt a lot. I got help, but was sensitive to the strong sunlight for the rest of the con.

Late afternoon I change into Morrison and walk around the con. It’s an amazing experience to have so many people stop me for photos and compliments.

There were some confusion and miscommunication about how to get back stage for the Intermediate competition. We ended up just walking straight in, no security checks or backstage passes needed. I felt that everything back stage went smoothly, there were however some trouble with the presentation slides. The pictures they used were not any of the references we had sent in (they had googled the character and taken pictures from the internet). Some even had a completely different character on screen. I heard that they eventually just stopped displaying anything at all.

Intermediate followed the same fate as Novice and Team Cosplay with the “10 minute” break before they announced the winners. What I’m wondering is what happened to the Audience Choice award they had promised us?

After the competition I go and change back into normal clothes, so I missed the Master competition. I have however now seen it on the stream. You could clearly see who of the contestants got their tickets from the “first come first serve”-batch, and who got it from the “application”-batch. It was nice to see that NärCon had mods in the Twitch chat during the competition, and that they didn’t have any “commentators” like they had at NCV16.

The talk show came after Master. I heard that it was absolutely cringeworthily with the worst unprepared host ever, but I didn’t watch it so I can’t confirm.

I wanted to watch Grand Batsu, it has been one of my favorite things previous years. But it was scheduled so darn late! I was tired and went to bed instead.

Watched the Performance competition. Some of the entries where straight up skits. What is this NärCon? Why does Performance get time on the mainstage while the Skit competition have to be at the amphitheater, when they have the same kind of content anyway?

After the performances I watched (and recorded) CBG’s Cosplay Chess. It was fun to see that so many of the players had practiced their fights, and that the moves went quite fast. CBG has really learned and improved since I last watched one of their big chess games.

Started queuing for the NCC two whole hours early, and it already had quite a line.

You could really see that all the resources and effort had gone into making NCC. The pre-show was a lot better than previous pre-shows (good job Elias!). The competition got me very motivated to do a really cool Master performance someday.

I wonder why NCC was the only thing with quality during the whole event. Could it possibly be that NCC is broadcasted live on national television? And that NärCon has gotten very conscious about their image? But they can ignore their own competitions because “no one” is watching? In any case it is a remarkable difference in quality and production value between NCC and NärCon’s own competitions.

I would however like to give a boot to whoever controlled the camera angles during NCC. They were horrible! On multiple occasions the bad camera angles completely killed the performances. Lucky me that I got to see everything live on the stage, as it should be.

After NCC I watched the CMV competition. I have missed last few years, but it’s nice to see that the interest for CMVs still lives on, and that they hold a certain level of quality.

Watched the Closing Ceremony. Last-day price ceremony for E-Sport must be the most uninteresting price ceremony there is! Those who are interested in E-Sport have already seen the competition, they know who won already. Having the price ceremony for E-Sport on the last day is a complete waste of time. Cosplay on the other hand! Cosplay judges need time to properly decide a winner, so cosplay prices are much more suited to be handed out during a last-day price ceremony. Especially if the contest has “post-judging”. Oh, and can you guess what the E-Sport winners won? They won (among other things) a diploma singed by none other than… Samuel! Self-righteousness much?

The after movie was very short and was stuttering, and why didn’t they use the “official NCS16 song” for the after movie? They showed the AMV winner but not the CMV winner. WHY? And then they closed the con at 12:00 which made the four day con into a three day con.

Overall thoughts
It felt like NärCon had started to fix “core convention stuff”, you know, the things you have to have for a convention to run. Like entrance, food, cleaning. Funny how it took NärCon 20(!) events before they felt the need to focus on these things. Even though they had hired real security guards the security wasn’t that high. I could walk straight in back stage, the staff dining room, and staff sleeping halls without getting stopped once.

In their focus on the core things they completely neglected everything on stage. All stage shows had really low quality. There were no passion, heart, or hype for anything. Leaving the audience to wait for the results without any form of entertainment.

Having the cosplay shows separate times made everything feel like “oh yeah we have to do this thing now, let’s throw the bare minimum together and hope no one notices out lack of passion”. I miss the really big competition, this main event with all the cool walk-ons followed by amazing skits that will make the audience feel part of something greater. Splitting the categories made everything lose its charm.

One-line thoughts
Things are only good if it’s broadcasted on national television.

There is nothing that NärCon offers that makes me go to their event, I go solely to show off my cosplays and to meet friends.

The bar for this year was so low that it’s a wonder that NärCon wasn’t been able to get over it.

I have so low expectation on NärCon that I no longer get mad at all the bad things.

Maybe NärCon’s organizers should go as guests on their own events, maybe then they can see how bad it is.