Category Archives: Gaming Culture

Gaming Cosplay

Are you a true gamer? Do you want to know what it is like? Let me give you an example of a day in the life. It is all about cosplay which is short for costume play. Never heard of it? It is a kind of performance art involving cosplayers who wear costumes, down to the smallest accessory. You pick your character and this new world becomes your hobby. It comes from Japan dating back to the 1990s and remains to this day in that this subculture is so much fun. Participants are growing.

If you like role-playing this is for you. You can be any character from anime, comic books and cartoons, not to mention video games and live-action movies and TV series. Anything goes. The only difference between cosplay and acting a part is that it does not take place in a theater. The costumes are the main part of the fun. I give a lot of attention to mine. I love it when I can show off my latest character at a fan convention. Meanwhile, we keep in touch as a group via social media. There are always activities scheduled.

When I prepare for an outing, I get out all the pieces that go with my costume. As mentioned, it is from popular media, most often science fiction. This means that it is extravagant and colorful. You can assemble your costume yourself or buy a kit. That is the easy route for beginners, but I chose to collect what I need over time. You do what it takes to get the look right. I also have a few prop “weapons” that go with my character and imbue it with reality. You need various raw materials including wigs, hair dye, assorted types of cloth and sewing notions, liquid latex, and body paint. I add costume jewelry and tons of makeup all the way down to having some Eyelashes to Die For. No, it is not like Halloween. This is an art form.

When I am finished dressing and have done the right makeup and have put on the wig or a headpiece, I am ready to go. I document today’s look for Instagram and Facebook. I get posts from fellow gamers with their new costumes on display. I can’t wait to get to my destination. There is no better social interaction for me. Sometimes I try to look appealing and attractive and other times I like to be fierce and scary. In this strange world, anything goes—the odder, the better. You “present” yourself to your gaming public in all your costumed glory. The epitome of a venue is Comic-con each year. I can’t always attend but I have once or twice. It is a veritable feast for the eyes and the mind. It is all about a fantasy life and tickling the imagination. I even went abroad for the London Super Comic Convention. You can hang with me if I ever see you anywhere.

The Frogger High Score

In 1998, the Frogger episode aired on the popular Seinfeld hit series during the final season – here’s a brief highlight reel of the show. The shows seemed to be about nothing and yet everything was fair game. Any subject was good for a few laughs. In this memorable episode, the plot line featured George still with the historical high score on the old Frogger video machine at Mario’s (the local pizza parlor hangout soon to be closed). He has had over 860,000 points since High School. This was a big moment for him and he must do something to preserve the game for posterity when the old stomping ground becomes defunct. Maybe it is a symbol of some kind of past success amid present failure. Munching his last slice of pizza in Mario’s with the gang, he thinks about buying it and taking it home, but it can’t be unplugged or it will shut down. What to do? He has been preparing for this moment his entire life, he says.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Kramer to the rescue. He knows a man named “Slippery Pete” who can help coordinate the movement of the Frogger machine from its long-time home to its final resting place. He suggests stealing a battery. Shortly thereafter, George finds the man playing the game on battery power with only three minutes remaining – something that definitely wouldn’t have happened if they had decided to use a small generator like this rather than some kind of battery powered system. Tension. Suspense. The game’s memory must be remain intact or all is lost.

Another power source must be found. There it is across the street at the pharmacy, and the machine must be transported at all costs. Traffic is dense and the scene cleverly mimics the arcade game itself with the zany cartoon frogs battling vehicles in the road. The curb is a stumbling block for George, however, who insists on doing the job alone; and all seems futile. It turns out to be true when a Freightliner smashes the cabinet into bits and pieces as Jerry mutters, “game over.” Anguish. It is a comedy of errors and as funny as any vaudeville skit. Jason Alexander allegedly performed his own stunts and had to nimbly jump out of the way of the approaching truck and then the airborne wreckage. He said it was a close call. It all adds to the legend in retrospect.

The Frogger was an actual arcade game inaugurated in 1981 in which players directed the amphibians to safety and their eventual lily pad homes. It is still played today and now has nostalgia value. It is simple, like many of the games during the golden age. The frogs only had to navigate rivers, roads, and assorted hazards. A joystick manipulated the moves. Simple was also George’s solution. But alas, it didn’t work. Of note is the useful battery/generator that was supposed to keep the Frogger game alive. The moral is clear. Have one handy in case the power goes out during an earth-moving game. Carry it to an arcade, your friends’ homes, or any possible venue. You won’t lose your record wins like George. A sorry ending for a well-intentioned plan.

