I need you folks to bear with me, as this is sort of PAX East adjacent and sits just next door to video game coverage. That said, I’d like to think folks are here to also see some of my ‘human interest’ stories. I’m human. I’m mildly interesting. Thus, here we are.
The weekend of PAX East, I tried something I’ve always wanted to but didn’t totally know how to go about.
This is your last warning to turn back, as you’re not going to see a game review here. Just some stream of consciousness chatter and some pictures of yours truly- in the case that you may have ever wondered what I look like and haven’t seen my multiple photos on Twitter.
Still with me? Still intrigued? Well, come on down and listen while I spin a short yarn about my lead-up and follow through on my first time cosplaying. Now, I’ve always seen these grandiose costume pieces and elaborate outfits formed from a variety of materials and gotten a little starry-eyed. People put a lot of effort into these outfits and making sure they are detailed and immaculate, even if they throw their own spin on them. It’s a piece of the fandom that not everyone is interested in but I can’t look into a convention without seeing a bunch of smiling faces hanging out with their favorite video game, comic, or anime characters. Maybe it was intriguing to me to find out how much effort goes into the minutia and preparation of an outfit, or it could have been that I wanted to elicit the same excitement from folks. I just knew it was something that sparked my interest.
As I was hemming and hawing about the idea and whether I should pursue it, a new co-worker at my job who I had talked gaming with a bit brought up Dead by Daylight, a game I had become pretty familiar with (and will probably have some kind of write-up on soon, as a head up). When I confirmed, he told me I look like Dwight, one of the characters you can play as. This wasn’t a new observation to me but to hear a big fan of the game also say it got my gears turning.
To give you, my lovely reader, a quick glimpse into my background, I’ve done a lot of costume work in the past. I went to school for theater and production, I’ve been on some indie film sets and helped outfit myself and others for them, and I spent a lot of time involved in live-action roleplaying up until recently. I’m no stranger to dressing up, acting a part, and paying attention to little details to enhance and bring an ensemble to life. Everything from accessories to how and outfit sits to wear and tear can illustrate a story, and I find that horror games, in particular, have a way of having to take mundane outfits and tweak them to tell that story. Dwight Fairfield is no exception to this: his outfit is basic but the small details are what set him apart from other “office worker” types. For a first cosplay, it was something that would take some effort but was doable.
Putting the outfit together was as easy as looking on the internet and thrift stores for the right clothing. Being a perfectionist didn’t help with this- the tie had to be the exact right colors, the watch and leather band had to be as near to design as possible, and while I wear glasses, they weren’t the right style. It took some doing, but eventually, the whole image came together about a week before the convention. I felt good about it. I was psyched to represent a game I have come to thoroughly enjoy. Being frank, though, with my job and other factors, I can’t imagine how much of a balancing act it is for the folks who put together the beautifully crafted fantasy and sci-fi get-ups you see around. I’ve got a lot of respect for them after this whole experience, honestly.
Then came the weekend. I had packed two ‘cosplays’- one being my fairly spot-on Brad Vickers Halloween costume from last year and one being the aforementioned Dwight Fairfield. I brought some regular clothes to change into, too, just in case I lost my nerve or didn’t feel like wearing a get-up all weekend. On the first day of PAX, walking around as Brad proved to be fun but a bit warm. The attendance was a bit low but a few folks recognized me and said hello so it was a fun time. I spent a lot of time trying to check out games I might miss once the floor was flooded with people Friday and Saturday, but it felt like kind of a ‘trial run’ to get used the idea of being dressed as something in front of hundreds of people all day.
Then, the morning came. I decided to just go all out and get completely done up at the hotel room, dirty face make-up and all. My fears of being pulled over and implicated in murder were assuaged as I got to the convention center and headed inside. My good friend (and wonderful streamer), 76Trombones, was running a little late so I stood just inside the doors of the expo hall to wait for him. I felt a little nervous as people walked by and whatever was on my phone became the most interesting thing in the world as I distracted myself a bit just off of the main path.
“Hey, it’s default Dwight!”
My head jerked up as a group of three guys walked by, shooting grins at me and looking over my outfit with approving laughs. With a deep breath, I held my head up a little higher. A few minutes later, another guy walked up to me.
“Um, you’re Dwight, right? Dead by Daylight? Mind if I get a picture?”
He seemed invested in seeing someone dressed as the character, and it made me feel a little less awkward to have my attention diverted toward him rather than my anxiety at the new situation so I posed for the picture referencing one of the poses from the game (that’s how plenty of cosplayers do it, right?) and he thanked me and moved on.
That might have been when most of my concerns melted off. Maybe it was the attention or compliments. It could have been seeing plenty of other cosplayers pass by, looking nonchalant as they strode into the crowd gathering in the hall. Whatever clicked with me in the time before I met up with my friend, by the time I did I was ready to walk around with some confidence. In fact, being stopped every so often gave me more and more confidence- this was fun! Not hypothetically, as it had been before, but fun in motion!
It wasn’t just the attention and people wanting pictures, though- there was a sense of community that came from the experience. A lot of folks who knew the character seemed really excited to chat for a bit and meeting with folks like the developers of the game and other cosplayers (from the Dead by Daylight fanbase and others) made me feel like I was leaving a positive memory with them as they did for me. I was a memorable point in a weekend involving hundreds of games and thousands of people. The excitement, the bonding, the conversations; it’s actually really exhilarating to think about.
To cap off the story in with some kind of resolution, I enjoyed the experience so much that I freshened up the outfit for the next day and wore it again. I mean, why not? It wasn’t cumbersome and it added an unfamiliar twist on something that was interesting but, to be honest, a bit exhausting physically. The next day went about the same way, and it was kind of amazing how quickly I fell into a groove.
At the end of all of this, I feel like I can say that this was a successful experiment. The investment was slim- probably about the price and time involved in a couple of video games- and it was an experience I really enjoyed. Will it become a full-time commitment? Probably not. I have a lot of creativity to put out there, but unless someone were to jump in and help me financially or physically, I can’t see doing elaborate and large-scale outfits. “Understated and mundane” suits me just fine, though. I’ve already got some plans if I decide to do the same thing next year and already having a few video game costumes from past Halloweens in storage, it wouldn’t take much to upgrade them to a state that I would enjoy showing up in.
To you cosplayers of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and other elements- I salute and understand you. Thanks for accepting a first-timer into your ranks so readily and who knows? Maybe we’ll all run into each other again with different faces but familiar smiles!
Until next time!
– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)
Special thanks to the folks who took pictures, my buddy/sherpa for photos, 76Trombones (@76Presents on Twitter), and to Behaviour for creating Dwight and Dead by Daylight (since they own the property and all). If anyone knows any of the cosplayers in the photos above, please let me know so credit can be given!