PAX Australia Through A Cosplayer’s Eyes

PAX Australia Through A Cosplayer’s Eyes

It’s hot. It was raining ten minutes ago and I’ve just returned from touching up my smudged makeup in the bathroom — only to start sweating it off again the minute I get outside. I’m waiting for my friend who has spent the whole morning applying her full body paint, only now arriving at the convention at 2pm. She’ll probably leave again in two hours just to start taking it all off again. This is the PAX experience for your average cosplayer.

Photos by Steamkittens

Despite having no cosplay competition or even a showcase or parade — aside from the smaller ones run by exhibitors — PAX is one of the biggest events in the cosplay calendar. Every major game series, from League of Legends to Assassin’s Creed to Dragon Age, held huge group gatherings across the three-day weekend. Ubisoft had its own cosplay corner, while Smite and Fallout 4 both had a group of people in shiny, shiny costumes to attract attention to their booths.

While the idea of a PAX without cosplayers is as unimaginable as a PAX without queues, cosplaying to PAX usually means that you’ll rarely even make it into the parts of the convention that require a badge. I managed to get as far as the edge of the indie area at one point before a number of factors — a huge, unwieldy prop gun, a message from a photographer and crowds on all sides — made sure that I didn’t get to stay for more than five minutes.

Even for the short period I was inside, being in cosplay makes everything much more difficult than it should be. I spotted a short queue on one of the VR-based indie games that I had just missed out on the day before, and was making my way over before I realised what a poor idea that was. With a finicky wig, a headpiece and a face covered in sticky fake blood, VR gaming would not be happening for as long as I wanted to stay in that costume.

Photo by What A Big Camera / Hayley Elise

There’s a solid reason why most cosplayers at PAX tend to congregate either in the hallway or on the outside promenade — and where the cosplayers go, the photographers follow. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Cosplay photographers — or at least the most serious of them — don’t seem to have any better luck with getting inside the convention to relax and play games.

When there are thousands of talented local and interstate cosplayers who have brought their A-game, many photogaphers don’t want to risk missing a good shot. It wasn’t an uncommon sight over the weekend to see a photographer settling in a dark corner or a scenic spot outside for the long haul, getting as many different costumes in front of their lenses as they could.

But while I, and many other cosplayers, didn’t get to see near as many things in the Expo Hall as I wanted to, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Coming out of a panel on Saturday afternoon (luckily, panels are one of the things that can be enjoyed in costume in relative comfort) I was amazed to see just how many cosplayers had filled the hall. It was a testament to the skill and diversity of the Aussie community that you couldn’t take a step without running into a brilliant costume or three. Local bars and restaurants were filled with characters from every game imaginable, and the river was being used all weekend as a backdrop for thousands of photos.

If you managed to snag an awesome photo of a cosplayer over the weekend — or even if you’re enjoying seeing all the incredible pictures that were created, take a moment to appreciate the time that cosplayer took to share their passion with the community. Wearing a wig, heels and full prosthetic makeup for an entire day isn’t the most comfortable thing to do at a crowded gaming convention — but of course we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it. Next time, though, I swear I’m going to wear a cosplay I can also game in. Maybe.


  • Hey, I am the Jason Voorhees in that photo!

    It is an excellent point though – Cosplay at PAX Aus has no real formal acknowledgement – There are no prizes, there is no organised showcase or parade, people just do it for the sake of doing it and to have fun, and it is one of the biggest things that drives me to do it each year. I am 3 PAX’s in, and each year a massive part of it for me is my cosplay. It’s the only convention I attend with a costume – and that’s not just because I need to lug it from Tasmania. It’s a great atmosphere, with a huge and varied crop of attendees that come from all over to share their many and varied passions.

    Stay awesome PAX Aus cosplayers – see you next year!

  • It’s really interesting how the article mentions the relationship between cosplayers and cosplay photographers.

