Saturday, June 09, 2018

Top 5 E3 Expectations

E3 season is creeping closer and along with the expectant thrill of what could be revealed mixes a certain nostalgic sureness of what viewers will probably see at the average E3 conference. Here is my list of the Top 5 things I fully expect to see  bit of at E3:

5. The Next Predictable Sports Title

I'm obviously not a big fan of sports games (excluding the perfection that is Wii Sports), so the annual Trot-Out-New-Annual-Sports-Game presentations are usually pretty boring for me. It's a new year, they need a new game; it's expected. A few times there have been some interesting turns, such as a story mode with real fleshed-out characters in a FIFA game. Other times there are just strange presentations with announcers who seem to barely know anything about video games at all.

4. Cute/Edgy Marketing Team Fail

Remember Yarny? One memorable E3, a very shy game designer presented his physics-based game Unravel while clutching a strange little yarn doll he named Yarny. His delivery was shaky and real (surely feeling the world-wide attention directed at him), inspiring the internet to explode over love for him and his quirky, adorable doll. People made their own Yarny dolls, bought the game, and generally enjoyed being part of something.

Yeah, that doesn't always happen.

For all of the sweet/quirky moments E3 can bring, there are a dozen more missteps of people trying to capture that magic. I fully expect to see some really weird presentations, strange characters, buzzy announcers with fake accents, and whatever other attention-grabbing tactic thought up by a marketing team to enchant the internet.

3. Fake Co-Op Dialogue

Let's re-create the feel of playing a co-op game with friends! But with a script! And crisp voice-acting that never could have been transmitted with a fuzzy headset over Xbox Live!

Scripted fake co-op dialogue over gameplay results in a stilted, artificial feel. People don't speak in energetic, complete sentences when they are playing a fast-paced shooter. Real people mumble, cut themselves off, and interrupt each other. Hopefully one day these types of presentations will be retired. Or, maybe, they'll just let two real people do real co-op dialogue over the real game they are really playing together.

2. Uneccessary Re-Boot with Higher Resolution

Remember that game you loved when you were twelve? It's back, and in better definition! Please buy it again. Please. (Please, this was a really good IP once and we think it's a good nostalgia-grab).

1. Ubisoft/Memery Cringe

Oh, Ubisoft. The Ubisoft conference is a hallmark of the E3 season. Want to watch weird Mortal Kombat-looking characters dance on a neon stage to advertise the next Just Dance installment? Want to watch a presenter try to make a random person in cosplay into a meme? Want to just feel uncomfortable for up to ten minutes at a time? That's what I come to expect from Ubisoft's yearly presentations. Last year was a bit mellow for them, but I'll keep this at the top of my list for steady E3 expectations.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Top 5 Most-Anticipated News for E3 2018

It's getting to be the most wonderful time of year... for people who love video games, that is. E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo is coming up June 12th. Every year gaming companies dream up cool presentations to show off upcoming games, consoles, and various updates to its paying public. Here are five things I'm really hoping to see/hear about amid the tumult of live streams and news:

5. Uh...Bethesda?

Bethesda is older cousin who sometimes comes around the holidays to tell about the really cool stuff he's doing, and other times he's kind of having a mid-life crisis. The company is known for its robust single-player RPGs, like Skyrim and Fallout. Over the past couple of E3 seasons, they've definitely had their fair share of criticism for resting on these laurels and not innovating more. The Internet has seen a few glimpses of Fallout 76, so I'd like to hear more about it and see if Bethesda is ready to drop Skyrim's success from its cold, cold hands and let it rest.

4. Ooblets Updates!

I first heard about Ooblets from the PC Gaming Show at E3 2017, and I was instantly hooked. This adorable crafting/farming/creature RPG combines the best parts of Pokemon, Animal Crossing, and Stardew Valley. It's still in development with no clear release date, so I'm dying for more news. I recommend following creator nonplayercat on Tumblr and Patreon to be the most up-to-date.

