And it nearly blew my mind.
Thirty thousand – thirty thousand! – CosPlayers, dressed in everything from luminous orange fur to full Devil May Cry regalia, armed with weapons of latex, cardboard and spray-paint, all high as kites on their own explosive energy.
The weekend directly following the affable, family-atmosphere of NewCon 4, Expo’s colossal attendance and critical mass has thrown my previous post into sharp relief.
These kids are the future.
From eight- and ten-year olds through all ranges of teen into early-twenty-somethings, they’ve embraced the expansion of Japanese culture into Western fantasy and made it their own. They have no need of Real Ale; they’re drunk on Free Hugs and an overdose of Yaoi. Lured by the prospect of the first-ever CosPlay Masquerade Ball, they aren’t passively reading books – they’re realising their part in a vast, interactive fantastical community.
There was a smattering of non-CosPlayers – there for signings and to meet the very sharp and funny Michael Hogan, aka Saul Tigh – but they seemed a tiny percentage, lost in the frenzied game-playing, Pikachu-cuddling mass. And perhaps it illustrates the point: these kids aren’t only moving away from the humble book, they’re leaving behind the comic and the television as well.
Why read it, why watch it – when you can live it? When thousands of friends uphold your knowledge that you are Cloud Strife?
On the Saturday night, there was an incident in the ExCel car park. Nothing to do with the MCM Expo, it was related to a concurrent event. On the Sunday, Security had erected a bag-scanner in the front entrance – and were x-raying all luggage brought in by the attendees of the event in question. Massively ironic, when you consider the ludicrous mock-weaponry flaunted only meters away.
The juxtaposition of the two iconised the sharp contrast between fantasy and reality – and brought me up short at the fine wire between escapism and obsession. We all need release – read, write, watch, dress up, play games – it’s necessary and it’s human.
But as technology swells to encompass our imaginations and the fantasy becomes all-consuming, we need to remember something.
This world is the real one.