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July 26 - July 28, 2019
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington DC, USA
Home  //  Vitals  //  Vitals: Policies
Vitals: Policies

It is very important that you read and understand these policies; they'll be posted at the convention as well, but anyone who attends Otakon is expected to follow these rules.

Disruptive Behavior Policy

Your membership in Otakorp, Inc. entitles you to enjoy the primary benefit of that membership: you get to attend Otakon! But as the man said, with great power comes great responsibility.

We work very hard to ensure that Otakon takes place in a safe and family-friendly environment, and we need your cooperation. We have policies to address specifics such as weapons and lost children. We also have a general policy that we do not tolerate disruptive behavior or harassment of any sort, and we can and will take action when we see something we feel is dangerous or disruptive. The type of action we take may range from a quiet but stern word in private to forcible ejection from the convention, revocation of your membership in Otakorp, Inc., or even criminal charges. (Action taken is solely at the discretion of Otakorp, Inc.)

The sorts of things that may trigger such action include but are not limited to: fighting (fake or real), heckling, impeding traffic flow, offensive behavior, harassment, failure to observe basic hygiene, public inebriation/intoxication, or any other failure to follow the rules and directions of staff members. Remember, anything illegal outside the BCC is illegal inside the BCC! If your behavior is clearly problematic, we will deal with it as such. Show common courtesy to your fellow otaku and follow the rules, so there's no problems.

Smoking at Otakon

Simply put, Otakon is a smoke-free event, within a smoke-free facility, as required by Maryland State Law. Since the Baltimore Convention Center (BCC) does not permit cigarettes or tobacco products, Otakon can not allow them either. Please remember that we are a family-oriented event, and want to make sure to not only appeal to but respect all of our attendees, and know that there are no designated smoking areas inside the BCC. If you are really feeling the need for a smoke, feel free to step outside and respect a distance of at least 25 feet or greater from the entries as per Maryland State Law. Attendees caught smoking are in violation of this policy and may be ejected from the BCC.

Regarding E-Cigarettes: This policy also applies to electronic cigarettes or any alternative smoking product – they are not permitted and are considered the same as cigarettes by the convention center.

Line Etiquette

With so many people attending, waits in lines may last hours. We know that this is frustrating, but it is unavoidable. Please don't take it out on other attendees or on the staff, and please remember that following the directions of staff members will make the lines smoother for everyone!

When lining up, be sure to check for Otakon Staff holding "Line Starts Here" and/or "Line Ends Here" indicators. We can't promise to have them up for every event, but please be mindful of them to get you in faster!

NOTE: Members caught jumping in line will be sent to the rear of the line. You will not be allowed to hold places in line. Lines cannot block entrances or exits, so leave a gap in front of the doors as per Baltimore Fire Codes

Cameras at Otakon

The usage of photographic devices is prohibited within certain areas of the convention, including but not limited to video and 35mm theaters, within Main Events and/or concerts, and in the Art Show. All such areas will be marked, so please pay attention.

  • Prohibited devices include, but are not limited to, cameras (both film and digital), camera phones, and camcorders
  • Photography within the Artists Alley is only allowed at the discretion of the individual artist. Permission must be obtained from the artist for photography of any kind.

Events that allow photography will be marked as such.

When stopping to take photographs in the hallways, please be considerate of your fellow members by being brief and not blocking traffic.

Photographing Guests at Otakon

Otakon's guests have the right to maintain their privacy. Convention members may be asked to refrain from photographing guests if the guests would prefer to not have their picture taken. Guests have been known to join con-goers for photo opportunities, but there are no guarantees.

Children at Otakon

Otakon is a fun family event, but also one of the largest east coast Japanese animation conventions; there is an expected attendance of at least 30,000 people. As a result, Otakon wants to ensure the satisfaction and safety of all of our members, especially children. In order to safeguard the well being of our youngest attendees, Otakon has put these policies into effect and offers some advice to keep track of children at any large convention.

A parent or guardian must accompany any and all children under the age of 12 at all times.