3. More Switch Titles!

I was in line at midnight for the Nintendo Switch because I was sold on its unique controls, portability, and overall fun factor. Over a year later, and I still really like my Switch... I just wish it had more games! Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey were great starts for the system, but I haven't seen enough games really take advantage of the Switch's capabilities. 1, 2, Switch looked cute, but a party game isn't enough to make a system really worth it for a variety of gamers. We need more titles ranging from single-player to party games to puzzles. Also, what is up with the Virtual Console? If Nintendo let people play GameCube games on their Switch?!? Some people would carry it everywhere.

2. Indie Games, Plz

Along with more robust "Nindies" for the Switch, I would love to see more indie games in general. Big developers get somewhat stuck in a cycle. Indie developers have the room to take some risks. As a person who isn't fond of shooters, most multiplayer games, racing games, or sports games, I usually look to independent titles to find something I can really love.

1. Pokemon Stars on the Switch?

The Pokemon presentation at last year's E3 was pretty funny. I waited ready for not much when, after introducing another Pokemon fighting game along with Pokemon Sun and Moon Ultra, a Pokemon developer looked up from his desk: "Oh, by the way, we're making a brand-new Pokemon game on the Switch and answering all of your hopes and dreams."

Okay, I might be paraphrasing.

Now since then we've heard about Pokemon: Let's Go, which appears to be good ol' Pokemon Yellow with the option of Eevee as a starter, 3D graphics, and compatibility with Pokemon Go, all on the Switch. Is that the "new Pokemon game" they teased last year? I'm thinking no, but that may just been some foolish hope.

Honorable Mention

Please, Nintendo, give us a real Animal Crossing game on the Switch that makes full use of its unique controls and capabilities. Please. I've been playing New Leaf for yeeeeeaaaarrrrssss.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Top 5: Games to Play with a Significant Other

Valentine's Day is drawing near. Love is in the air, tinged with just a hint of desperation and too much focus on buying cheap gifts and chocolate at the grocery store to assuage a gnawing need for mindless calendar-based consumption... Or maybe it's just time to sit down for a good gaming session with a cute game and a cute person to play it with.

Here's my list for the Top 5 Games to Play with that Someone Special.

5. Guacamelee! 

Colorful, fun, adventurous, co-op, and scratching an itch to beat things up and make chicken jokes. That's what I call a good Valentine's Day game. My husband and I first played it when it was free for a while on the Playstation store, and we found we worked well together in co-op. Work in tandem to explore the cool level designs and melee your way to the top.

4. Diablo 3

Diablo works well as a co-op RPG, especially if one person is a little bit better at not-dying than the other. Team up to fight evil and grind through levels and magical items. The story isn't too intense to follow, and I enjoy the many layers of difficulty to Diablo 3. A no-frills playthrough can evolve into a deeper exploration of the expansions or harder difficulty levels.

3. Guitar Hero/Dance Dance Revolution/any singing or dancing or music game

Games like this work on two levels. For a casual or new relationship, it's just kind of fun to play a somewhat silly motion- or rhythm-based game. For a longer and more committed relationship, it's a good opportunity to relax together for quick game sessions or compete to get the highest score.

2. Super Mario Odyssey! 

Another co-op option, especially if one half of the couple is just a little bit better at platformers or just not dying. Mario is always a crowd pleaser for couples with wide gaps in video game interest. Multi-level difficulty is easy to manage as well. For example, one person might control the magic hat, the other controls the Mario, and we all get to have fun. This is another great game for exploration or just playing in small, manageable chunks.

1. Katamari Forever! 

Really, this could be any Katamari game, but my husband and I especially love passing the controller back and forth to try to get the best time or the highest score on a level. Roll up a big, round katamari ball as the Prince of All Cosmos cleaning up after your somewhat distant and gigantic king dad. I especially love playing this with another person because one of you will get to see all the weird side characters and strange things picked up during the katamari process while the player is focusing on their task. As a bonus, the music is intensely groovy. Sometimes I replay the level just to hear the songs.

