The Problem with Online Cosplay Contests

By Hsing Tseng on May 19, 2013

Social media has made it easier than ever for cosplayers (those who make and wear costumes as a hobby) to connect with their fans and share updates on their costuming lives. They also have been used by pages promoting cosplay as ways to organize online cosplay contests.

EZCosplay, an online cosplay retailer that also maintains a Facebook page with 297,000 likers, organizes a contest called Project ezCosplaya where cosplayers from all over the world are invited to submit a photo to be posted to a special album. The winners, decided by cosplay judges, a photographer, and the amount of likes a photo has, receive promotion on their page.

Otaku House, a site about cosplay, runs another popular cosplay contest – “Cosplay Idol” – where photos must be Facebook like’d or Google +1′ed to count as votes. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes are hampers of cosplay, gifts, and novelties, varying in worth from $200-$500.

Photo by Flickr user Sean MacEntee

Cosplayer Hideyo Mochimo, who has cosplayed since thirteen, has participated in Cosplay Idol for three years, Project ezCosplaya since its inception this March and several other online cosplay contests.”I want to get my name out there as one of my goals is to be cosplay famous. And I like getting the feedback and comments on my costumes,” said Hideyo Mochimo.

Another cosplayer, LoneWolf, from the 19-strong cosplay team Wolf Pack Cosplay, has also participated in the two contests. A cosplayer since 2010, he believes that the cosplay contests have both good and bad sides to them.

“[The best thing] is knowing that there people out giving praises to your cosplays… [the] worst, having people comment crap about the cosplay,” said LoneWolf.

While it has been said that submitting photos to a public forum such as Facebook invites both praise and criticism, what many cosplayers have noticed with online contests is the large amount of negative feedback found on cosplayer photos.

“There is a massive backlash of comments fighting back and forth on the participants entry for the contest. [They make me] uncomfortable and offended, and a bit angry as well,” said LoneWolf.

Hideyo also recognizes the extreme negativity of the comments sections for contest entries.

“People say the most horrible things just to hurt people and it’s stupid. Usually people just ‘like’ things as opposed to commenting, and when they do comment it’s usually just like, ‘great!’ Or the oh so negative, ‘You’re too fat for this character.’ It hasn’t enlightened me at all,” said Hideyo.

Another point that Hideyo found troublesome about cosplay contests is how she thinks they are unfairly balanced.

“People only get votes if they’re dressed [revealingly] or have amazing Photoshop skills, but because most of the contests feature certain individuals on their front page so obviously they’re going to get more votes,” said Hideyo.

In order to combat this, perhaps some ways of evening the playing field are in order. Hideyo suggests keeping the Photoshopping to a minimum.

“I think there needs to be some set standard for everyone. Like perhaps all take photos with a cell phone quality, no editing. So people are actually judged on the costume as opposed to how awesome the photo looks,” said Hideyo.

LoneWolf feels that the negativity in online cosplay contests is something that the community should also be combatting.

Even if the internet trolls are rude and out of line, LoneWolf urges cosplayers in the community to “Be mature about the situation, and try and not ignite it any further.”

While there may not be much that we can do about the perceivably unfair popularity-based standards of online cosplay contests, we can continue to spread the positivity instead of negativity.

Despite the downfalls, cosplay contests will still remain a great way to get one’s name out in the online community and occasionally glean good tips from fellow cosplayers.

Have you participated in a cosplay contest? Do you think they are fair? Let us know in the comments below!


A second-year at the University of Denver, Hsing is part of the National Columnist team with Uloop. She loves covering the nerd culture and technology beat and aspires to work for Kotaku or IGN. You can find her gaming, watching anime, or blogging away madly. (Good luck finding her Tumblr, though.) She is super involved at DU, and wouldn't have it any other way.

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