Seattle, Summer, Science Fiction & Cosplay

In Seattle, summer is special — especially if you're into cosplay, gaming, or science fiction. Cornish College of the Arts students take advantage of Seattle's geek culture year round and contribute to many of the bigger events going on.

Right around the corner from Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center is the International DOTA 2 Championships with more than $20M in prize money on the line. More than 15,000 viewers arrived in Seattle this August. Many “cosplaying” (dressed in costume) as their favorite characters, they gathered at the Center’s KeyArena to watch 20 teams from around the world compete in the video game shown on monster screens and broadcast around the world live online. The local game company Valve created DOTA 2 and runs the competition. Attendance has soared in recent years with players and fans filling the stadium. Seattle's increasing number of game design firms provides both internship and employment opportunities to Cornish students, especially those in the Design program.

For other science fiction fans, another big draw at the Seattle Center this summer is the EMP Museum's Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds. The show has memorabilia from  all the decades of the venerable franchise’s history. Confused about whether an event happened during the original Trek, Next Generations, or the alternative timeline of the current movie series? No worries. Cornish Design seniors worked with EMP curators last spring, creating the ultimate Star Trek timeline for installation at the museum.

Cornish design rising junior Marciana Romero has been working as a content creator for Cornish News this past year, with the tough job of plunging into the fun and exploring the college's connection to Seattle’s lively pop culture entertainment events. She had a blast covering the cosplay scene in Seattle, of which DOTA 2 is just one example and Seattle Center just one location. Romero checked out Sakura-Con, “The biggest anime convention in North America” and a hotbed of cosplay. It took place a short walk from Cornish’s Main Campus, downtown.

“At Sakura-Con,” wrote Romero, “over 20,000 people gather to spend time with like-minded people and enjoy what Seattle has to offer in anime, cosplay, and Japanese fan culture. Every person in my group for my apparel class went. The con features an array of events such as a cosplay walk-on and skit contest, guest panels, and several dances, but from my experience, is very much a community-oriented event open to anyone, regardless of skill level, age, gender, interests, or ability.”

Seattle’s own Emerald City Comicon and the video game convention Penny Arcade draw even larger crowds to Seattle annually. These and dozens of similar events inspire attendees to dress the part. “Seattle is diverse ocean swimming with fantastic subcultures,” Romero continued. “One of these subcultures has gained recent media attention all over the country: cosplay. There are many approaches one can take with cosplay, ranging from constructing a majestic costume with skill levels worthy of the Seattle Opera, to making gorgeous in character music videos, to buying a costume online and dressing up for a convention to simply have, potentially, the best weekend of one’s year.”

On the fine art side of the spectrum, costume lovers also can visit The World of WearableArt™ at EMP this summer. Drawn from New Zealand’s largest annual arts show, the award-contending designs are selected from worldwide entries in the competition that challenges designers to take art off the wall and adorn the human form.

Cornish is uniquely placed to take part in this intersection of art, entertainment, and fashion. Students study costume design in the Performance Production Department as well as “wearables” and apparel in the Design Department. That, and Cornish College of the Arts is all about expressing who you are.

“Before I even came to the school, I met a few Cornish Cosplayers at a meet up and another in the Cornish Facebook group," said Romero. "I have also met a few other people in my classes who are interested in doing it, but haven’t before.”

There's plenty coming in the next year for them to see and do!

Fall 2016 update: After working on this story and other pieces for Cornish College's Communications department, Romero was asked to do content creation and press work as part of local geek culture online magazine Lifted Geek. She attended an Oregon Cosplay Convention as official press and photographed visiting Japanese alternative brand Galaxxxy's fashion show. Cornish students often find great opportunities in their chosen fields while still in school.