What is cycling and ghosting at Anime Conventions and how does it affect the con?

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Answered by: Matt, An Expert in the Cosplay and Events Category
Every veteran cosplayer and anime convention attendee have heard about 'ghosting' and 'cycling' badges. The mere mention of the words can bring about a few eye rolls, but the concepts can have frugal attendees jumping in excitement. What is 'ghosting' and 'cycling?' Any money-saving cosplayer will tell you that 'ghosting' is the intention to attend an anime convention without registering or buying a badge but still sneaking into badge-only areas of the convention center. With this method, you run the risk of getting caught. What if cosplayers told you there is a more secure method? This is where 'cycling' comes in. 'Cycling' is a more advanced and strategic method of ghosting, where a group of three or more friends registers or buys only two badges, have two friends enter the badge-only zones, give both badges to one of the friends who will exit the zone to return to the others waiting outside, while the other friend waits in the zone for the others to enter. The process is repeated until all members of the party are successfully in the badge-zone area. It is a genius plan often implemented in large groups of friends in order to save money.

Ghosting and cycling have also been traditions greatly looked down upon by most groups. Skimping out on paying for a badge or ticket impacts the anime convention's sales and attendance numbers, ultimately hurting both staff and attendees. Even popular conventions like Anime Expo, with attendance numbers above 100,000, will see budget and panel cuts, reducing the number of events fans can take part of. Small time anime conventions see the biggest impact of ghosting and cycling. This year, Anime Los Angeles had to cancel over 10 panels including the Kigurumi Pajama Party and even their Con Suite, a room dedicated to giving out free food to con attendees.

Most of the cuts were attributed to hiring more security to prevent ghosters and cycling. Con attendees noticed the heightened amount of security in comparison to the previous year. Any cosplayer will say they feel a sense of relief at the amount of police presence, but will also voice their frustrations due to increasingly meticulous badge checks causing slower lines. The amount of security and police greatly increase line lengths and waiting times. It was not uncommon to see cosplayers abandoning 3-hour-wait lines. They could be heard grumbling about how unnecessary it was to see such long lines at a small time convention like Anime Los Angeles.

The already long lines at big name cons like Anime Expo did the unexpected, increase in lengths and waiting times. Due to the presence of ghosters and cyclers, 3-hour long lines became 5-hour ones. A staff member commented, "The Los Angeles Convention Center already spans such a large area. Over the years, Anime Expo's attendance numbers exploded from 60,000 to over 100,000. We had to hire more security and staff, but it's impossible to monitor all areas and stop ghosters from entering the badge-zones. If people want to get in really badly, they'll find ways."

Just like Anime Los Angeles, Anime Expo also had to dedicate larger portions of its budget to heighten security causing major cuts in events and panels. In 2016, Anime Expo canceled over twenty-five panels, recycled old photo sets, and even cut down the gaming room to a mere one-tenth of its original size. The karaoke room had significantly shorter hours. Guests of the popular anime convention complained about all the cuts and not surprisingly always voiced their frustrations with the longer lines. One attendee complained, "It's already bad that major panels were canceled, but these 5 or even 6-hour wait times in lines are killers. It's impossible to attend panels back to back anymore. I had to deal with Anime Expo's panel cuts and even cut some off my own panels from my schedule. I can only see two or three panels a day. That's crap. I paid over $100 for this con. They have to cut attendance numbers."

Staff across various popular anime conventions have begun fighting back against the epidemic. They have increased the number of badge zones to prevent ghosters from hanging inside the convention center lobbies. Conventions have even implemented full prices on reprinting lost badges, as con guests have got the nasty habit of lying about losing their badge to get it reprinted for free in order to have a set of two badges for the price of one. The conventions can do so much to prevent these cases. Cycling and Ghosting at anime conventions seem to be too strong of a tradition among guests. They have been around since conventions started popping up around the world. It might be another ten or twenty years before ghosting at anime conventions sees a reliable preventative measure.

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