Kline agrees. "Some people relate to the character's personality or quirky behavior, others see cosplay as a creative outlet, while still others are drawn to cosplay by the fun of it all. Prancing around in public or on stage in front of a captive audience has a sublime effect when fans of your character are shouting your praises."

Regardless of what attracts them to cosplaying, most people who do so regularly spend huge amounts of time and money on the hobby. Kline himself has spent over 100 hours creating one of his award-winning costumes. "I've heard it said that cosplay is more expensive than a drug addiction," Kline says, "so unless you have good job or parents with deep pockets, most people won't spend more than 5 hours on their costumes."

Kline isn't just unique in the amount of effort he makes on his costume - males in general make up just a fraction of the cosplay community. Kline says that for every 100 girls, there are only two or three guys who are serious about cosplay. "Gender isn't the determining factor in which character to dress up as, though. It's how they relate to the character's personality. It's not uncommon to see girls cosplaying both male and female characters, and on occasion a guy dressed as a female character, but it's all in jest."

For Newman, cross-dressed cosplay is inevitable. He explains that gender experimentation is common in videogame play. "Sometimes this is about identity play and exploration while sometimes this is ... driven by the desire to succeed in the game." It's accepted and even encouraged for players of either gender to play as both male and female characters.

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Even the act of costuming itself is built into the mechanics of many videogames, Newman says, making cosplay a very natural activity for videogame fans. Equipment functions as both a status symbol and a way of rewarding the player in such apparently different games as World of Warcraft and Soul Calibur. "Costume is not just adornment; it is linked to achievement, success and proficiency," he says. "The best characters have the best armor and garb just as they have the best weapons. The best players can unlock the full range of outfits for their characters, and these become very visible indicators of one's skill and prowess."

Jean puts it more succinctly: "Everybody likes playing dress-up. If you're creating your own character, equipping whatever you like to them, changing their appearance to suit your tastes ... and then you play as them, that's a form of cosplay."

She adds, "It might inspire you to try the real thing."

Alice Atkinson-Bonasio writes for games™ and 360 magazines. She was research assistant for the recently published book Playing With Videogames and is involved in the groundbreaking film project The 10 Pound Horror Film.

Image courtesy of Michael Rodriguez and http://www.blanklogo.com

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