The Cosplay Of Doing Business: The MCM Expo

By Kieron Gillen on May 25th, 2009 at 1:30 pm.

This is late on Sunday, so it is bloody quiet. Behind us.
As anyone who saw my cheery nervous breakdown/The Sunday Papers will know, I was at the MCM Expo yesterday, as part of my other life. It’s a London pop-culture convention where about 20,000 people cram into East-London’s ExCel to give each other free hugs (Actually, post Swine-flu and meme-aging, Free-Huggage seemed to be thankfully down). Its subtitle is “Movie/Comics/Media”. It generally leans heavily towards major sci-fi franchises and anime/manga. When I’ve been a guest I’ve shared the Green room with all sorts of people from Heroes and Battlestar Galactica, who I had no idea who they actually were, not having watched either. But Bubs from the Wire was there once. Man! Er… but, while it’s peripheral to the occasion, there is some signs of PC-related stuff to talk about. And in a break from standing at our table and making threatening gestures at Marc Ellerby across the row, I went to have a nose at them.

Well, there wasn’t much, I stress. The games were mostly console versions of anime/manga franchises and stuff like various, multiple seemingly identical versions of Dynasty Warrriors (And, yeah, that was shameless bait to all the Dynasty Warriors fanboys who may be reading. Their perpetual cry is no-one takes the game seriously and lumps them all into one enormous heaving mass. Which you can understand, but equally, you can understand no-one else giving a fuck about an indeterminable string of niche fighters. I mean, Christ! Life’s too short). There was some PC presence in the non-videogaming, with some World of Warcraft cardgame or heroclix or… oh, Christ! I’m not going to go there to actually see what they were. I may be given a starter deck and then disappear down that hole too. DANGER WILL ROBINSON, etc.

The gaming highlight was actually getting a chance to play Batman: Arkham Asylum. It was the PS3 version, admittedly, and a very carefully constructed demo to be playable to anyone who happened to be passing on the show floor. So when you complete it, you’re told about its stealth-hunting, its detective mode and all of that, all you actually play is a series of increasingly large combats against mobs of bad-guys. In other words, it’s a chance to give the hand-to-hand combat a firm work-out. And “firm” is really the word. It doesn’t strike me as obviously complicated, but it’s got all these hard-edges. Chaining combos is clearly the thing, but I found myself obsessing over the counters system. While I suspect the difficulty may have been toned down a little for showing to crowds on the floor, the game’s clearly generous in encouraging the player towards Bat-man esque behaviour. People who are about to attack you aren’t just signaled with flashes around their head, making it easier than most games to go straight for the counter, even within seconds of the game. This leans the reward of playing heavily on the animation, which is agreeably brutal. Limbs are taken contemptuously, allowing Bats to step in and deliver something clinically painful. While there’s effects like stunning, an occasional finishing move which I always missed and acrobatic leaps over the person you’re fighting the simple pleasure of applying simple pain filled the moments. I suspect this will be something of a blockbuster when it hits. I’m not sure that the real hardcore will adore it – I think things like the warnings will turn off those who adore Ninja Gaiden and similar – but for its actual success, I think they’re onto something.

I then continued to wander and then hit upon something amazing. PCs! Lots of PCs! Playing… Dofus. That the free turn-based Tactical-RPG is the PC game getting the push to this audience says much about the sort of gaming crowd the MCM Expo gathers. I haven’t even looked at Dofus for an age, but… well, I don’t remember it being this pretty. This may just be my memory warping, but its doing a lovely cartoon universe now. Sections like where you have a faded city in the background just capture a lot of charm, assuming you’re fine with the art-style.

Most obvious incarnation of PC-presence were the cosplayers. Now, there are some people who look down on cosplayers. These are joyless idiots who frankly deserve to be as miserable as their limited human empathy has made them. People expressing themselves, having fun and hurting no-one always trump people who mock them. I just go “aw!” and tell them firmly that no, I don’t want a free hug, you mentalists. And there were some clear PC-centric cosplay there, almost universally taken from Valve or Blizzard games. Mainly Valve. There seemed to be enough TF2 characters to populate an entire 32-player server – though there was something of a Scout Rush on. I also discovered that the Pyro is actually a girl, and her mask is too hot to wear all the time. The gentleman stabbing me is actually comments-threader Findus. Or, at least, that’s what he claimed to be called. You can’t trust the Spy. My favourite PC-costume was the chap with a Companion Cube for a head, complete with an ever-running digital read-out saying THE CAKE IS A LIE. A couple doing Sims characters with little diamonds across their head were also fine. Most disturbing costume was the person dressed as Marge Simpson. It looked like a Silence-of-the-lambs-esque situation where someone had literally skinned the long-suffering matriarch of the Simpsons clan and was proceeding to wear her plasticy remains as a suit. Shiver. That said, my artist-in-crime, Jamie McKelvie was there all weekend rather than just an afternoon, and clearly went native. He found himself thinking “You know – that Chun-li’s quite hot”. Which is a different kind of shiver.

As a PC Gamer do I recommend the MCM Expo? No, probably not, but it never pretended to be a PC centric event. For someone with a wide-interest in consuming pop culture however, especially if you lean eastwards, it’s certainly an amusing and memorable day out. I’ll certainly be there in October, assuming no-one skins me and uses me as a suit.

, .

