At South by Southwest Interactive, there’s not a ton of excitement. Panelists are nervous, attendees are tired, and it’s hard not to trip over hallway zombies accumulating on the Convention Center floors, staring dejectedly into space while their phones charge next to them.
But at SXSW Gaming’s Cosplay Competition, this was not the case. People were seriously psyched, from the performers to the huge crowd.
As techno music blared in a totally packed event space, cosplayers bounded onto the stage while two hosts called their names. They channeled their favorite characters from science fiction, comic books, video games or whatever other source material they wanted. The rules stipulated they had to make at least 75 percent of their costumes by hand.
Some got really into character, while others were more shy. Some costumes took months, as was the case with one woman who told us she’d been working on the beading for her My Little Pony-inspired dress for four months. She wore a prototype version at the Brony Fun Fair in Austin last fall, she said, and now that she’s worn the full ensemble at a show, it’ll be retired.
A group of friends dressed as Link from The Legend of Zelda, and Mario Brothers characters Mario, Luigi and Waluigi told us they’d become friends through cosplaying. All in their mid-to-late 20s, they said they met through cosplay conventions, having attended 12 together last year. They admitted their costumes weren’t too labor-intensive to create. But they did spend time creating an app that connected a Wii controller to a portable app. They used it to play Super Mario Brothers sound effects throughout the competition.
Was the competition nerdy? Aggressively so. But the incredibly earnest cosplayers provided a welcome break from the scowling, hungover festivalgoers littering SXSW.