NärCon Summer 2018
To be honest, I didn't feel much excitement before this con, I had no plans at all, and would rather want to continue building on my cosplays. The only reason I went was to meet friends. And that's what I did. Most of the con was spent with friends in the shade, I only attended the major stage shows.
This year NärCon took place during a heatwave. It was extremely hot. So hot that half of the days was wasted because you simply couldn't go anywhere in the heat. We found a place in the shade, talked, and waited for the sun to set behind the buildings. If we get the same weather next year, I will simply stay at the hotel till 17:00.
The Cosplay Novice competition was short (as usual) and had an intermission act. And with an intermission act you'd expect them to announce the winners right then and there. But no, they announced who had gone through to the post-judging. I found this to be very strange. Why did the audience need to know this? What I heard was "the people not on this list wasn't good enough", which is not something I expected from the Novice competition.
I don't really care if the winners are announced right after the competition or at the closing ceremony, both can be done well. But this wasn't done well at all. If you want to avoid having to send text messages to the cosplayes, then you could have them stay backstage and tell them after the competition. The audience does not need to know.
The Opening Ceremony sucked. It was a veeeeery long and drawn out "skit". It was difficult to follow, had low energy, and low "pepp". It did the very opposite to what an opening ceremony should do. I left after 20 minutes, peeked back in after 40 and they were still going on. That group should stay with dancing, they should not do skits.
During the Cosplay Master competition my eyes started to hurt a lot, so I couldn't see much of the competition (I could listen to it and peek occasionally), so I can't really say much about it.
I went to the infirmary and got my eyes looked at. They were very helpful and professional. I had planned to cosplay during the Saturday, but after this I decided to skip the cosplay.
I got back just in time to watch the Cosplay Intermediate competition. Now I could see again and could enjoy the show. So many good cosplayers! This competition didn't have an intermission act, and they didn't announce anything at the end. It was (just like Novice) short.
The Cosplay Performance competition was okay, my favorites came top 3. The hosts were okay, I like that they talk about fandom related things between the performances, it gives everything a relaxed community feeling.
All groups at the Cosplay Skit competition were great, not a single cringey entry. NärCon does not deserve such great skits. The production around the skit competition was extremely bad, it was the worst produced competition I've ever seen. Technical difficulties all the time, some as long as 30 minutes! The organizers didn't seem to have any control and was arguing with the cosplayers over microphone so the audience could hear. The cosplayers had to prepare the stage themselves. There were no judges, and price categories had been removed last minute. The only remaining category was Audience Choice (which had technical difficulties). The cosplayers does not deserve this train wreck of a competition, and NärCon does not deserve these amazing cosplayers. It was just an embarrassment.
I was contacted by NärCon a few months ago and was asked what makes a good cosplay skit competition from an audience standpoint. I wrote them an 11 page document. I don't think they read it, because this was practically the opposite of what I wrote.
I have a very simple way to fix the cosplay skit competition. It's quite simple and fully possible to do. Since Novice and Intermediate are so short, I say they should share a timeslot on the schedule, just put them right after each other, with an intermission act between. This way we open up a new timeslot. Use this timeslot to merge the Performance and the Skit competition, on the main stage. Same here: have them as separate competitions, with an intermission act, but have them during the same timeslot. This way the skit competition will get the production value it deserves, it will attract new and old skit groups, and it will grow a new skit community.
If you think the competition will be too long, just use the timeslot you opened up by merging Novice and Intermediate. You can also shorten the skits to max 5 minutes, and limit the number of entries. That way you have full control over how long it will take.
By putting some effort into the skit competition you'll create a place for great skit groups to grow. The skit competition is (and has always been) the birthplace for future cosplay entertainers, groups who actually know how to entertain. Groups you can invite to be intro- and intermission acts, some much needed fresh blood.
NCC was as good as one could expect. I liked that TV wasn't there, it felt more relaxed (though the hosts were still noticeable nervous). I didn't like the intro- or intermission acts that much, I personally prefer when they are related to cosplay, preferably cosplay skits because song and dance is soooo overdone. I also found it to be embarrassing that Sweden won all three Audience Choice. And why three? One would have been enough. I usually become very excited to compete when I watch SM or NCC, but not this year… I don't know why.
The Sunday was (and always is) basically worthless. NärCon is not a four day event, it's a three day event. I think I'll skip the Sunday on future NärCons and use the extra hours to sleep in at the hotel.
Some extra thoughts
Already on the second day I felt like I had gotten everything I expected from NärCon: Spend time with friends, a lot of people, amazing cosplays, awfully bad things on stage, and to hear how incompetent the staff and organizers are. My NärCon experience was complete.
This was the first time in years that I didn't cosplay, and I'm so glad I had friends to spend time with, because I'd be so bored otherwise.
NärCon obviously doesn't listen to feeback, not even when they ask for it directly and I sent them a whole document.
NärCon is killing cosplay skits, even when there is such a simple solution.
I only go to NärCon because everyone else is there, it's the friends who make the event, nothing else.
I think the higher-ups at NärCon should attend their own event, because I don't think they know what a good experience is anymore. They could start by just standing in the audience and watching the stage shows, and then tell me if they think it was good.