Why 10% Matters: Cosplay Competitions and The Judging Criteria

Cosplay Competitions and The Judging Criteria

I’ve had the privilege of judging several major cosplay events on the local scene, including UP AME, Level Up! Live, the Philippine Cosplay Convention, and Cosplay Mania X. Judging a catwalk is not as fun as many people think it is — you have to be fast, precise, and above all unbiased, which can get dicey if a good chunk of the contestants are people you know.

Thankfully our cosplay competitions are mainly a numbers game, where everyone is scored on a criteria of costume accuracy, craftsmanship and creativity, performance, and overall impact. With the high level of cosplay in recent years scores have been steadily rising, and the difference between a winning costume and a better-luck-next-time can sometimes boil down to a single percentile point — which brings me to the point of this post.

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away the judging system of certain competition came under fire due to its (then) unusual methodology. Instead of asking all three judges to give a costume one score — all three of which will be tallied and averaged later, each judge was assigned a particular number of points to give for a certain criteria. In this case, one judge was given fifty points to rate the costume, another judge was given forty points to rate the performance, and one judge was given ten points to rate the overall impact.

The judge who had gotten the ten points created a furor in the community a few days after the event, decrying in a public blog post the “unfairness” of the new system. Although I understand how the judge felt that the results of the competition were ultimately in the hands of the two others, what this person failed to see was how much of an impact ten points actually has on a contestant’s final score.

At the CMX Project Cosplay Solo Competition, a similar system was used where thirty points were awarded to accuracy, forty points to craftsmanship, twenty five points to performance, and five points to overall impact. At just five points the CMX judge had even less to work with, but this person proved that five points could make a difference. By the end of the afternoon, less than one point separated two contestants for one of the major categories, and the full five points awarded to one of them gave him the win.

Five points is not worth just five points when the competition is down the line. I sincerely hope that from this point on, whoever gets the “insignificant” job of awarding 10% during a cosplay competition understands the importance of the small number of points he holds in his hands. Without that 10%, the highest score a competitor can hope for is just 90% — and in this generation of foam rubber constructs and curvy ladies in body paint, ninety points is just not enough to bring home the bacon.

What lesson can we learn from all this? Two things, mainly: 1) never underestimate the power of the smallest percentile point; and 2) if you — as a judge, are not happy with the way the scoring system works, you can always say no and not judge at all. The latter goes not just to judges but to cosplayers as well — if you’re not happy with the way a competition is scored, just skip it and find another contest to join. After all — with one convention every weekend, there are more than enough prizes to go around.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. minamic says:

    Not to mention, with 99 cosplayers strutting their stuff, Audience Impact is a fairly easy, no-brains category. šŸ˜€ And is actually a very interesting study in human psychology. But I don’t think the Muggles see it that way. Oh you Muggles…

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  2. lol sometimes i’m tempted to tell organizers to scrap the catwalk and just let the judges roam the event hall incognito to pick their favorite/s out of the entire lot. but then again, that method will raise a whole new set of questions and complaints, and we’ll be right back where we started >.>

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  3. otaking says:

    today’s lesson: *every point counts in a point-based system*

    any cosplay competition that has judging criteria is a points-based game. if you’re not trying to score high — or put another way, if you think any particular category or judge is insignificant, no matter how few points they determine — then you’re not trying to win.

    so stop whining.

    @magrose: The blue ribbon method eh? i dunno. i think drama is an inherent part of competition in general. “how could the judges not see the glory of my prized petunias? *sob*”

    lol ‘curvy ladies in body paint’.

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    1. if someone showed up wearing nothing but petunias, he can have all 100 points the judges are allotted, plus a couple more from that guy who only scored 80.

      but seriously — shouldn’t the scene be mature enough to move past scoring drama and sourgraping? it’s been ten years :/

      also, with at least one event held every weekend, everyone who wants to take home a trophy has more or less fifty two chances of doing so in a single year >.>

      so what if you lost this round? suck it up, fix your costume, and join the next one — end of story.

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  4. otaking says:

    well, consider the real reason why someone wearing nothing but petunias would win:

    local cosplay is hitting puberty šŸ˜€

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  5. sephiroth says:

    “lol sometimes iā€™m tempted to tell organizers to scrap the catwalk and just let the judges roam the event hall incognito to pick their favorite/s out of the entire lot.”

    Actually, we’ve tried out that system before and it needs some more work to it.

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