Children are required to carry some form of written identification and parent/guardian contact information with them at all times so that Otakon staff may contact the parents or guardians should the need arise.


We are unable to page your child if he/she becomes lost.


  • First and foremost, please do not leave your child unattended at Otakon. As mentioned before, we are expecting an attendance of over 30,000 people at the convention. It's easy for a young child to get lost in a crowd this large.
  • Make sure your child knows important information, such as your name, what you are wearing, what hotel you are staying at (if any), a cellular phone number, and a home phone number. If a child is lost, we will make every attempt to contact you via this information.
  • It is a good idea to set up meeting places and times for children older than 12. Otakon suggests that you do not use the following locations as meeting areas: the Dealer's Room, as it is constantly crowded and extremely large; video theaters because they are dark and also fairly large. We do suggest using landmarks, such as the large fountains located in the Charles Street Lobby or the glass-encased ships on the second floor of the Convention Center. Also encouraged is to locate and meet at any of the Otakon Information Desks.

In the case that you cannot find your child at your designated meeting place and cannot establish contact, please notify an Otakon Information Desk.

Otakon wishes you and your children a safe and happy convention!

Dance at Otakon

  • Only Otakon members will be allowed into the dance. Valid Otakon Membership badges for the current year must be clearly displayed at all times within the dance area.
  • Otakon is not responsible for members' bags. This includes but is not limited to outside, beside, or near the entrance to the dance.
  • No bags (of any size) will be allowed in Hall D during dance hours. A bag check will be located in Sharp Street Lobby.
  • Empty plastic bottles will be allowed into the dance. Any other container types will not be allowed.
  • No large costume props allowed.
  • No commercial grade photography or videographer equipment is allowed.
  • Please be considerate of the other dancers…
  • ...and REMEMBER, drink plenty of water!

NOTE: All other Otakon policies are enforced in the dance, such as disruptive behavior and swinging items attached to rope/string/chains/etc.

18+ Policy

There are certain events at Otakon that are designated as 18+. Members who wish to attend these events must be at least 18 years old and MUST obtain a wristband from the wristband booth prior to the event. Please have your identification ready when obtaining your wristband.

Otakon Staff will not be able to check identification at the door.

Signs at Otakon

While we understand the appeal of signs as ice-breakers and conversation starters, there have been too many complaints from other members about offensive content or signs that amount to little more than panhandling.

No signs are permitted except for those signs that are an established part of a costume.

(i.e. the sign must be part of the standard "look" of the character, such as the sign carried by Genma the Panda from Ranma 1/2)

Those members wishing to post notices or find other people should use the bulletin boards provided. Please note that, according to the Baltimore Police Department, signs asking for food, money, hugs, etc. are considered panhandling and signs offering to exchange any sort of sexual favor (kisses, hugs, glomps, etc.) are considered solicitation.

Signs with offensive content are not allowed regardless of whether they are "in character."

Signs in violation of this policy will be confiscated. Repeat offenders will be considered in violation of the disruptive behavior policy.

Please note that this policy applies to all types of signs, regardless of construction. Otakon staff decisions regarding signs are final.

