There are two faces to every community, and today, I want to talk about cosplay

We can get into a long, healthy discussion about the culture of the cosplay world, but I wanted to focus on three things in particular.

1) The cosplay community is so vibrant, beautiful, creative, and awe-inspiring. I watch videos of cosplay groups, I see people magically construct outfits and props, I see people bond, connect and build something amazing together. That is such an amazing thing to witness, I hope that the cosplay community stays around forever.

2) Sexual harassment and sexual assault is a very real thing in this community and it can happen to anyone. I cannot and never will be able to wrap my mind around the existence of this mentality, but it is very much present in our society, and that both infuriates and saddens me very much.

3) The concept of said harassment is sometimes exploited and that makes me even madder and more upset.

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A tribute to Thedas, the world of Dragon Age

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I finally finished a video project I had been working on for a little over a year. In preparation for DragonCon 2013, my friends over at Tuatha Armory built a fantastic Tallis (Dragon Age 2 DLC character) cosplay for me. I had been introduced to a group of people who specialized in Dragon Age cosplay and every year at DragonCon, they hold a large gathering and walk in the official DragonCon parade.

This was the first time I cosplayed in a very long time, so I felt rather scared and lonely. Lance Hayes (creator of Tuatha Armory) wanted to take some shots of the completed armor and I thought I would document the project. I started arranging words in my head, mapping out feelings regarding my new cosplay and how I felt about Dragon Age in general. So I wrote a poem. I love narrating, so my main thought was to write a snippet about Tallis moving forward with her life as Tal Voshoth (one who has left the Qun). Lance and his wife Misty filmed a few scenes of me doing random things in the mountains and then I thought about the cosplay group I would be seeing in the months to come.

So I took to Facebook and asked various cosplayers if they would be willing to let me film them in different scenarios and they were very gracious with their time. I had a rough cut of the poem and overall idea of the film, but I didn’t have enough footage. So I waited until I could gather just a few more seconds, yes seconds, of new footage at this year’s DragonCon, and I am glad I waited. inquisition’s new soundtrack and video that BeatDownBoogie took of our group allowed me to complete the project.

Once I had the visuals, I had to write and narrate accordingly. This whole project began with my feeling lonely and then it evolved into feeling accepted by this cosplay group. It got me thinking about the Dragon Age community as a whole. The DA team at Bioware created this huge, beautiful world and it has been expressed time and time again that the team loves their community. They love seeing cosplay, writing, video and other projects done by the community. Our gender, our race, and our backgrounds never mattered to Bioware. If we had a love for Dragon Age, then by all means, we were encouraged to show it. And in turn, they respond with a love for us. That’s what I wanted to express in this video.

As a character in Dragon Age, we experience so much. We develop friendships and make enemies, we take down monsters and armies, and we gather people together to fight for a cause we believe in. What we experience on an emotional level in the Dragon Age games is not much different than real life. I’ve made genuine friends with the people in this cosplay group, so this is also my thank you to them.

I don’t know what my life would like without Bioware and without these people. I’d rather not imagine it because surely, it would be a boring life.

A Dragon Age Tribute

After a year of preparation, the Mass Effect Cast Cosplay panel finally happened

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…and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. To see everything come to fruition as it did, I can only go back to the very beginning of this journey and remember what it took to create the MECC (Mass Effect Cast Cosplay).

First off, I may be listed officially as Talent Coordinator on the MECC team, but so much credit goes to Karissa Barrows, the woman who lead the entire project. She organized all the donations, communicated with our talent, put out plenty of fires, made sure the costumers were on the same page, even took some time to fly out of state just to get cosplay measurements from the talent. So much of this event happened because of this woman, and I can only say that I am honored to be her friend.

Karissa and I started chatting over a year ago on Twitter, and we bonded immediately over our mutual love for Mass Effect. Before long, I was asked to help with the MECC. I have never tackled a challenge like this, so I was on board. How could I say no to possibly working with such gifted people AND raise money to give to St Jude’s? I didn’t, and I am beyond grateful for that. After countless days of asking for donations, holding raffle events to raise more donations, figuring out where to even hold the panel, we finally found a home at PAX East 2014.

I won’t get into all the details as far as leading up to the actual panel because I want to write about the relationships that were formed within this community. Though we had a few actors unable to make the panel, we did end up with an amazing group, and I couldn’t be happier to have met them. I had no idea what to expect. I never met any of these people before, and I was hoping and praying that I would do a good job in accommodating them when they arrived in Boston. Let me tell you all, Kimberly Brooks, Keythe Farley, Rana McAnear, and Luciano Costa are absolutely wonderful people.