Honorable Mentions

  • Mario Kart (just don't get too competitive and ruin the evening)
  • Pokemon Go (for those romantic, Pokemon-hunting walks)
  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf (visit each other's towns!)
  • The Wolf Among Us (interactive storytelling and great art style - make decisions together!)
  • Stardew Valley (especially multiplayer when it's available, especially if you can get married in the game!)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

"Boy Beat" - Natural Makeup for 2018

This is a bit of a departure from what I normally blog about, but the scarcity of information about this topic made me interested in exploring more. A casual look at the makeup/beauty scene for the past five years reveals a turn to the dramatic, fantastic, and (joyfully or critically) illusionary. Heavy foundation, contouring creams, and false lashes are no longer kept in the arsenal of makeup artists on set or drag queens preparing for a show. Middle- to high-schoolers experimenting with makeup now have thousands of hours of the highest quality instruction available for free online and millions of inspirational pictures to look up to. One's wildest beauty dreams, completely unchecked and celebrated.

And now it's a new year, and the pendulum is starting to swing. I've always been fascinated how trends or even larger, more nebulous patterns shift. I'll see a few people decide to do something different and watch the chain reaction start until the cool thing one person online did is now a clearance item at a department store. In this case, we're seeing a shift back to natural makeup.

This is nothing new. Natural makeup has popped up again and again, mixed with greasy grunge looks or sun-baked in the 1970s. But natural makeup doesn't show up out of nowhere, and the artistic and technological innovations of makeup in the 21st century surely won't let it be boring.

It kicked off with Beyonce...specifically her makeup artist Sir John. In an interview with Allure, he describes what he calls the "boy beat" he used for Beyonce's "Formation" music video. The video itself ties into the modernity of the look, signaling a shift in music and popular thought to the revolutionary and socially aware. The look is described in the last two minutes of the video. The "boy beat" is all about bringing shapes to the face, specifically the eyes and bone structure, and otherwise letting one's natural face show.

A few videos and people online have suggested the return of the natural look in makeup, but this is the most solid indication I've seen of what kind of natural look. Another video by Sarah Cheung provides a more specific tutorial. She emphasizes messy, full brows and colors on the face that mimic natural shadow, sunburn, and the kind of redness most would seek to conceal. The effect is an androgynous, stark, and modern makeup look that could easy go edgy or innocent with just a few additions.

When I tried to research more about this look, I expected to be inundated with trend reports, tutorials, and product lists. It turns out that either this look has a different name altogether or it is just on the verge of being discovered. I can easily see companies like Milk Makeup and Glossier channeling more energy in the direction of boyish, natural makeup. Milk already has a video out featuring a cleaner androgynous look called "Gender".

I'll keep an eye out to see if the "boy beat" becomes the new unicorn-holographic-cut crease-it makeup or whether it simmers below the surface for the cool kids.

Product Arsenal 

  • Brow products, mostly mascaras or pencils that can pull double-duty to make faux freckles
  • Creamy eyeshadows (or other products used as eyeshadow) in peaches, browns, and bruise-y colors to give eye definition
  • Mostly cream/stick highlighters to give a sheen (or a face gloss, as seen in the Milk video)
  • Blush and bronzer for definition
  • The barest of bare lip product

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Life Cycle of an Artist/Content Creator - What to Expect When You're Creating

Based on what I've seen floating around Youtube and the internet in general over my long, long years of heavy internet research, I've concluded that there is a basic overall arc to the life cycle of an artist...or pretty much any kind of content creator in general. Of course, this is not universal and depends greatly on the person. If one is interested in being a professional on- or offline maker of things and purveyor of ideas, this is a simple breakdown of the stages that most seem to go through in that particular life path.