33 Comments »

  1. AndrewC says:

    No, cosplayers are hurting themselves and by saying ‘aw’ you are providing a support structure for them to continue down the road away from normalised social interaction. This at-arm’s-length acceptance is only enabling behaviour for their dysfunction.

    Pics of Chun-Li please.

  2. Thingus says:

    Haha! Attention, Rock Paper Shotgunners! I have infiltrated your expo, and assaninated a major part of your hive-mind under the pseudonym Findus. The Kieron making this post is a puppet replacement under the control of the glorious BLU team! With this foothold in the Internet, soon we shall RULE ALL! Ahhahahahaha!
    (Also, I fell into the aformentioned black hole of trading card games, going home with half a Magic deck and a good idea on how to use it. Could be the last comics writer/games journalist I assasinate for a while.)

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    Bloody spies.

    KG

  4. Thingus says:

    Expect to see a paper mask with your face on it at John Walker’s next public apperence. Ooh, I saw a Manny from Grim Fandango there as well, by the way.

  5. Skiddings says:

    I think in October we should all cosplay Kieron Gillen.

  6. Rosti says:

    KG as journalist of KG JC Denton?

  7. Tei says:

    I am not Tei, …. I am Gaius Baltar in disguise.

  8. Nobody Important says:

    I want to free-hug you for the brilliance of this article.

    That is indeed a threat.

  9. Acosta says:

    I hope Pyro was “hot” (see what I did here? see it? all for myself). And if she was, where are the pictures? Kieron getting stabbed by a fan happens (metaphorically) every week.

  10. Tei says:

    @Acosta: [Red Pyro][Is a men]

  11. Flowerpot Wang says:

    Went back in 2006, back when I was still into anime. I remember it was fun, and picking up lots of anime related stuff that’s now stuffed into a corner of my room.

    And yes, Chun-li cosplayers are sometimes hot.

  12. Mattress says:

    Wait, Kieron, you mean you actually got to meet Andre Royo from the Wire? That man’s a class act… y’know for a heroin junkie and all…

  13. BigJonno says:

    I spotted KG at ECTS a few years ago and managed to resist the urge to stalk him for a while before leaping out and shouting “OMGIMLIKEYOURBIGGESTFAN!!!!11111ONEONE!” at him.

  14. Pags says:

    Man! I would’ve given Bubs a free hug regardless of swine-flu/meme-aging/how gosh darned diseased the man looks.

  15. Egg says:

    Me, Thingus, Bakes and Skiddings shall definitely be back next October. We’ll be challenging any TF2 cosplayers, Kieron Gillian and any one else in the way to combat…
    Mwhahaha…. Bakes ( The Pyro with Gas Mask problems) says “MmmPrmph!” roughly translated as “Bring It!”

  16. Egg says:

    also, Acosta she’s taken.

  17. Paul says:

    Absolutely love Phonogram; the new layout is fantastic. New issue next week (hah) or longer?

  18. shinygerbil says:

    Chun-Li is quite hot, yes it is true.

  19. Charlie says:

    I’m so disapointed that you have never watch Battlestar. I can’t quite express how much actually.

  20. Skiddings says:

    Don’t include me in your plans Egg!
    At least for cosplay.
    I’ll probably still be there in October.
    We should push for more pc related stuff at the mcm expo!
    Last year it almost tied in with the London Games Festival, so there might be more PC stuff anyway.

  21. Tonamel says:

    I never would have guessed that TF2 was in the same universe as Naruto. (Nice kunai knife, there)

  22. Kieron Gillen says:

    Paul: Longer, alas. Was done 3 weeks ago. Problems in the back end.

    KG

  23. Colin Hansen says:

    The wire is awesome. I assume the actor who plays bubs is more clean-cut and put together than the character, lol. Although I know David Simon used a lot of real people. Also, watch Battlestar, it’s great.

  24. DMJ says:

    But which in that picture is the Spy? The obvious-looking one on the right? Or the one on the left, who looks so innocent of Spyish ways… Which is exactly what a Spy would want you to think!

    Only one way to know for sure! Pyro, forward!

  25. Thingus says:

    Spys are also NINJAS.

    (Actually, I couldn’t get hold of a decent knife that was legal to carry in time for the con. So I improvised with materials that I had to hand :P )

    Also, DMG: Depends which side you’re on :P

  26. Al Ewing says:

    When did you start going ‘aw’ to cosplayers? I seem to remember you once made a very different noise.

  27. Kieron Gillen says:

    Colin: Not by much. And I watched the first 5 episodes after I was at the show I crossed paths with people at. And yes, it’s pretty neat. But then I got distracted.

    Al: I make many noises.

    KG

  28. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    “Fnarr.”

  29. Kimbot1984 says:

    Heh – dang. I was only there on Saturday (Dressed as SF Sakura and running away from the Free Hug folk. Sadly, no Hadokens).

  30. Egg says:

    Defnitely push for more PC related stuff. Will give link to some photos when they’re up

  31. Paul says:

    @Kieron. Ah, well. Good things come to those who wait ;)

  32. solipsistnation says:

    @Kieron: Problems in the back end? I hear you can get a soothing cream for that now.

    (Okay, okay, I’ll go back in the box.)

  33. Rei Onryou says:

    @Kieron: Will there be a Thinkosium 2? Perfect event for numerous spies disguised as Kieron, plus the perfect PC-centric event.

    The Kieron is a spy!