I helped Kimberly (voice of Ashley Williams) for most of the weekend, and she is beyond generous and sweet. One of my favorite memories with her was helping her with Twitter and teaching her and Luciano about hashtags.

One of the most surprising things to learn was that Luciano and Keythe never really had a con experience before, and we were determined to make sure they had a great time. We are happy to report that all of them thoroughly enjoyed meeting fans, chatting with them, and getting to know the community more. Luciano and Keythe were moreso blown away by the loyal fandom that is tied to Mass Effect and Bioware. It is no surprise, but I must reiterate that Bioware truly has some of the best fans ever, and to share that bond with the people that are hugely responsible for such love, was amazing to witness.

People flew in from all over the world to be at the MECC panel, and that even caught us by surprise. Karissa expressed that she was worried the panel wouldn’t be successful. Can you imagine her surprise when I told her the line for the panel started forming two hours before it even started? Karissa booked the main theater, a space that could hold a little over three thousand people…

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There was such an overwhelming show of support for MECC that I am astounded my mascara didn’t run down my face. While our guests were prepping in the back room, I HAD to take an opportunity to say hello to everyone in the room. I asked everyone to say hi, and hi they did say. All I could do was tell all of you how much I love you because it is true. Karissa and the team are not official representatives of the video games industry, yet we nearly packed that theater. Nearly three thousand people attended a panel that was created by fans, and this shows what an awesome community we are a part of right now.

Some fun shots:

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We also had some of the best cosplayers ever! Everyone was so lovely, and I was glad I was able to snap a few photos here and there. Right after the panel, the actors and models did a photoshoot. All funds went directly to St Jude’s. Just look at that line! We were again surprised by how many people showed up.

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Dave Hulegaard (community manager for Mass Effect and Dragon Age showed up and offered some support. He is one of the sweetest guys, and he absolutely loves talking to fans of the games. I highly encourage you to shake his hand and give him a hug if you run into him at a con.

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Here is Luciano interacting with fans. He told me that this moment was one of the best memories for him to take away from the weekend. He really loved messing around and having fun with everyone. He was also blown away by how many people were Kaidan fans.

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Very cool friends of mine were dressed up for the occasion, and they also donated quite a bit to make sure this event happened. We are beyond grateful for their generosity. Eric in particular was such a powerhouse contributor. The MECC panel, he said, was such a highlight for him that all the donations were worth it.

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Kimberly is one of my favorite ladies in the world now. She’s such a strong, sassy, and loving person that everyone who meets her is lucky to know her.

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And of course, I had to take a pic with the Thane mask. We were selling raffle tickets to give away this baby, and boy were people ecstatic for a chance to win this gem. Karissa, her father and uncle worked so hard on this part of the cosplay. It is such a great testament to the absolute loyalty people had for this panel. Just between us, we didn’t even finish painting Keythe’s pants until four hours before the panel. But we finished it, and he rocked it! I actually caught myself swooning a bit when he took the stage in full cosplay. Karissa’s dad and  uncle, your skills are awe-inspiring!

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PJ Shepard and Garrus body pillow. I wanted to kidnap them both.

This fan flew in from Ireland! IRELAND. She was a real sweetheart and she was so passionate about Mass Effect. I completely fell in love with her accent.

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One of the most pleasant surprises was getting to know Keythe Farley a little bit more. I dare say that he is one of my top favorite people of all time now. Not only is he very charming and funny, but he is very genuine as well. He is very experienced in his craft, but even he found himself in a position of being mentored when it came to convention experience. He had a blast, trust me, and it was all thanks to the ME fans that came out to see him and the others. He was very touched by some of the Thane stories that fans were telling him.

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And this is what happens when you leave your phone around Luciano, unattended and unlocked.

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With the sales of the photoshoot combined with the total accumulated from raffle tickets sales, we managed to raise … THIS MUCH for St. Jude’s and this was just on Saturday! Donations are still coming in, and we have one last giveaway to offer MECC fans. From now until April 20th, we are accepting donations of $15 or more which will automatically enter you to win one of the few SIGNED lithographs that were donated to us from the lovely Jessica Merizan.  Every $15 increment is one entry, and it will be after April 20th that we announce the final total that we have raised for St. Jude’s. Donations can be submitted here.

The MECC panel was incredibly humbling, and it really proved that anything can be done so long as you push toward your goal and you don’t give up on it. There were quite a few walls and obstacles we hit, but seeing the final product was such a reward and was completely worth overcoming those hurdles.