Level One - The Student

For a lot of people this stage takes place while they are still at school. Certainly most animators, comic book artists, and most artistic doodlin' types begin to find their artistic interests at this time. Scribbles in middle school start to fill sketchbooks with terrible anime drawings before someone throws an anatomy book at them. Maybe in high school they will start posting things online or getting more feedback on their work, but the drive and the interest is there. Not everyone starts so early. Each person may have their own path, but it's something that seems to be common in the stories of many an artist.

Artist Spotlight: Arin Hanson, aka Egoraptor

Arin Hanson started working on his art fairly young, though he will be the first to adamantly correct people who suggest that artists are just born with talent. He had an online presence while still in school that let him connect to other animators and essentially start his own brand of education/training to be the animator, voice actor, and video game funnyman he is today.

Artist Spotlight: Jason Gastrow, aka VideoGameDunkey

This is another example of starting an online presence very early on and experimenting with art. Jason Gastrow is know for his tightly-edited funny video game reviews and various riffing on pop culture these days, but his early animations and funny videos on Newgrounds started with all the pre-teen humor and charm of someone doing what they loved.

Level Two - The Specific Spark

This is the stage where people are really starting to figure out something they truly love or want to explore. Often this is accompanied by more attention to their work or sometimes just a distinct connection between the content creator and something they will end up being known for. It can be a genre, a style, a brand of humor, a medium, anything that really focuses their hard work and pays off. This is also a good time for the start of a long-term series or project that requires commitment and passion.

What often happens on the internet is a sense of intense feedback for a specific project; a simple experiment can draw a whole drove of new fans who want to see more, more, more. Yes, videos and projects can "go viral," but two billion views doesn't have to be the only starting point. I find that the more sustainable path stems from a project that people enjoy, but don't necessarily go rabid about or forget about in a month's time.

Artist Spotlight: Cara McGee, aka ohcararara

Cara McGee worked in a number of different styles of art, currently culminating in comics and work with Over the Garden Wall. One project that seemed to propel her into the spotlight was quite a diversion from that path: tea blends. Originally just a fan project, she would eventually work with a company called Adagio creating tea blends based on popular fandoms. Paired with each custom tea blend (which anyone could go on the Adagio Teas website right now and make their own) was some of her cute art on the packaging, featuring tiny Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter characters, the cast of Doctor Who, and more. The crossover of fan art and widespread recognition got her art out there even more.

Arin Hanson Returns

Before the soaring success of his Youtube series Game Grumps, Arin Hanson was probably most known for his animation work. His animated series Sequelitis exploded online. It gave viewers a good look at his art style, humor, and video game theory that would translate and expand further into later projects. That format really worked for him and allowed him to express views on video games through an exciting and authentic medium for viewers looking for something new.

Level Three - Super Star

This stage tends to be what a lot of people see or think of regarding an artist or content creator. I liken it to what a fifteen-year-old guitarist imagines when he's "famous" and touring in a band. At this stage an artist is working in their preferred medium. One usually sees a lot of growth, and they may be collaborating with other content creators. Financial security may stem from working for or with a company or even from banding together into a network with other like-minded people.

I like to compare this stage to the Super Star that grants invincibility to Mario. It's time to go real fast and smack into Goombas, sending them flying. The inspiration's there, and the work just seems to the outside viewer, anyway. At this point people are able to expand a bit with projects and reach out to fans or the media easily and often. A downside to this stage can be overwork; people often feel more pressured at this point to keep up or increase output in order to not fall off the radar (in case of a "viral" jumpstart to their career) or they are just trying to please too many people at once.

Level Four - Those Golden Years

This stage somehow sounds like a downturn of the arc, a settling of sorts, but it's probably the point in most art careers when people are happiest. The pressures of trying to juggle too many projects or carve new paths every year subside and mostly artists are able to relax with a clear idea of what they like and don't like. No longer caught up in survival mode, they're able to get out of their comfort zone. This stage may see changes in genre, format, or a completely different change from art to music to film making altogether. It's an opportunity to try new things and show other aspects of themselves.

