Under the wig: Cosplay at PAX Aus 2014

At this year’s PAX Australia, life imitated art as hundreds of fans walked the halls of Melbourne’s Convention Center dressed as their favourite video game characters. From the carefully hand crafted pieces to the casual costumes, they all came together to experience a range of panels, game showcases, and meet ups with video game enthusiasts from near and far. Although there were many cosplayers representing different games and genres, it was the League of Legends cosplayers that came out in full force.Laura Scott, also known as Saerianne, is a 19 year old cosplayer from Sydney. She attended PAX this year in three different League of Legends champion outfits: Arcade Miss Fortune, Janna, and Lulu. At last year’s convention, Laura says there were close to 20 League of Legends cosplayers but this year there was an increased influx and they came by the hundreds.

The growth in participation and enthusiasm for it, Laura says, is a great representation of the encouraging culture among cosplayers and the growing recognition of Esports in Australia. At conventions, this welcoming culture creates a space where “a random stranger can just come up to you and start talking about something and you can be in a conversation for half an hour.. and it’s great to have that connection”

It was evident at this year’s PAX that the cosplay community is flourishing and a result of this is the rise of the cosplay celebrity. Laura attended a panel where prominent cosplayers Eve Beauregard, Rae Johnston, and Ardella talked about the nature of this new fame. They said that it exists, but that it is different type of celebrity, one that belongs less on a pedestal, and more as an inspiration for those who want to express themselves in a creative way.

Laura is no stranger to this unique celebrity, her Facebook page that details her creative process and convention photos has over 1100 likes. “I remember when there were like 20 likes on my page and just starting and thinking it was awesome!”

She began with a Deviant Art page which evolved into a Facebook page. From there different Cosplay groups shared photos which led to increased recognition. Like many other cosplayers, she has her own card to hand out, which has her Facebook details in case people at conventions want to follow her. Despite this, she still isn’t used to the attention it brings.

“I’ve had a few people come up to me..it’s really weird because they’re really shy and nervous to come up to you, when I’m really shy as well…and say they’re a fan just because you’re doing something creative and sharing it with them.”

A huge fan of League of Legends, Laura was in her element at PAX as it hosted the Oceanic Regional Finals over the three days. Four teams battled it out on stage while fans packed their section to capacity, spilling out into other booths, trying to watch the games. The League of Legends cosplayers are a force to be reckoned with and at PAX, Riot acknowledge it’s appreciation for them by arranging a cosplay music video to be shot with popular Youtubers DeerStalker. They also held a cosplay parade where “everyone who participated received a mouse, headset, lanyards, and a pillow.”

Laura says that “they’re very inclusive. Whether your costume is immaculate and perfect or you’re just starting out cosplay for the first time, everyone is encouraged to be involved”

It is this theme of inclusivity that has allowed the cosplay community to develop into what it is today, a thriving force of united passions and creativity. And PAX has given the bonds built through shared photos, tweets, and messages on social media a space to become tangible.

“To a lot of people going to a convention it would be overwhelming, but to me it’s an escape, it’s a holiday, I don’t have to think about Uni I just go and have fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, I still hope in ten years I’ll be geeking out over games.”

For Laura and others like her, PAX is an open and welcoming convention that has given video game cosplayers of Australia a place to call home.

Guest contribution by Jordan Fennell.