In a world where ComicCon is becoming more and more popular. And there seems to be a revival occurring with imaginative gameplay such as Dungeons and Dragons (there’s a movie out now as well). It has caused some of us to get excited and others are worried.
Is this normal? Should adults be dressing in costumes and wielding imaginary wands around? Is playing games filled with witches and warlocks not just a way for anti-social people to hide away even further? We reveal all in this article.
What is Cosplay?
If you do not know, Cosplay stands for “costume play” and is usually done at a gathering or event where people dress up as their favourite characters. Whether it is Batman or Napoleon Bonaparte it’s irrelevant since historical re-enactments one can take part in during events such as renaissance fairs, technically, also fall under cosplay.
Cosplay is an activity for all ages, although it has proven to be more popular with adults. You can choose to take part in Cosplay, playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons in the comfort of your own home with friends or attending one of the myriads of Cosplay events held across the world. Some of the most popular events include Comic-Con, Anime Expo, and DragonCon.
Is Cosplay Good for you?
Any online counsellor will be able to tell you that there are many concerned parents sitting in sessions talking about how concerned they are about their middle-aged son that “dresses up as a wizard and goes to these strange events”. For some reason, the main concerns are generally:
- that their children do not have friends
- that they are not growing up
- that they are hiding from the world
- that they fear they have a killer in the making
Why killing a troll in a game would constitute one of the big red flags of a serial killer we do not know, but in our experience, people generally fear what they do not understand. Firstly, any of the above might be true, but it’s probably far less likely than you think, and most of the time, it will have nothing to do with the cosplay itself.
The Benefits of Cosplay
Cosplay has actually been proven to be quite beneficial to those who practice it as a hobby, and here’s why:
It Serves as a Form of Artistic Expression
Some of these cosplayers go to great lengths to get their and their friend’s looks “just right”. Moulding latex, sewing outfits, etc. for weeks before the date of the event. To them, these accessories, costumes and special effects are not just to embody a character, it’s an art to create.
It Serves as a (Temporary) Hiding Place
Perhaps it is the way that someone takes a little break from being themselves or dealing with their life, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, humans need to take “breaks” from their lives and re-energize. That’s why we go to restaurants, watch TV, cycle, etc. Taking a break, having a rest and re-energizing is very important for your mental health – whether you choose to do one of the activities mentioned or dress up as Thor is irrelevant.
It Boosts Your Social Life
If it’s true that someone didn’t have friends before cosplay, then they most certainly will after cosplay. Birds of a feather flock together. And many credit their cosplay activities with greatly contributing to their social lives and growing their circle of friends.
It Boosts Self-esteem
It’s not strange to see the quiet wallflower of the group suddenly blossom into the outspoken one under the guise of a beloved character. The fact that these activities give someone a voice and allow them to finally be heard or seen (or at least that’s how they perceive it) gives them the confidence boost they need to do the same in the real world.
It’s an Opportunity to Learn
With such a mix and blend of people at these events, it is a wonderful time to learn about others and the things they are interested in. Whether it’s learning about other comic books or how the Londoner that moved to the US experiences things – there’s always an opportunity to expand your knowledge.
You Can Perfect Your Craft
Many who are thinking about or who are in the performing arts industry state that cosplay has helped them a lot in terms of practising and perfecting their craft. Walking (or flying) in your favourite character’s shoes for a day is a great way to practice everything from accents and vocal chord projection to mimicking mannerisms and acting-out scenes.
It Serves as Acknowledgment
Most of these cosplay events have a competition element to them where credit is given to things such as “best costume” etc. So, in a similar way to those who enter bodybuilding competitions, hard work is acknowledged and rewarded in your specific “field of interest”. These accolades can mean a lot to people.
A Costume Can Empower
According to research, a costume can do much more than just “turn you into a different person”, impact your behaviour and give you a confidence boost. A costume can actually empower! In this way, cosplay can actually be a very powerful tool for an online counsellor to use.
If someone has just come out of a very bad relationship where they felt controlled and “torn down”, it can help to dress as Wonder Woman or Captain America to regain the feeling of control and a sense of power. The same effects can be seen in those suffering from serious illnesses. Or those healing from a background of bullying or abuse. What’s more – the effects have been proven to last long after the costume has been placed back in the closet!
Is There a Time When You Should Become Concerned?
This is a question an online counsellor often gets; when should you start becoming concerned? The answer is not always as simple or clear-cut as people hope. The general rule of thumb is that any activity or behaviour that starts negatively impacting your functioning and relationships is a cause for concern. When it comes to cosplay red flags, we recommend that you look out for the following:
It Moves from a Hobby to an Obsession
There’s a big difference between passionately practising a hobby vs. having an activity completely consume you. The best way to try and establish whether it has reached that threshold is to use the same measurements for an addiction:
- Are they prioritizing the activity to their own detriment? For example, missing their mother’s funeral because they have a cosplay event or miss a mortgage payment in order to pay for cosplay accessories.
- Has it caused conflict in their relationships or in their workplace?
- Is it interfering with their daily functioning? For example, they haven’t showered yet, slept, eaten all day, etc. because they lost track of time due to being busy with games, creating costumes, etc.
The Lines Between Pretend and Reality Becomes Blurry
There are a number of mental conditions such as psychosis and disassociation where an individual loses track of reality. Now, any online counsellor will be able to tell you that it can be tricky to diagnose a mental condition whilst someone is in cosplay mode.
But when they are not at an event or taking part in a game; are they still that character or talking about things in the Marvel or Anime universe as if it’s their current reality? Then the lines between pretend and reality have become blurry and you need to seek help.
When a Fictional Character Gets Blamed for Real-life Actions
You can have the best costume and give the performance of a lifetime as Loki, Voldemort, Negan or any other villain, but that does not give you amnesty when it comes to the consequences of real-life actions. You cannot hit someone over the head only to hide behind “I was just acting like Negan”.
And you cannot go dressed as the Joker and inappropriately touch the first Harley you run into. In some cases, blaming a fictional character can be a way for someone to try and get out of trouble. But in other instances, it can be an excuse to behave badly in the first place. Both of these reasons are quite concerning and should be looked into.
When Children’s Cosplay is not Age-Appropriate
Cosplay can be a wonderful family-friendly experience and a way to bond. The entire family can go as the Incredibles. Or two sisters can go as Elsa and Anna from Frozen, whilst a brother can be Hans and the parents can flip the script as Sven and Olaf.
But it will never be okay to dress a six-year-old in a few centimetres of fabric as the sexy Reika Gantz. This type of behaviour is extremely concerning. And this should urgently be addressed by friends and family, possibly with the help of a professional. If the behaviour continues, other third-party organisations and authorities will probably have to be called in.
Cosplay with the Consent of an Online Counsellor
With so many benefits to cosplay, any online counsellor will support this activity. Just as long as it is practised safely, and within healthy boundaries. If this is something that sounds like it may benefit you and you would like to chat with an expert.
Or if you see some red flags in the behaviour of a friend or family member, do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us via the Personal Online Therapy website. Alternatively, you can simply complete the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Help and advice are just one click away!