For those who are unaware of cosplay, the term is short for costume play, originating in the early 80’s. The original user of the phrase was Japanese, but the term was coined after he visited a sci fi convention in L.A. Cosplay is all about creating costumes usually based on characters from TV, movies, video games, books or comic books. The costumes are then worn, mostly when attending fan conventions such as San Diegos Comic Con, or the Comiket, which is Japans largest cosplay event. There are usually competitions held for the best cosplay at these conventions, but a lot of the time, the main purpose of cosplay is to have fun, and to show the world your love for the character being portrayed.
I was aware of cosplay having seen clips of people dressing up on TV and the internet. I knew it was huge in Japan and that it was also a major part of Comic Con. But, I was a little unsure as to how popular cosplay was in the UK. Now, as us Brits are easily labelled as stiff upper lip, reserved types, I was a bit worried that the invite for people to attend Play Expo in cosplay, might have been a bit of a non starter. We here in the North of England are far more laid back than our Southern neighbours, but even then, I did wonder just how many gamers would turn up and how much effort would be made. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised.
The start of the expo was a slow one for the three of us, as although we were near the front of the queue to get in, the start was delayed. However, this did give us chance to gauge just how popular the cosplay element was going to be. Our first costume spot, was actually right behind us. Dressed in fairly normal looking clothes, a young girl was stood behind us with what looked like a wig on. It was only when she turned around that we saw she was brandishing a mean looking lead pipe, that it twigged that she had come as Heather from Silent Hill 3.
After spotting Heather, it seemed like our cosplay radars had been fully tuned in, and we were spotting other characters in the queue, and others who had started to arrive. Two girls dressed as Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw caught our attention, a Betelguese, Joker and Princess Zelda arrived together, the Mario Bros, the Mystery Gang and Scooby Doo, and three people who, although their outfits consisted of just cardboard box masks, their interpretations of Minecraft villagers proved to be amongst the most popular for photo ops.
I was impressed. My fellow Northern Englanders were doing me proud and were turning up in force in all sorts of amazing costumes. A group of girls dressed as the female contingent of Blazblue and a FFVII group were mixing and taking photos, two COG soldiers strutted around with replica Lancers at the ready, all this, and we hadn’t even entered the building yet.
As it turned out, far more people had made an effort than we had thought. Everywhere you went within the arena, you were never too far from another random video game character. And the great thing was that everyone had put a lot of effort and thought into their costumes. Whilst in there, we also spotted a Sub Zero, Ash from Pokemon, Lara Croft, Catwoman, Punch Outs King Hippo, Devil May Crys Dante, Princess Toadstool, Toad, Dan from Streetfighter and countless others.
There were however a few that impressed us the most. So in no particular order, our fave Cosplayers of the day were Connor from Assassins Creed 3, the Ghostbusters trio, Jill Valentine, and Arkham Asylums Harley Quinn.
Now, as I said before, cosplay is a whole new world to me and I am still ignorant to the in’s and out’s, the do’s and dont’s. I have no idea how much effort went into making each of those costumes, for all I know, the people wearing those may have simply bought the outfits and gone along for the hell of it. But, the attention to detail in some of the costumes was stunning. The Ghostbusters for example, carried around full size proton packs all day. I’m not talking about cardboard boxes with string for straps and toilet roll cardboard for particle throwers (we’ve all tried it haven’t we?). These were carefully crafted recreations of the ‘real’ things with full noise and light effects going on, just minus the ”unlicensed nuclear accelerator” parts.
It was this level of attention to detail that really amazed me. So much time and effort was put into so many of the costumes. And that effort was rewarded with praise from most people who attended. Most of the Cosplayers were only too happy to stop for a photo, as it seemed that was the recognition of a job well done. Not all of the costumes were amazing and in fairness there were one or two people who in the real world outside of the expo, would not have dared to wear anything even remotely similar to their costumes. But within the cosplay environment, it didn’t matter if your costume hadn’t had hundreds spent on it, it didn’t matter if you were overweight or short, what mattered was that you had made the effort. And it made a for a refreshingly open and friendly, almost community atmosphere within the expo. And one that I am almost tempted to join in with at next years event.
So if you see someone dressed as Ryu at Play Expo next year, come and say hi. And if you see someone as the King of All Cosmos, that will be Richard.