“Cosplay” (or cos-play) is short for “costume play.” It is the practice of dressing as a real or fictional character, typically from a video game, comic, TV show, movie, or even from history. Cosplayers often gather at science fiction, game, or anime/manga conventions, but they also like to attend Renaissance fairs and historical reenactments. Some may participate for fun or to compete in contests, others are paid to advertise a product such as a video game or comic book, while a few dress up to promote their own costume supply business.
Cosplay costumes vary. Many are based on pre-existing characters while others are adaptations of a genre. It’s also common to combine one or more genres or characters, for example, a steampunk Darth Vader. Quality varies, as some cosplayers throw on ears and a tail and call it good while others spend hundreds of dollars and several weeks hand-making a single costume.
There is nothing inherently anti-biblical about dressing up with a bunch of other people. Many of the considerations are the same as for other pastimes (see 1 Corinthians 10:31). Cosplay can be very expensive; a custom-made outfit can cost several hundred dollars. Most cosplayers make some or all of their costume, which can be extremely time-consuming. When travel, hotels, and convention admissions are included, cosplay can suck up time and money that could be used for better purposes.
Christians must also consider some problems more specific to cosplay. Many of the women’s science fiction, fantasy, and anime costumes are very revealing—either skimpy or skin-tight. It should go without saying that Christian women should not chose a costume that is blatantly sexual (1 Timothy 2:9), and Christian men should not attend an event if they find such costumes distracting (Romans 13:14). Also, it is natural that putting on a costume encourages a person to act in ways he wouldn’t normally act; even if the costume makes the cosplayer unrecognizable, a Christian should always act in a way that glorifies God. Christians should also take care in what character they portray, staying away from anything based on demons or otherwise blatantly endorsing a non-Christian lifestyle.
Cosplay is not all bad. The level of craftsmanship elevates many costumes to an art form. Cosplay can be a family activity, whether the parents support their kids’ hobby or the entire family dresses up for a Ren Faire. The cosplay community can be very supportive, as players swap manufacturing tips and encourage newcomers. There are even opportunities to share Christ with fellow players.
Whether a Christian should get involved in cosplaying is a personal decision. Dressing up for a Renaissance festival or a steampunk ball is mostly harmless fun. Dressing as a demonic anime character or Slave-Leia at a comic-con, however, is not a good choice. As with any kind of entertainment, cosplayers should seek God’s will first and foremost.