Toilet Art

There are vast places to play video games: at home, online, at an arcade in the mall or at a fair, where ever. Visiting the Santa Monica pier this summer brought me to an old-fashioned game venue that was “out of sight.” It was mind-blowing in décor, the variety of games, and the people! I mean the hair, the tattoos the clothes. Maybe I was there on some kind of cos play event day, I don’t know. It was pretty good people watching.

In any case, I joined in, wading through the crowd to get to my game of choice. I found myself in front of Dark Escape so I stayed, not wanted any further pushing and prodding to occur. I had downed a few drinks on the pier along with the local hotdog covered in deviled crab, and began a night of pure fun. I switched to a couple more games and the hours flew by.

Around 11:00 pm, duty called and I headed for the toilet at the back of the large building. I might have waited too long so I was impatient. Finally my turn came and I bolted in and locked the door. It was dark, only a single yellow gaping bulb to guide my way. I found another switch and with shock I saw the toilet light up—all neon and totally gaudy. The ceramic bowl itself had been painted in bright day-glo colors in full harmony with its surroundings. I stood wide-eyed. I thought I had seen it all before when it comes to arcades.

This bathroom was in a category all its own. I started to see that the walls were also painted in a similar theme with fantastic faces and creatures clawing at each other—at a very high level of drawing skill. I loved the toilet the best. Compared to the ones I’d seen before on Rate My Toilet, this was in a class of its own. The white paper looked purple in the artificial light. It was awesome. Was this a communal job, done by multiple participants over weeks, months, or years? What brainchild started it? There were no posted photos or signatures as you see in some public places for kids.

The painting was very good but clearly not done by one person, and they had all followed a theme. It is amazing that they would cooperate like that. People prefer to ruin others’ work if they can. They like to mar surfaces and cause visual havoc like errant taggers.

In essence, I loved it and stayed until I heard some angry raps at the door and a few shouts. Okay, okay, I said, and emerged, a smile on my face. I walked up and down the pier and tried every available restroom door. No more painted toilets, no personalized messages for those getting relief. Just plain ordinary somewhat disheveled rooms with stalls as plain as can be.

I wanted to go back but was late meeting a friend and had to rush off. Among my arcade experiences, this was indeed a time to remember – toilet art in its finest expression. Too good for Instagram, it’s only in my memories now.

A Lesson for Life

Trips to the arcade are frequent in my life. As a matter of fact they are legion. Ok. I am a game addict and proud of it. But you have to have a sense of humor about it or it becomes a dangerous obsession like anything else you crave all the time. Gaming is social when you are out; at home it is a pleasure. I like the whimsy of it, of course, and the clever and creative continual innovations that appear with regularity. I think, however, that the process of playing games is deeply rooted in my psyche and not just a particular group of them.

When all is said and done, the art of gaming is a gift. You have to use it or lose it. It’s your attitude going in and coming out (win or lose). It could be at the adolescent level or gambling for real money stakes. I love the unknown, the temptation of risk, and the joy of conquest.

There are other joys to behold. One is friendship. I have a story that revolves around this subject and a common backpack. Sounds mundane, but it isn’t. I loaned my brand new laptop backpack to a close friend who lost it within days. This can happen, but oddly enough I didn’t get a replacement. It was someone pricey and very little used, so I was peeved. In spite of my nature, I didn’t want to play games and told him outright about it. Not much of a reaction, however.

A few weeks later, nothing. The friendship was on shaky ground. If it weren’t for a gaming tournament, I probably wouldn’t have seen him at all (by my choice). It really wasn’t about the money but the thoughtlessness. Guys aren’t that sensitive, but this wasn’t an old pair of sneakers or a borrowed DVD. It was a nice out-of-the-package item I was really looking forward to using to tote my laptop in style and indulge in my favorite games at will. I did have an old one, worn and tired, that had felt the strain of my hobby (or avocation) for years.
Right before my birthday some months later, my friend invited me out for a drink. We used to do this every so often so I didn’t give it much thought. We tossed back a few beers, discussed a new interactive game, and in general were having a pretty good time. Around 11:00 pm, he pulled out a paper bag from beneath his chair and handed it to me with a grin. I opened it with enthusiasm but didn’t really know its contents until a brand spanking new backpack emerged from the tissue paper covering.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I had assumed that he had forgotten and that he was even darn rude. He explained that this special model was one that he’d backed on Kickstarter and had just arrived in time for my big day. I was nonplussed…and thrilled. I truly gained back my friend with a new standing in my estimation, a replacement top-of-the-line backpack, and a lesson for life.