Let it be clear that this was only possible because of you, the fan. Mass Effect has “ended” as it has been a while since the launch of ME3, but your loyalty to the ME world, and your love for those who helped create this wonderful game hasn’t wavered. In fact, that love and loyalty may be back even stronger than it was before. One of the things I love so much about this community is the recognition that everyone on the Bioware teams receive. It doesn’t matter if they are voice actors, composers, artists, writers, builders, face models, level designers, producers… the community acknowledges everyone that had a part in the game’s creation. That’s what makes you, the community, awesome.

Karissa, Sara, Preston, Amanda, Brooke, Scott, Raquel, Melissa, Phil, Mitch, Liz, Thomas… you guys are amazing, and I am so happy to have worked with you on this project.

Karissa asked me to cut together a thank you video for the panel and it can be found here. Not only does it contain thank you videos from contributors to MECC but it does contain my feelings on what Mass Effect means to me. At first I didn’t know what to write or say, but when I wrote down “Mass Effect isn’t just a game…” it all came together and I hope that you feel the same as I do.

Thank you for spending the weekend with us, thank you for giving us a chance to bring the MECC to you, and thank you for keeping the ME world alive. And a very special thank you to Kimberly, Keythe, Rana and Luciano for taking time out of their schedules to come out and create lasting memories with us. I’m Commander Shepard and you are my favorite community on the Citadel.

Game on, my fellow commanders. Game on.

Highlights from Supernatural’s 2014 Vegascon (with pictures)!

Now that some time has passed, and I have recovered from the awesome time I had at Vegascon, I wanted to give you guys the highlights of the convention in hopes to encourage you to come next year! It is four days of pure energy and entertainment, and I am so happy that I went. Now on to the good stuff!

Our host was none other than Mr. Richard Speight Jr! The man is absolutely hilarious and charming. He’s very witty and an excellent host, so I would not be surprised if he hosted the event again next year.

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Our musical entertainment was Elastic Waste Band led by Tango (Rob Benedict). Very energetic, fun, and they have such an awesome presence on the stage.

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The convention started out with wonderful panels by Nicki Aycox and Rachel Miner, the actresses who portrayed Meg the demon in the series. Tell Nicki is rocking that amazing hair and Rachel that she is a hoot. Both women were extremely funny and it was too bad that they didn’t do a panel together.

Rob Benedict (who played Chuck on Supernatural) also did a couple of panels. For those who do not know, he suffered a stroke last year, and he is now 90%. He showed so much gratitude for the fans who supported him and gave him so much love since that time. Go ahead and shower him with even more love. He’s such an endearing man.

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One of the most entertaining panels belonged to AJ Buckley and Travis Wester. Fans will recognize this duo as the leading men in  Ghostfacers. I absolutely could not stop laughing. They showed a lot of fan love before answering questions from the audience. They understood that it was because of fans that Ghostfacers made more appearances in the series, so they are set in showing fan appreciation. If you ever get a chance to see their panels, I highly recommend it!

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One of the most honest speaking guests at Vegascon is DJ Qualls. This guy is a one man show when it comes to opening up and pouring your heart out. I will never forget when he was talking about how he believed that he didn’t stack up to attractive guys like Jared and Jensen, and someone in the crowd yelled “WE THINK YOU’RE ADORABLE!” and everyone started cheering for him. He had a moment and was rather choked up, admitting that this never happened to him before. It was one of the most heartwarming moments of the convention.

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This is Kim Rhodes. I want her to adopt me. She is an amazing woman, and a great role model to follow. As you can see, she has tats, and a fan told her that she (the fan) got a part in a school play, but when the director found out she had ink, she was let go from the part. Kim Rhodes’ reaction? “That’s bulls***. There’s something called makeup. They missed out. Keep on going and don’t give up.” Even her damn autograph is cute as hell. I love her so much.

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Mr. Osric Chau showed quite a bit of love for his fans and cosplay. He pulled some cosplayers from the audience and did a skit with them. And of course, he busted out into his own cosplay: KEVIN FREAKING SOLO.

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Karaoke night with hosts Richard Speight Jr and Matt Cohen was spectacular, and producer Jim Michaels along with other guests crashed the party as well including DJ Qualls, Osric Chau, and Kim Rhodes!

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Chad Lindburg‘s panel was probably the scariest because he actually enjoys looking for paranormal events, and he announced that there were three spirits/ghosts with us in that panel room. Not. Creepy. At. All.

