Are you a cosplayer? What's a cosplayer?

Ok so, I am so not asking for the wikipedia definition of a 'cosplayer'. But asking more in a figurative form…
what do you think defines a cosplayer?

Honestly, this is such a flammable topic but I just feel like talking about it so here it is. I can't remember when it started... but recently, I've started to feel weird and awkward to call myself a cosplayer. Before you start slamming me, calm down and read on.

Lemme explain. So, I've always felt somewhat awkward for liking this geeky sport and honestly its not exacy something I'd brag about throughout my 9 years of cosplay. So feeling awkward and embarrassed is nothing new. But that's another story for another day.

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What I've started to feel is a little different. Not awkward to be seen with an awkward hobby but awkward for the hobby to be seen with an awkward me. Very complicated, I know.

In simpler and humiliated terms, I've started to feel both guilty for not living up to the name of a 'cosplayer'  and confused over ... exactly WHAT is a cosplayer? I mean, its hard to meet a standard when you don't have an accurate gauge of that standard right?

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I've always been quite nonchalant about this whole definition thing because I believe everyone is entitled to their own interpretation. And by my own interpretation, I consider myself a cosplayer.

But as time progresses and the overall standards in cosplay quality improves, combined with the accessibility of ready made costumes. More and more commercial entities start looking to cosplayers for novelty profit. This is nothing new of course.But as more and more people jump onto the bandwagon, the definition of Cosplay gets more and more complicated.

Especially after the whole OTACOOL2 drama. It's starting to pry my eyes open to the commercialism and bastardisation of the hobby. I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m not against commercialisation. And apologies for the harsh words used here. But like many others out there.... I'm starting to feel the term  'cosplayer' just doesn’t seem much anymore. It's like anyone who dons a costume is a cosplayer, and they get acknowledged for it. For those of you out of the loop, there was a lot of hooha surrounding the publication, on how many of the cosplayers featured weren’t really “Cosplayers” but “Models”.

It’s like anyone who has a blog is a blogger. Anyone who sings is a singer. Anyone who can dribble is a basketball player. Which just makes me pull my hair in confusion and frustration… so exactly WHAT constitutes a “Cosplayer”?!

Suddenly, cosplay feels so easy and do-able. You don't even need any love for the character/Series anymore! Of course, I'm not penalizing cosplayers who buy/tailor costumes, most Japanese do it anyway. Also as a disclaimer, I don’t mind  people who occasionally goes to event, wear/borrow a store bought costume and started playing with everyone else. I believe everyone has the right to enjoy the fun lovingness of the community and I welcome them to join us.


What I'm disappointed with, is how the term “Cosplayer” is being used. I feel ashamed for admitting this because it just sounds so childish and whiny. But recently, this feeling has grown enough to make me feel like talking/blogging about it. But I guess we can't do anything about that, commercialisation and diluting of the hobby is eventual.

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Another side of me feels guilty for not being more 'dedicated' . Despite myself still continuing with cosplays, I find my own dedication to the hobby pale on comparison to other cosplayers around. A lot of cosplayers seem to live and breath cosplay and invests a big portion of their energy, time and money into it. But I don't. This is where I feel like I’m not living up the the name of a cosplayer.

I don’t have elaborate costumes. I don’t have HQ Videos. I don’t cosplay cute characters. In fact, these days I only seem motivated to cosplay if I can do something fun and novel. So, if by measurement of dedication, I think I fail haha ^_^ ;;;.

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Blah, I sound so whiny! But seriously, despite this post seemingly indicating otherwise. I'm actually really alright with not being a top notch/famous/popular cosplayer (okay, this is so NOT tsundere mentality). After all, cosplay has always been just a hobby to me albeit a very heavy one. I enjoy cosplaying the characters/series I like and I enjoy the memories etched.  And that's good enough for me =)

Alright, there really is no point to this entry, I just feel like sharing this thought with you guys. How do you guys feel about this whole “Cosplayer” identity' thing ? Share with me your thoughts !!!!


Unknown said…
I have similar thoughts too. I mean, I count myself a cosplayer, having seen it as a major hobby of mine since I was 16 (now coming to 9 years of my life) and I cosplay consistently every year. And I do it because I love the character, I love the series, I love the costume, I love making things and sewing costumes and hanging out with friends and going crazy with fellow cosplayers <-- you just posted one of the "crazy" photos.

But. I don't consider myself a good cosplayer. I do it because I like to cosplay. But even you, who don't consider yourself a dedicated cosplayer, I see you with your JBF video and your costumes and I suspect you probably cosplay even more than I do. I see people like Xrystal and Sakana who churn out like 10-20 costumes a year. I see people like Kanasaii and Lenneth who do epic costumes. I see cosplayers with amazing costumes and even more amazing photos, whereas I'm just happy if I get one nice photo of my costume.