Weapons at Otakon

Weapons policies at Otakon are for your (and others') safety, and include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • NO LIVE STEEL will be permitted on the premises of the BCC, without exception. Live steel is defined as:
    • Swords, bayonets, and knives (regardless of whether or not they are sheathed)
    • Star knives and shuriken
    • Metal armor, including chainmail (some exceptions may apply. Please check with Access Control)
    • Other objects made of metal which can take an edge. This holds true regardless of whether the object is actually sharp.
    • Metal studs on costumes or other metal components of costumes/props may also be subject to approval by Otakon.
  • NO PROJECTILE WEAPONS OF ANY KIND will be permitted.
    Examples include, but are not limited to:
    • Airsoft guns, any and all kinds, regardless of whether functional or not. A non-functional Airsoft gun with no moving parts is still an Airsoft gun.
    • BB and other pellet guns
    • Crossbows, dart guns, and blowguns
    • Water guns and/or pistols
    • Stun guns and Tasers
    • The ONLY exception to this rule will be "prop" or resin models that are easily identifiable as toys, provided that they possess no moving parts and are clearly marked with a non-removable orange tip. The exception is with Airsoft guns; they are never acceptable -- see above.
  • NO REAL BOWS, or pieces of real bows of any type are permitted within the Baltimore Convention Center
    • Additionally, authentic arrows (tipped or non-tipped), including crossbow bolts and other projectiles, will not be permitted.
  • NO "PADDLES," of any sort will be permitted at the convention.
    • This includes, but is not limited to, Yaoi/Yuri Paddles.
  • NO NUNCHAKU of any kind will be permitted.
    • Nunchaku are defined as two sticks or other body connected at their ends with a short chain or rope. Two sticks can be made of any material, or shape.
  • NO EXPLOSIVES or CHEMICALS of any kind including, but not limited to:
    • smoke powder, sparklers, or fireworks of any kind.
  • Finally, if it is illegal in the City of Baltimore and/or State of Maryland, it is illegal inside the BCC.

Illegal weapons will be reported to the appropriate authorities.

Permitted Weapons

  • Staves, bo sticks, boken, shinai, and wooden swords will be permitted as long as they are handled responsibly and meet all other criteria.
  • Fake, prop, or made-up weapons (i.e. made of tissue paper, plaster of Paris, cloth) are permitted if they are safe and not dangerous to others around you.
    • Examples of dangerous conditions include, but are not limited to, items that may trip others, items that can snag on people or surroundings, items that obstruct doors and hallways.
  • Prop weapons shall be limited to less than six feet six inches (6'6") in height and less than fifty pounds (50lbs) in weight.
  • Any chain must be less than three feet (3') in length regardless of material. This includes, but is not limited to, chain wallets and non-costume chains.
  • Prop bows may be carried in the convention space, provided they are NOT strung with authentic bowstring, and any alternative material used (e.g. twine, yarn, any other non-functioning material) is not attached to the bow in a taut (tight) fashion.
    • All bows must comply with all other general policies - no live steel or sharp edges, and not more than 6'6" in height. Prop or toy arrows clearly marked as such are allowed. If our staff feels your bow or materials do not meet all of these criteria, you'll be asked to remove the prop immediately from the convention space.

Behavior with Weapons/Props

  • Misuse of a weapon or prop, such as swinging it in a public area or posing a hazard to others, will result in the weapon or prop being deemed unsafe for the convention, and you will be asked to remove the item from the convention center.
  • Any edged or other non-permitted weapons purchased in the Dealer's Room must be boxed and removed from convention center property immediately. Weapons are not to be taken out of their packaging or wrappings while on BCC property.
  • All props and weapons brought into the convention may be inspected for policy compliance by authorized Otakon staff, including those that may have had prior approval (other conventions, previous conventions, or pre-convention approval by Otakon staff).
  • Any item that poses a potential safety hazard may need to be removed from the convention.
    • This includes any costume, prop, or accessory that obstructs doors or hallways, or otherwise poses any kind of danger to other attendees, staff, or convention center property.
    • When in doubt, check with Otakon staff.

Remember: just because a staffer has not stopped you to check your item does not mean that the item is allowed

All decisions made by Otakon and/or the Public Safety Staff of the Baltimore Convention Center are final.

Guests and Autograph Policy

We understand that getting autographs from our guests is a major highlight of the convention for many attendees, not just because it's a fantastic souvenir, but also because it's a chance for that tiny bit of face time with the guest. Guests, too, value that rare opportunity to meet some of their fans.

However, demand nearly always outweighs supply, especially for extremely popular or extremely rare guests. Even the speediest and most accommodating guest can only sign so many things in a given period of time. In order to give the greatest number of fans the opportunity to meet the guest, we MUST keep the lines moving smoothly.