An example of this would be the Game Grumps moving from just gameplay with commentary to podcasts like The G Club, now expanded into a D&D podcast called Dragons in Places. Other content creators may move platforms, such as from Youtube to Twitch, or switch from digital to traditional art.

Artist Spotlight: Alton Brown

Best known for his groundbreaking cooking show Good Eats, Alton Brown has since evolved into an ever-reaching presence in food science and food fun. Since the wrap-up of Good Eats he has toured with his rock and roll food science live show, turned sinister as the host of Cutthroat Kitchen, and led his Instagram followers around America in search of good food and fun times. Cookbook collaborations? Mini Youtube series? Personally torturing Bobby Flay? Alton Brown and cats do as they please.

Level Five - Becoming the Mentor

It's at this stage that artists or content creator seek to give back to the community that supported them from the beginning. They may pursue smaller projects and less of a grand vision or major series like one would see in Levels 2-3. Many projects at this stage also center around spreading a wealth of knowledge and experiences to others to help inspire more people to go out and do what makes them happy.

Artist Spotlight: Adam Savage

Well known for being half of the kooky pair hosting Mythbusters, Adam Savage continues to work to share his love of science with the masses. His expertise in cosplay and special effects makes him uniquely suited to work with Maker spaces and collaborate with other nerdy-minded individuals to build and create. At this point in his career, he has all this knowledge and freedom that he wants to share with people. His content online is now more educational and about uplifting the maker communities that can share resources and experiences to the next generation of mad scientists. He often tours to speak to crowds of people who hope to be as inventive as he has managed to be. Adam Savage has mastered the shift from producing to inspiring...though that still won't stop him from learning how to forge his own replica swords and armor to go incognito at Comic Con every year. That's just plain fun.

In the End...

These stages of course are not absolute. Creators may flit back and forth among the stages, get stuck going from one to the other, or even fail to progress as an artist all together. Millions never make it past Level One, shafted by disapproving parents or the heinous mix of adolescent insecurity and caring too much about the opinion of others.

Think of them more as guidelines than rules, and just keep creating.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

#Inktober Wrap Up - Art Challenge Reflections

Today we're doing a quick wrap up of Inktober 2017.

This past October I participated in an art challenge called "Inktober", the goal of which is to produce a finished, inked drawing every day of that month. A full disclaimer before I begin: I am not experienced at all in art, even in a hobbyist capacity. No formal education whatsoever. Aside from the occasional doodling and art electives in middle school, I have never endeavored to create an art practice. This year I've been trying to expand my artistic horizons by simply filling sketchbooks with studies, cartooning, and even some hand-lettering. Having filled one sketchbook, I looked to the Inktober challenge as a way to get at least 31 pages of my new sketchbook filled.

What I Learned

It turns out that it is really easy and helpful to get into a drawing routine. I eliminated a lot of decision-making stress by making each drawing as simple and routine as possible. Stress can come from deciding what to draw, how much time and effort to put into it, how much to shade/color, etc. I stuck to a general spooky/generic Halloween theme to keep the ideas flowing and used maybe 1-2 reference images for most drawings.

Starting with a reference image definitely eased me into drawing each day. I would sometimes just scroll Instagram or Tumblr or be on the lookout for a Halloween-related image that day to get started. As long as the image was fairly simple with clean lines and easy-to-see contours, it worked for me. I also learned how to use references effectively. If I was drawing something specific, I learned how to lay down guidelines, get the sizing down, and to break down even simple objects into simpler shapes and segments. I really can't draw from memory at all because I don't have that visual mental art dictionary that artists tend to build up over the years. References were key!

Another way I simplified the process was to not focus on color much. In general I stuck to black and white with the occasional accent of orange/green/purple (for Halloween of course) and a few instances of red. So each drawing was essentially a main object/figure or group of objects, using minimal reference images, with some hand-lettering practice to write the date on each page.