And like you said, there's the other end of the spectrum. Am I being stuck-up and ignorant for being slightly disappointed when someone tells me their costume is completely off the shelf? Am I being obstinate and ridiculous for refusing to CG my cosplay photos?

I don't know, hahaha. Just ranting away. But I guess you can count me in as another one of those unconfident-of-being-known-as-a-cosplayer cosplayer.
reiko said…
After all, cosplay has always been just a hobby to me albeit a very heavy one. I enjoy cosplaying the characters/series I like and I enjoy the memories etched. And that's good enough for me =)

I can't agree more :/ Not too long ago I was in a slump (both in RL and hobby life) that I actually still am considering if I have hit dead end for this hobby.
I love it.
I love doing something for a series/character I love.
I am happy if those who share the same passion gets entertained from what I do.
I in turn become a hyperactive squirrel when I see something I like coming into 3D.

Reason for slump was, I felt like there just wasn't enough love sometimes. Buying costumes and donning them just because they look nice (not halloween please), jumping into the "Cosplay" bandwagon just cuz it looks cool. All these random, without even showing interest/respect for the original works. If someone comes up to me and asks me about the character I cosplay and I know nothing about s/he, I will be soooo embarassed. But then, who and how am I to judge love/passion? :/

What's worse was, I felt myself falling into that pithole :/ Doing cosplays of characters I don't know much about. For me, there's always this insecurity when it comes to portrayal, and insecurity is at it's max. when I have no clue of the what I'm doing. I can risk backing out on requests/time/memories with friends, but it hurts so much too when you have something you want to do badly but just can't find someone who shares the same passion and is willing to entertain you.

Gah this came out longer than I had expected x.x Anyway, just some thoughts on the hobby and myself at the moment. I guess the struggle to find our place never ceases :/
songster69 said…
Coming from a photographer's POV, it's not the looks of the cosplayer, the costume or props that makes a shoot epic; to me it's the attitude and character the cosplayer has in wanting to bring the character to life.

To me that's what a cosplayer is; someone who can bring a character to life spot on!
maria_tachi said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
maria_tachi said…
I'm also gulity in the sense that I haven't been producing much cosplay for a long time.... till the point where someone asked me whether am I still cosplaying?

I must admit that I'm not so willing to spend so much money, time and effort on cosplay as compare to the past.... but I still like cosplay whenever there is new inspiration.

Anyway, I'm not sure what I want to bring across but just that I feel that our local cosplayers should go up to the stage more to show yourself. Competition is not just for prize and frame but it is to show others your hardwork as well, especially only when you go up stage, you are able to protrait your character even better with action, story etc. It does not mean that cosplayer who go for competition is shallow people cause if not for all these competition, what is there to see in cosplay event?

Anyway, back to what is a cosplayer? There is definatel no real defination and I must say that people with better look will attract more attention while people who has average look will have to work harder :P
xrysx said…
when ppl ask me, i normally would say "i cosplay" and not "i'm a cosplayer". Because i love cosplaying itself, but never really think of cosplaying=cosplayer.

to me, I love producing a cosplay act. It might sound abit strange, but my own interpretion is as if doing and completing an assignment... it's a project on its own; from characterisation(personality/acting) to looks(costume/makeup/hairdo) to "performance"(be it video/photo/stage, basically the end product). Sometimes i do characters only for events itself, but it would still include all the 3 elements just of a smaller scale in the last part.

cosplaying for me is like other hobbies i love. Drawing/CGing used to be my passion, which i do almost 24/7. It just happens i have this tendency to induldge in 1 main hobby at a time. So yeah, if 1 fine day i MIA fr the scene, it simply means i moved my love to something else XD i do it because i love it, and it's a playground where i can input my ideas. I'm an art person, and i need somewhere to empty my mind~

but if i were to really think what defines a cosplayer this moment, to tell you honestly i don't wish to think. It doesn't mean anything to me, and i can't be bothered with how other ppl might wana twist it too.
Sese said…
Believe it or not what you've written here has been an ETERNAL debate here in the Philippines. It really makes you raise your eyebrow and rant about it.

I do get the feeling. There are times I wonder if I'm really a cosplayer with all the labeling...

Xiaobai said…
I guess this question is a rather subjective one, since different people would have different answers for it.