Otakon's official, scheduled autographing sessions are governed by the following rules:

  • Otakon does not and cannot guarantee that you will receive an autograph from any particular guest. Otakon's official autograph sessions are free of charge to any Member. However, individual guests may participate in private or industry-sponsored appearances in the exhibit halls, and there may be fees or purchases associated with those sessions. For-fee or purchase-required autograph sessions must always take place in the Industry, Dealer, or Art halls.
  • Guests will always be glad to sign your Otakon program book, as well as any officially licensed and properly credited products. They absolutely will NOT sign bootleg or unlicensed merchandise, nor material for which they are not properly credited. At their sole discretion, they may sign handmade, personal, or otherwise unusual items. If you are uncertain about a particular item, check first! (Guests may be offended if they're presented with bootleg items.) As a last resort, check with the staffer in charge of the session. Otakon staff may veto any item as unsuitable for signing, and such decisions are final.
  • Unless a specific limit is posted for a particular guest, assume that you are limited to ONE ITEM PER PERSON.
  • There will be no flash photography during official signing sessions, unless otherwise noted.
  • There will be no photo ops during official signing sessions, unless otherwise noted.
  • Do not monopolize the guest's time if there are others waiting. (Assume that whatever you have to say must be said in 30 seconds or less, while the guest is signing your item. It's a good idea to write down what you want to say.)
  • Do not request excessive personalization, sketches, etc. unless the guest offers.
  • If you are bringing an item for the guest to sign, please have it ready for signing when you are within sight of the guest. (For CDs and DVDs, you should remove the cover insert to save time; for unusual items, please ask the autograph staff for their recommendations.)
  • Policies for specific guests may differ.

How Our Autograph Sessions Work:

  • Official line space will open up an hour before an autograph session is scheduled to begin. For those attendees who show up before the line space officially opens up, we will set up an unofficial "overflow" space that people can hang out in until the line officially opens. We will make every effort to move overflow people into the official line space when the time comes. There are no guarantees that you'll end up further up in the line because you got to the overflow space first. Your spot will be random.
  • Once the official line space fills up, we will temporarily close off the line. If you show up after a line has closed, please see the nearest autograph staffer for a ticket. These tickets will be color-coded for each particular autograph session, and will have a time written on the back (30 minutes after the start of session, 1 hour after, etc.). Please come back to the line at your specified time, and if additional line space has opened up, we will let you in. How many ticketed people we can add to the line space will vary by guest; some people sign quickly, and some guests take more time.
  • A limited number of passes for each guest may be made available during the guest's Q&A panel, specifically for those who attend the panel, but do not assume that these will be available. If getting an autograph is your priority, lining up in the Autographs area is your best bet.
  • EXPRESS PASS: In rare cases, a member (typically a prize winner) will present an "Express pass" for a particular guest. This allows the member to bypass the line entirely. Those who are lucky enough to possess one should proceed to the front of the line and speak with the staff member there.
  • When interacting with the guests, please be considerate of the guest and the attendees behind you in the line. They have often been waiting as long as you have, and deserve their chance to interact with the guest, so please do not monopolize their time. Photography may be permitted at the discretion of the guest and as time permits, please ask a nearby Autograph staffer well in advance.
  • Otakon staff reserve the right to refuse access to any member who fails to follow the rules (or attempts to circumvent them). Anyone caught in the act is subject to the disruptive behavior policy, and risks having their membership revoked.
  • If getting an autograph for a particular guest is important to you, it is highly recommended that you visit the Autographs section in the Camden Lobby at your earliest opportunity and check in with a staffer there. They will be aware of any scheduling changes or policy changes, and will let you know when and where you'll want to be. There will also be an updated scheduling board set up near the stairway there. If the first time you arrive is right before the session is scheduled to start, you may well be disappointed by the results.

Otakon staff reserve the right to make changes to guests policies as circumstances dictate. If you have a question about policy, please see the Otakon staffer in charge of the guest appearance or signing. All staff rulings are final.

Notes and Gifts for Guests

If you've brought something special for the guest, such as a personal note or small gift, we ask that you follow certain guidelines for practical and safety reasons. Most guests appreciate these small gestures, but many gifts cannot be accepted.