Because I didn't focus on full-color drawings, another thing I learned a lot about throughout this process was shading. I had never generally worked with ink or ink shading before, so this was all new to me. This month I experimented with inked cross hatching, squiggles and loops, diagonal and horizontal lines with varying spacing, dots, and mixing all of the above with different line thicknesses. I really liked the variety that the shading possibilities gave to the drawings. Just mixing a few shading techniques gave my simple drawings more texture than they usually would have.

Something I hadn't really considered before Inktober was eraser quality. My art supplies are pretty bottom of the barrel -- #2 pencils, the erasers on the end, some ballpoint pens, Sharpies, and a $5 hardcover sketchbook from the craft store. I quickly found myself going crazy when lines wouldn't erase or when I was left with shredded eraser bits everywhere. I've learned to covet kneaded erasers and art-quality erasers in general. A good eraser adds to that satisfaction of drafting a very rough sketch, inking it out, and erasing all of the dirty work that made the picture in the first place.

The Take-Away

The last thing I learned from Inktober is that, provided one doesn't stress out too much, art can be very relaxing and fun! It got a lot easier to get sucked into a drawing when it became routine. I reach for my sketchbook a lot more often than I did before thanks to building my discipline with practice. Even if I'm just sketching, I also usually feel like properly finishing pieces with inked line work now as well. Finished drawings are just so satisfying. Before I would have a bunch of studies or doodles in my sketchbook, but to have a clean, inked drawing feels like I've really accomplished something at the end of the day.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed and recommend Inktober and art challenges like it. Any challenge that reinforces an artistic practice with a time limit is going to be useful. Following along with drawing tutorials on Youtube can be fun, but I learned the most just sitting down with a reference image and figuring it out for myself.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Top 5: Tips for Attending a Convention

Given that it is currently sort of peak convention season time, I wanted to offer my top five tips for attending one. These can be for first-time convention-goers or even for people who maybe haven't been to a con in a while and need a few reminders.

This list is not specific to cosplaying at a convention. Instead it is aimed more at a casual attendee. I can't offer any advice at this time on wearing body paint for eight-plus hours or keeping a wig on. Maybe that will be in another post.

5.) Draft a Plan (and Be Okay If Things Don't Go Accordingly)

My pre-convention routine regularly includes scouting out the website for a prospective schedule of events for about four weeks. No one has to be as silly as I am about schedules, but it does help to have a rough plan or at least a few key things to focus on seeing. For some people this will be autograph sessions or meet-and-greets with writers, actors, and artists. Some people might want to make sure they see a few specific people on Artist Alley or hit up a few of their favorite merchants who maybe only appear at conventions. I usually center my schedule around panels and longer events, such as the Rocky Horror Picture Show Shadowcast or a costume contest. Having a plan involving times, especially for panels and shows, also allows some wiggle room to plan for standing in line.

That being said, don't have a cow if things don't work out. At my first convention I missed both the showing of Rocky Horror (my Plan A for ending the night) and the big costume contest (my Plan B for ending the night) because we didn't get in line for either early enough. We stood there for nearly an hour before being told there was no more room. Don't get too terribly bummed out about things like that. Sometimes it's more fun to just do general sweeps of the convention floor or even get stuck around a slowly-growing group of related cosplayers who keep getting stopped for pictures.

4.) Scout Out Food Options (and Consider Bringing Your Own Rations)

It can be an adventure just to get into a convention. The ones I've been to are inside huge convention centers with a labyrinth of parking, up escalators, on multiple levels. The last thing anyone wants to do after spending possible hours in a car or maybe just a good half hour to park is leave to get food. Sometimes there isn't an option of leaving for the day. Luckily conventions have a variety of foods to offer in a mall-like food court full of wafting smells and No Face from Spirited Away eating a burrito next to a Power Ranger. Unluckily, that food is ridiculously expensive. I once downright panicked when I ordered some pizza and drinks for three people and immediately started doing math to see if we could afford to eat something that night with my remaining money.