Honestly saying though, cosplay is like my...secret hobby, not only because I have to keep it from my parents, but also because I find it really weird if my friends or classmates know that I cosplay. Perhaps it's because I sense that their opinions towards cosplay is so different from I find it really awkward when they started asking me questions. I can tell that most of them find it inappropriate for real people to try and BECOME these 2D characters, and not surprisingly, good cosplay to them equates to good looking people.

To me, this is the time where I can express my love towards the characters and the series. I try to portray the character as best as I could, even though I may not look awesome or what. =v= It's abit like drawing fanart, where you draw the character based on your interpretations of them.
min said…
well... a hobby is a hobby. You don't have to be so extremely involved, spending thousand of dollars, forgetting your real life to be involved in a hobby to be called a cosplayer. Just like fishing, a person who fishes once a month and still find joy in it versus a person who fishes everyday and buys every single fishing rod out there. They both still enjoy the hobby called fishing right? THere is no official standard to be part of a hobby. Of course, to be jealous or speak bad of other people behind their back is very, very human, so do not feel guilty of not being so involved in a hobby. Like xrys says, "I cosplay" would make more sense than to say "I'm a cosplayer". In my opinion, to have labels for every single thing is silly. To me a hobby is something you enjoy and not something to add stress to your daily life which is stressful enough. It's meant to divert you from your daily burden isn't it? Anyway I'm going very off-topic. All I want to say is, as long you enjoy the hobby that's fine. Don't think too much yeah?
Justin D said…
I don't cosplay, but I do love cosplay and I attend as many events as I can :). IMO cosplaying is more than the costume, it's much like acting, like immersing yourself in the character and acting out their personalities and mannerisms
Clive said…
Dunno the definition of a cosplayer... no one came out with a proper definition before...

Dunno know when I am a cosplayer...but I do know when I am NOT a cosplayer --> when I put on a costume for the sake of money. I am then an entertainer...mascot entertainer.
Laurie said…
I've been "cosplaying" for 3 years but until now, I don't know if I am pass the noob stage and on my way to becoming a veteran...

It is a question simply-phrased, but sometimes the simplest-phrased questions are the most difficult to answer.

What I do know is that I have enjoyed the many memories and friendships the hobby has given me. Each of my costumes worn have been worn with love and respect any otaku would give her anime,manga idol.
Val said…
Not really good at explaining but i guess cosplayers are sort of a "Hobby wearer" bah...

Cuz unlike other hobbies where it usually consist of collecting stuffs, or those that are more outdoor-ish, or any other hobbies u know, cosplaying as a hobby is the more exhibiting kind bah.

After all we make the costume to wear them by the end of the day to show other ppl how much we like certain characters, so...yeah. My own defination. Heh. Hobby Wearer. =D

Pai se my ang mo quite cui. Haha~
himi said…
Are we complicating the term [cosplay] and [cosplayer] too much?

I think we might be... to simplify it, anyone who can don the complete set down to the wig/etc and be able to at least do signature poses of the character can be called a cosplayer. Its just the lengths that you go that draws a difference- are you cosplaying because you want to look like your favourite character, or showing your passion for the series and character by incoporating more of the acting/role-playing into cosplay?

So what's the difference?
The truth is: most people judge by the photo presented and hardly the story behind the photo or the creation of that photo. In the end... are YOU happy with what you're doing? That's what should be the concern, right? :)

That said, I find it weird to say that "I am a cosplayer" because it sounds like I'm giving myself some sort of a tag. I view cosplay as a form of art and creative outlet- where I pick up skills and make do with what I don't have... simple as that. You've gotta enjoy what you do, because this is "good stress" that brings you a sense of achivement no? XD
Quakey said…
You're right in every point. Cosplaying in its purest form free of commercialization and of marketing. Not that I'm belittling cosplayers for being commercial in their coslpays. Even the best of cosplaying look back to what cosplaying is all about. And they should.

If someone feels the enjoyment of dressing up as their favorite characters in games/anime/manga, then they are cosplayers.
Kaori Sohma said…
I agree with you, we got confused about what is "cosplay" and "cosplayer". I had seen several people whom wear costume and wig, called themselves "cosplayer", do a pose but somehow their attitude doesn't reflect the character they're cosplaying as. I know it really is a subjective opinion but to say the truth, I'm disappointed because some people think cosplayer is similiar, moreover has no different with model :(

I'm not judging everyone, but I guess we need to remember the reason we start cosplaying and remember that the character we're cosplaying has fans too. Cosplay is a hobby, yes it a hobby but when some people do it in a wrong way and people get misunderstood, I guess we need to make it clear. It is a simple question yet but has a difficult answer since we don't have any standard

Since cosplay is become wide-known we can't deny that commercial and marketing industry sees us as a potential thing

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