Another way to look at a con, from a top-down framework, is how anime cons serve several purposes across the board. I’m going to try to list the most prominent and attractive reasons here in an archtypical form, but who knows, some people come to cons for very specific things sometimes. Anyways, the follow framework basically categorizes the average con-going crowd into 5 types, and one could describe the population of each con event with these categories. It’s possible that one person exhibit multiple, even all of these traits. However generally there will be one guiding, overpowering tendency–or else how would you know which panel/event to go to?
The Cosplayer. The general trend in anime cons in the US is that cosplaying is a necessity. This is actually a divergence with cons in Japan where cosplay is a very distinct activity either as a means or as an end. Today, con cosplay has gotten to the point that anyone can cosplay and go about doing any kind of thing. Crossed with other activities such as doing a skit at the masquerade, a hall costuming contest, LARP, or even just for meetups, the cosplayer is ultimately engrossed with costuming. In as much as race cars are meant to be raced, a con is a race for those well-oiled costumes. Ahem. Of course more traditional use of cosplay as booth-babe-age also happens, even in Artist Alleys type places. Some do it for only the attention whoring aspects. There are also a lot of people cosplaying just for the giggles, but 9 out of 10 of those are crap cosplays or creepy old people.
+: They give anime cons its flavor. They’re dedicated (it takes work to get a costume together!), and generally pleasant.
-: They tend to be attention whores, and prone to drama. Also too many cosplays just suck these days.
The Fanboy. It’s hard to find people who are very much so in this category, but often times these types exhibit signs of obsession. They would line up for a certain event at the expense of other, leisurely fun things to do. They have 1-track minds when it comes to *the thing* they attend a con for. Like the typical fangirl at a Yoshiki autographing session. Or my French friend who’d travel to the US just to see KOTOKO. Honestly, they’re generally a good group and they make cons fun for everyone; on the flip side they can also manifest for the worst, and all it takes is just a couple bad ones to ruin some event.
+: They’re the ones that cons are meant to cater to in the first place. They welcome our guests of honor and gives everyone something to talk about. Also dedicated, but only to their respective fans and whatever they worship.
-: Too much dedication makes a certain event difficult to access for normal people. Need to shower more. Scares normal people.
The Cruiser. I’m probably squarely in this category half of the time. We go to cons for what a con is–its programming. We browse through the cosplayers much like how we go through a stack of promo posters at the dealer’s room. We go from one panel to another. Depending on how hardcore you are about it, you could take it easy and even go visit the local attraction when traveling to a faraway con. Taking time to eat, rest, and even go to bed early if there’s nothing interesting going on at the end of a tired day. Lining up for the masquerade is something we do out of tradition, and we always have a blast at the AMV showing. The sad thing about this group is that they are not too passionate about everything, even when hanging out with friends.
+: They’re the bulk of con goers. Relatively normal.
-: Often conceited and selfish, prone to burn-outs at cons because they’re just here, and not for something specific. Make dealer’s room line really, really long.
The /b/-tard. I use this word not only in the familiar 4chan.org sense, but in general. Cons provides a context that not unlike how 4chan provides a context for anonymous posters of random pictures. With decreased inhibition from peer behavior, lack of sleep, use of certain substances, what have you, they may go around glomping random people, hold up stupid signs, mosh at the wrong time, whatever. Elevated case can involve inappropriate crossplaying and other kind of stuff you don’t want to know.
+: They’re funny.
-: They’re jerks.
The Social Butterfly. This is the type of people who comes to con just to socialize. They could be any of the above categories, but that’s what keeps the coming to cons. Usually also because it’s just a lot of fun to watch /b/-tards make fun of themselves, and it keeps them up to date with what’s going on. These social people are often veteran con-goers, and can resemble late stages of a burnt-out Cruiser or Cosplayer. Sometimes a very dedicated fanboy could also be at a con purely to socialize outside of seeing only 1 event. Sometimes this can describe certain con staffers!
+: They make cons worth coming to year after year, despite the change in programming.
-: They can get in the way if you’re one of the other type of con-goers. Also drama-prone.
To me, ultimately anime cons are giant parties, or a congolmeration of several parties strung together, both chronologically and geographically. Compatible people hang out in each of the party types. For example Saturday night, you have your Cruisers and Cosplayers and Social people at the masquerade, with some /b/-tards. Rest of the Cruisers will be out at dinner with other social people. Some Cruisers with Fanboy leanings will be with other Fanboys at the programming they’re interested in, along with /b/-tards doing whatever they can get away with in the halls hanging out with other Cosplayers not doing the Masquerade. At a panel like 4chan, you get a good mix of Fanboys, /b/-tards, and Cruisers who reads 4chan. At a panel like Geneon After Dark, however, it’ll be mostly just Fanboys and whichever Cruisers are still not tired at that point. The Social Butterflies are probably at various room parties, hanging out at the hotels, or karaoke. It’s party-after-party-after-party like an endless game of musical chairs.
With the framework laid out, there is one thing on my mind that you can use it for–to plan your next con-going experience for maximum profit! If you want to skip lines, pick ones with the least Cruisers. If you want a lot of LOL, go to the /b/-tard things or one with a lot of Fanboys. If you want some con atmosphere, hang out with the Cosplayers. And always, have some Social Butterflies in your con networking map. If you want to know what’s hot and what’s not, ask a Fanboy, a Butterfly with fanboy tendencies, or an expert Cruiser. If you want to stay safe, stay away from the /b/-tard things.
I hope this is helpful.