I heartily recommend eating before or after the convention and bringing snacks. My go-to snacks are beef jerky sticks, string cheese, and packs of nuts or trail mix. Anything portable, possibly one-handed-eating-friendly, and survivable in a small bag would be a good idea. I wouldn't even trust a drink from the vending machine to be a reasonable priced, so a water bottle and maybe some of those little drink powder packets might also be a good idea.

3.) Budget Thyself (and Accept Treating Thyself Sometimes)

So the ticket is expensive, parking can be expensive, and the food is expensive. Conventions are also a magical wonderland where I can go buy a sword that I've wanted since I was eight years old. And a copy of Leeloo's multipass from The Fifth Element. And the ancient key from The Mummy. And a new Renaissance Faire outfit. And tiny potion bottles. And art prints. And vintage comic books. see what I mean.

My point is that it's very easy to walk into a convention with enough money for groceries for a week and walk out hoping there's enough soup in the cupboard to sustain basic caloric needs. I highly recommend researching everything down to parking and gas and possibly put everything on a pre-paid card with enough cash to buy the products and/or experiences you want at the convention itself. If you followed the previous tip, you'll be able to grocery-shop or set aside food money ahead of time to avoid the dilemma of "con treasures versus $15 in pizza" in the food court.

Work within a budget but, like the advice for making a plan, leave some wiggle room (or just forgiveness) if there's something incredible, life-changing, and must-have-able in a booth tucked into a corner. It will probably be worth it. Once.

2.) Ask for Photos (and Say Those 3 Magic Words "Please" and "Thank You")

Conventions have become especially well-known for elaborate and enthusiastic cosplay opportunities. This simple rule is all about pictures and interactions with people in costumes:

Don't touch people/props/costumes without permission.
Don't take pictures without permission.

The severity of adhering to these rules depends on the demeanor of the person in costume, of course, but I try to be strict with these sort of things. To be fair, I've also been hit in the face with wings and tripped over a dude's dragging Pyramid Head sword as well. The pictures thing sometimes doesn't make sense to people. "They spent forever making/combining/sourcing/putting on a costume! Don't they want people to take pictures?" They probably do. However, they did put a lot of time, effort, and/or sheer bravery into said costumes and also deserve the opportunity to pose and actually show them off properly. A horrifically-zoomed shot of their back and half of their face from 60-feet away isn't the best way to capture that hard work.

What to do?

Ask. Nicely. I'm still working on it myself (which is why I have probably less than 20 pictures of cosplay from my con experiences), but it's that easy. "Hey, I love your costume! Can please I get a picture? Thank you!" That's the script. A few other observances would be to not bother people in the middle of something (like adjusting or fixing a costume, in mid-conversation with someone else, shepherding children about) or eating. Accept "no" as an answer, but also know that the answer will usually be positive.

1.) Wear Comfortable Shoes (and Be Prepared to Queue)

This is the most vital tip and one I've constantly overlooked despite normally being a practical person. Wear comfortable, practical shoes with arch support. Please. All of the conventions I've gone to were held in places with concrete floors. Ask anyone who works in a warehouse what it's like waking around on concrete floors for ten hours. It sucks and it kills feet plus anything connected to the feet. Going to a convention wearing thin shoes with no arch support (such as my trusty Converse) results in slight stiffness, fatigue, and muscle pain at the end of the day. Amble tiredly back to a hotel room, eat some pizza, fall asleep, and wake up to a new day of sheer hell with extreme stiffness and a deep-seated muscle soreness that ages a person 20 years until it's worked out again.

Please. Comfy shoes. Arch support. Otherwise Day Two of a convention involves stopping by the first steampunk booth to get a spiffy walking stick and hoping for the best.

Bonus: Con Gear

I like bringing my ThinkGeek Bag of Holding - Con Edition, a portable battery bank (Anker usually has good ones on Amazon), a FitBit to count the ridiculous number of steps, my 3DS XL for StreetPass opportunities (and for waiting in long lines), and a water bottle to refill.

Have fun out there!