    I actually thought there was a lot more symbiotic communication going on, given that whenever you see the more impressive shots posted on articles there’s usually a photographer/cosplayer pairing.

    But I’ve also been in a cluster of folks with camera-phones standing in front of a group of really outstanding, posing cosplayers, and taken shots as they pose for other people. Never sure on the etiquette of that. On the one hand, they’re clearly posing and there’s a group of folks taking shots, but on the other, it really feels like one of the things you should be asking a cosplayer if they mind you taking a photo… but that means, what… standing around until they’re done posing, only to ask them to pose again? Shouting out over the din of the convention, “Hey! Can I join in in taking a photo?”

    It occurs to me that this is a question I probably should’ve asked from the very personable TF2 cosplayers I shared a hostel floor with, a couple years ago, bumping into them in the hostel elevator a few times.

    • Generally, from my perspective, if I’m moving towards someone/a group to ask for a photo, and somebody else asks a bit before me, I’ll try a hurried, “may I take a photo as well?” But yeah, when they’re already posing I tend to alternate between waiting until that person is done, watching the cosplayer(s) relax for a split second before I ruin their calm by asking for a shot, and then feeling guilty about it, or just sort of asking permission quietly into the void, hoping that they don’t object, and then feeling guilty about that method.

      It’s a no win situation, really. As it stands, I’ve never had a cosplayer say no (and the rules at PAX at least say that you should expect to appear in photos), but I still don’t like doing it without verbal consent, just feels icky.

      • I figure that if there is a group of people already taking photos and they are posing there is implied consent. As you pointed out the PAX rules say that being in such a public event you should expect to be photoed and Scree has told me several times that they (cosplayes in general) wouldn’t be dressing up if the didn’t want to be seen.

        I do still prefer to get direct consent though If they are not clearly posing I will always ask before taking a picture. It get’s trickier if there is only one or two people taking a picture though as I have no way of knowing if that is their friend or private photographer that they are posing for rather then strangers and will try to find an appropriate moment to ask.

        Regardless I always hang around until they are finished to thank them and maybe give them a quick complement on the work they put in. I’ve never had it happen but I would have no problem deleting a photo/photos if asked.

    • Generally etiquette for taking a cosplayer’s photo is pretty simple. If they aren’t posing, ask for a photo, if they’re already posing for a group, then jump in and take a photo. If you wait until everyone else is done and then ask them to pose again, they’re more likely to get annoyed at you then!

      If they’re posing for a single photographer as part of a mini photoshoot then it’s a bit more tricky and usually you risk annoying the photog more than the cosplayer. Generally if you’re a phone cam photog then they won’t mind you snapping a sneaky one, but if you have a proper DSLR then it may be seen as jumping in on someone else’s photoshoot.

  • It… never even occurred to me that “professional cosplay photographer” was a thing. I saw that dark corner setup in most of the shots here and figured it was just some people setting up their own thing or whatever, which feels like it doesn’t even make sense actually writing it out now. Man I’m dumb 😛

    I did get stopped by one of the guys with a big lighting setup though, so maybe I did end up getting some nice pictures taken after all. That’d be nice, all the ones on my camera didn’t turn out particularly great.

  • I loved the final fantasy viii sorceress.

    One of the few cosplayers I bothered to take a picture of this year (I only have a camera phone and decided after the crappy ones I got the previous two years I was better off not wasting their time and just looking at the ones online)

    I don’t know if it’s just because FF VIII has always been my favorite, or because the dress has a way of making women look pretty without oversexing them up.

    Nahh, it’s because the back piece with the two cape-like cloths looks fancy as fuck (and must make it rather difficult to walk around in a crowded convention center.)

    • Her costume was definitely my favourite as well! I noticed the frame on her back wasn’t rigid, but rather folded behind her as people brushed past. Would’ve made it a lot easier!

  • I love the PAX cosplays. So many vault dwellers, but a lot less star wars than I thought there’d be.

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