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There were auctions for autographed banners and poster, plus there were cosplay contests. I managed to see the end of the Castiel cosplay contest. LOOK AT THAT BEAR. And who better to judge the Castiel cosplay contest than Mr. Misha Collins?

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And Osric crashed Misha’s panel in style.

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Gold ticket attendees were spoiled with a luncheon and a half hour panel with our favorite hunters. Sorry for the crappy quality, but I did not have a great camera. But it was still pretty cool to see the guys before their big debut panel later that day!

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Obligatory random photo. This is exactly what it looks like.

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And the men of the hour makes a grand entrance. Jensen on cowbell, Jared on the tambourine (yes, he smacking it on his rear), Jensen showing off his pelvic thrust dance moves, a wild Sebastian Roché appears… crazy and fun panel!

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Misha and Matt hosted a talent contest as well! You could do pretty much anything. There was poetry, singing, impressions… it was pretty impressive for an event that they had not done before that night. Very impromptu, but it wasn’t anything the guys couldn’t handle.

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For gold ticket attendees, there was also a cocktail party that featured a centerpiece contest. Judges were Matt and Osric. After the contest, there was a lot of dancing. John, if you’re reading this, you’re a wonderful dancer!!!

Jim Michaels and Osric have got some moves! Very impressed and they are both just the sweetest guys you will meet. One of my favorite memories was Osric dancing with me and just asking general questions about me. He really went out of his way to interact with as many people as possible. These guys definitely love their fans.

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And one of the most exciting moments for me was to listen to Felicia Day. She is seriously one of my biggest girl crushes. Her panels are insightful, intuitive, funny, and she may be a tiny woman, but she has a strong personality and is one of the most influential voices in the geeky/nerdy community. I have nothing but respect and love for this woman.

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My favorite picture was taken with Felicia. I was so happy when she recognized me at the photo op. I had submitted a video to Geek and Sundry plus I cosplayed Tallis last year, so I believe she recognized me from either of those media vices. I asked her if we could wear mustaches for our photo, and she was ALL about that.

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Again, I love the hell out of this woman. She is my spirit animal.

A very informative panel was done by Aldis Hodge. Not only is this man highly attractive, but he’s SUPER SMART. Did you know he designs watches?  The brand is Basil, and they are gorgeous.

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And what would a Supernatural convention be without our favorite villains? Mark Sheppard and Mark Pellegrino took to the stage. Well, Sheppard was going around interacting with fans in the audience while Pellegrino kept to the stage. I was very surprised by the chemistry between the two. They played off of each other very well and were vying for the audience’s affection in the way of how many “AWWWWs” each could get at any point in the panel. Very funny men.

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And the last panel I attended belong to Mr. Sebastian Roché. This man is a performer and entertainer. He ended up singing in French and taking his shirt off (no photos of that… I was too distracted.. sorry!) and sang about not so PG related topics. Oh yes, his panel comes with a disclaimer that it is not meant for younger audiences, but he aims to please. I had the opportunity to chat with him later that night and I can report that he is absolutely charming. He is now one of my top favorite actors. I can seriously listen to this man talk all day.

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And attendees purchased an additional ticket to have some one on one time with select guests. Though we had a short amount of time with them, they gave me the best memories to take away from the con. Guests included Felicia Day, Mark Sheppard, Mark Pellegrino, Sebastian Roché, Aldis Hodge, and director Guy Norman Bee.

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So there you have it guys! I wish I could post pictures, but I took over 500! I encourage you to attend Vegascon next year, so you can have your own batch of photos and join in on the fun. It was great to meet so many Supernatural fans (shout out to my row neighbors John, Pat, Michelle, and Truman!) and talk about why we love the show and what brought us to watch it. The responses are all different, yet we ended up in the same place. The Supernatural family is full of awesome people from the directors, the producers, the cast, the fans… and conventions like Vegascon is a great place to get lost in that love and geek out.

If you do want to attend, plan and budget accordingly. There is a TON of extra stuff you can purchase such as autographs, photo ops, items in the vendor hall, tickets to extra events, but believe me when I tell you that it is all worth it. Don’t break your wallet, but if you can, spoil yourself.

Special shout out to the Creation team for putting on such a fantastic event. I’ve volunteered for cons before, so I know what they went through and let me tell you, four days of convention is A LOT of energy, time and stress. Valerie and Connie, you ladies ROCK! Thank you so much and thank you to all of your volunteers!

And of course, thank you the people who are working Supernatural. Heart all of your faces!

So I will be seeing you guys next year, yes?