  • Please ensure that you provide the name of the guest, as well as your own name and contact information, either written on the outside of the message or attached clearly to the outside of the gift.
  • Please do not wrap your gift using tape or tie it using ribbon; however, a gift bag or simple tissue paper cover is acceptable. (We must be able to screen all gifts.)
  • Avoid anything large or bulky or easily damaged. Most guests fly quite a distance to appear at Otakon, and may have limited space in their luggage. Any gifts you bring should be small, durable, and easily packed.
  • No food items will be accepted.
  • If you have an item to present as a gift at any guest appearance, please bring it first to the Otakon staff member in charge of the appearance.

    • DO NOT use Q&A time to present your gift to the guest; this is extremely rude and unfair to the other people who came to hear the guest speak.
    • DO NOT use autograph time to present your gift without first clearing it with the staff member in charge, as this may deny others the opportunity to get to meet the guest.
    • You may be asked to wait until the end of the session, or the staffer may accept the gift in order to present it to the guest on your behalf. (Rest assured, your gift will be given to the guest on your behalf — that's why we request your contact information on every gift.)

Tips for Interacting With Guests:

  1. If you're going to ask a question, write it down first. It's easy to become flustered if you're not used to public speaking or if you're about to talk to someone you really admire. Writing down what you want to say helps you to organize your thoughts so you don't waste everyone's time or embarrass yourself.
  2. Every guest at the con is someone who has a cool job that they're quite good at. It isn't necessary to worship the ground they walk on — just be friendly and polite.
  3. Remember that guests get tired, too, and they're entitled to downtime. If you encounter a guest outside the con, try to make eye contact before you approach them, and look for a signal that it's okay to chat. Please don't interrupt meals or private conversations.
  4. Try to avoid asking questions that the guest has answered a hundred times. And if you come late to a panel, find out whether a question has already been answered before you waste everyone's time. Don't ask questions that are answered in the guest's bio, homepage, or Wikipedia entry.
  • Write down whatever it is you want to say.

  • Be BRIEF. (see note #1)

  • Tell them you like their work, and why. (BRIEFLY)

  • Ask interesting questions about past, current, and upcoming projects.

  • Ask open-ended questions.

  • Ask about favorite hobbies, shared interests, etc.

  • Ask them questions that are answered in their Wikipedia entry or Otakon bio.

  • Ask questions that can be answered with a Yes or No.

  • Ask for hugs, kisses, or their hand in marriage.

  • Ask for autographs or other favors.

  • Waste everyone's time.

  • Ask deeply personal or invasive question.

Photographs and Promotional Material Policy

Participants in Otakon or other Otakorp, Inc. events are granting their permission to be photographed or recorded by authorized Otakorp, Inc. individuals. By purchasing your membership you inherently grant Otakorp, Inc. permission to use such images or footage for archival or promotional purposes.

Cosplay and Safety

While this is not officially policy, many points covered above are addressed in a more detailed manner here, specific to cosplay.

...and now:

A word about Cosplay Safety (For a better Convention Experience!)

Cosplaying is fun, exciting, and a hobby that brings unique challenges in construction and execution. But what comes with creating and donning that unique design is a responsibility to yourself and your fellow con-goers. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind to ensure a successful convention experience:

You owe it to yourself to make sure that your costume is manageable for your own safety. This entails that not only is your vision, mobility, and range of motion is adequate to get around but also your ability to show your badge upon request, and communicate well with your surroundings. If you are wearing a costume that jeopardizes any of the things above, consider having a handler – that is a friend who will make sure that you are not going to pieces, (figuratively or literally), and that you have an extra set of hands and eyes.

Your ability to move in a flowing gown, cloak, cape, or anything with fabric that trails is very important. To get a feel for it, try vacuuming a room with it on. You'll learn not only to avoid stepping on the excess fabric, but how to avoid having a tripping hazard for anyone else around you. If you have a particularly long train, consider putting handles or hidden loops on the inside of the hem so you can easily carry it on the go. Remember that conventions are pure excitement and not everyone is going to be paying attention when they are walking close to you – you may have the occasional treading so keep an eye on your surroundings.

