Cosplay and You: A Worldwide Community

Posted in Magic Lifestyle on February 16, 2016

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

"Cosplay is taking up the mantle of a character you love and personifying that character through the art of fashion, craft, and theater."

Kuya Joe, as one of the thousands of cosplayers around the world, had a strong way of describing what cosplay is. Appreciating a great story is something many of us share. We watch our favorite movies, play our favorite songs, and read our favorite books over and over, but we never become the object of our interest.

Cosplayers turn fanciful imagination into shared reality, and it's a growing hobby.

Residing in the Philippines, Kuya Joe started cosplaying on a whim. He first discovered cosplay when he heard someone was looking for cosplayers for a popular video game series. A "few hours later...is where things got serious," he said. "I met all the group members, had practice every week, became close friends, researched the heck out of my character, and by late 2009 I had my first cosplay experience in OtakuFest."

"We competed and won first runner-up as a group. The rest is history."

Kuya Joe was invited to LARO 2013, a Philippine game convention where he taught players about Magic and posed for plenty of photos.
(Photo courtesy of Kuya Joe.)

MJ Scott shared a similar story. "When I saw pictures of Christine Sprankle's Elspeth, the fact that Magic people cosplayed got on my radar," she said. "I met other cosplayers via Twitter, like Liz Cady and Sonja Greer, who were very encouraging. I entered the Magic 2014 Ignite Your Spark contest and finished in the top ten—my first cosplay-related win!" MJ would go on to join Liz and others in bringing the Weatherlight crew to life in 2015.

Christine Sprankle is, of course, among the most famous of cosplayers. If you forgot about Grand Prix Las Vegas last year, this epic photo should jog your memory.

As a leader in the community, Christine is often the beacon that aspiring cosplayers are drawn to. "My number one advice for anybody trying to get into cosplay is to pick a character or design they really have a connection with. When you really care about the character or the design, you really put the extra effort into it, and that passion will show in your costume and its details," she explained. "Also, there is no wrong way to cosplay! Buy a costume, handmake a costume, go to the thrift store and throw one together. As long as you are dressed up and having fun, you are doing it right."

Ashlen Rose is another famous cosplayer in the Magic community, getting her start like many others did: by being a fan of Japanese animation as the interest in the hobby grew. "Cosplaying has grown into a much bigger community and hobby than what it was ten years ago. Now people not only do it for fun, but some seek it out as a career in a sense," she said. "For me personally though, it remains as it always has—something fun, a way for me to express my appreciation for something."

"It's important to me because it takes a lot to put yourself out there, put your art and your creation out there. The feeling when someone recognizes it and connects with that character is probably one of the greatest feelings," she continued. "When a little kid walks up to you in awe because you are their hero, it's priceless. It's important because of the memories it creates."

A. E. Marling knows that moment all too well. His popular Stitcher Geralf cosplay delights players wherever he takes it.

A. E. Marling helped a young Magic fan make a grisly discovery about how some Zombies are made.

"I love acting out the character while cosplaying," he said. "It's a great way to pass the time between rounds at a Grand Prix, and other players appreciate the enthusiasm of my cackling."

"From there I was hooked. I just had to be her."

Cosplay, of course, can mean so much more as a participant. Arielle of Air Bubbles Cosplay found that cosplay helped her too. "I got into cosplay when I started suffering from depression. It was a way to focus on something that truly made me happy in a really dark time in my life," she said. "Magic: The Gathering was the reason I delved a little deeper into it. My boyfriend taught me how to play Magic and handed me Chandra, Pyromaster and said, 'I think you'll like her.' From there I was hooked. I just had to be her. I needed to make that costume and become this awesome character. It's all been a crazy race from there and I've been cosplaying ever since!"

The "Jace" Arielle fought at Grand Prix Vancouver was David McDarby, a digital events coordinator at Wizards of the Coast, who also found cosplay to be a source of personal growth. "It's allowed me to express myself in a unique way that has drastically improved my social (not to mention costuming) skills," he said. "When I play a game, I want to understand what a character's motivations and idiosyncrasies are so that I can better understand other people, all the while working on my interpersonal skills."

Erin Adams from Ontario, Canada, is newer to the cosplay scene but found that "everything just sort of lined up and fell into place," as she put it. "I am an artist and I have this crazy need to create things. I also love Magic. I love thinking about it. I love playing it. I love the stories, the worlds and characters, and the fact that it is a constantly changing game. So cosplaying for me is merging my worlds where I have an awesome creative outlet that is a constant source of inspiration, and it becomes a personal way that I can connect to both the game and the larger community."

"Cosplaying, at least for me, is a labor of love."

Erin Adams is also a fanatic about working hard at her hobby.

"Cosplaying, at least for me, is a labor of love," she said. "You have to love what you do because you are your own motivator, and your love for what you are doing and your own determination is what is going to keep you working until all hours of the night the night before a Grand Prix."

Finding that drive and passion is one of the first steps anyone interested in cosplay will take. Growing it is always the next step.

"Work to your strengths," she continued. "There are tons of cosplayers out there, and each one of them has their own strengths and skills. Don't compare yourself to them. Instead, talk to them, learn from them, but know that your cosplays are yours. You will develop your own strengths, skills, and style, and you should be proud of what you make....Your cosplay will never be truly finished, and that's not necessarily a bad thing."

Learning to break creating a new cosplay into smaller bites was a big lesson she picked up early on. "Once you make the decision to start a cosplay, break it down into manageable pieces and it won't seem daunting," she said. "My first cosplay was Emmara Tandris, and it took me more than six months to make—and a big part of that was that there was just so much to do that it was easier to put it off and do something else. So when I got around to Narset, I figured out how much time I had to complete the cosplay, then I set out specifically what I was going to complete each week."

Christine Sprankle had a pro tip from years of cosplay trials: use Google. "Google is your friend. Today it's a lot easier to make a cosplay, since there are so many sources geared specifically for cosplay," she said. "You can look up armor tutorials, buy cosplay-making books, and [watch] a step-by-step YouTube video on how to make almost anything and everything you need to make a cosplay. If a tutorial doesn't exist of a specific character, just look something up that is similar or generic and tweak it to your needs."

"Also never be afraid to ask a more seasoned cosplayer," she added. "We all started out somewhere and it never hurts to ask someone for guidance in the right direction."

Arielle had a list of more specific resources to share for the aspiring cosplayer:

  • CosplayTutorial.com—Tutorials written by cosplayers for other cosplayers. These can range from sewing to armor to even wings and LEDs.
  • Kamui Cosplay—Books for armor and prop making as well as LEDs and painting.
  • Punished Props—Books regarding foam armor/prop making as well as a tidbit on LEDs.

"These all offer [people] a great start and look into what cosplay may bring for them," she explained. "They can also help people decide what materials they want to use."

"I recommend you join the Magic: The Gathering Cosplay group on Facebook," MJ Scott offered. "It's for cosplayers and fans of cosplay alike. Everyone is really nice and helpful if you have a question, and [they're] very supportive of each other's work."

If you've found yourself bitten by the cosplay bug, now's the time to join the global community. There's a story already waiting for you to bring to life.

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