Cosplaying from something like Jet Set Radio with rollerblades may seem great in photos and at home, but at a convention center with large crowds, multiple floor surfaces, and escalators, this is not the place for anything that does not allow you to be 100% securely stationary on two feet.

The escalator is not the place for wings, mechas, costumes with stilts, or large costumes. If you have a bulky costume think about your surroundings. Do not block and cause areas to "bottleneck." Stay away from the dealer's room, confined areas, or areas with a lot of people. If you need to, bring part of the costume to the convention center and get dressed there.

If you have a headpiece that is pressing down on your head or a wig that is a little tight, keep in mind that this pressure may not be too bad for half an hour at home, but when you are at the convention center for several hours, sweating, and posing your head may start to really hurt, resulting in a headache for the rest of the day. Fit your headpiece and wigs loose enough to be comfortable but tight enough to be secure.

If you are doing a skit in the Masquerade with choreography or falls, or see yourself doing crazy photoshoots, consider taking an extra step to secure pieces so they stay – this means chin straps, elastic, extra straps or buttons.

Take the extra couple of hours and put hooks and eyes, snaps, and the proper closures into the costume. Safety pin are a quick fix but they can easily pop with movement and stab you. You also owe it to everyone else to makes sure that your costume is not a threat to the attendees, staff, or convention itself! There should be no sharp edges on your costume that are potentially dangerous – this goes with plastic, metal, or fiberglass. Splinters or sharp edges are prohibited and are dangerous to everyone – including yourself! Sanding equipment is very important to finish those sharp edges to dull. Blunt edges that stick out, such as blunt/prop swords, weapons, bokken, or projectiles that stick out from your costume must be considered as walking into someone may injure them and you will be at fault. Remember that at no time is live steel or sharp metal allowed into the convention center.

Costumes with heavy makeup (such as Homestuck), are allowed but must be sprayed down with a make-up fixative. This not only prevents the make-up from rubbing off and staining others and their costumes, but prevents damaging the convention center as well. Also, making the proper choice of make-up (proper make-up that is non-toxic, is designed to bend and flex with your skin, and blends well) applied is very important. Remember that facial makeup is oftentimes different from body makeup and remember to leave proper spaces on your skin open as you are essentially "sealing" off your body and this may lead to deleterious effects. Your skin needs to breathe and sweat – you do not want to have paramedics wiping the make-up off your skin so they can re-hydrate you.

Makeup and contacts ordered from the website in China or picked up at the roadstop for 12 dollars on the way up interstate 95 is not recommended. Find trustworthy contact dealers who have a strong reputation for cleanliness and health. You may scratch or infect your eyes by trying to take your cosplay to the next step and it's never worth damaging your eyes. Safely store them with fresh contact solution and in clean cases. Water is damaging to contacts and are not an option for storage.

Fursuits or other heavy costumes at summer conventions come with particular recommendations – get dressed at the convention, keep movement to a minimum, and have a handler. Keep water or juice on hand and make sure you have someone who's helping look after you.

When you stop for photos consider the traffic around you. Is this a good place to stop everything in a ten foot radius? Would, maybe, moving to a side area for a quick shot not only result in a better photo, but keep traffic from building up and creating a safety hazard?

Know where and when to cosplay. During the day and early evening at the convention is great. Thursday night around 11pm wandering the streets of Baltimore alone is not recommended. Standing in the hot line to get your badge on Friday morning is not recommended.

The number one word of costuming safety at Otakon is HYDRATION. Drink water and stay away from sugary drinks or drinks that give you a quick buzz and dehydrate you in the process. You are going to be wearing costumes that will require more energy and having to deal with the heat on top of that is very tolling on your body. Eat two square meals, snacks that are high-protein, and drink 100% juices. By taking a break and eating a snack or having a bottle of water, you can really help yourself have a better experience overall. Pocky does not a dinner make. There are many affordable food options around the convention center. Cosplay responsibly and the convention will be that much more of a better experience for you!

     (Credit goes to Jez, our Hall Costume Contest Coordinator for this great write up!)

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