Seasoned cosplayers, don't slaughter me-I'm very new to cosplaying with only a few ensembles good enough to post on the Internet. …Actually, who am I kidding. If these guys can post their costumes on the Internet, I should be fine.
From what I understand, the term "crossplay" refers to cosplayers who go to great lengths to conceal certain body parts in order to cross dress as a character of the opposite sex. This could mean wrapping Ace bandages around breasts, or going all Ray Finkle to hide *ahem* male parts. However, "gender-bending" cosplay is different, and refers to almost a complete redesign of a fictional character to make them appear as if they always belonged to the opposite sex. We're talking a new hairstyle, costume, makeup-everything. In other words, Rule 63.
I love reimagining all aspects of video games, so gender-bending cosplay really fascinates me. I don't just say, "Hey. That's a pretty sick female Kratos." I mean, I do say that, but shortly after I say, "Wouldn't that be crazy if Kratos really was female from the start? Slaughtering her husband and children like that… what an angry broad with a pansy husband." I begin to think of what the actual game would be like: Would this ‘Goddess of War' game feature naked male prostitutes instead of female? Would she kill Hermes for literally no reason except to get his super cute shoes? Would she hate Gaia even more because of those stupid "Mother Nature" Tampax commercials?
Games like the original Metroid have proven that a woman can do a man's job without the player even caring or knowing the difference. Same with games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, where playing through the game as either a woman or a man alters the story only slightly. But what about games that would undergo a complete story/gameplay makeover if a sex switch occurred?
Personally, I would love to play a "Princess of Persia" game (see cosplay below), or have the entire cast of Team Fortress 2 suddenly experience an anatomy swap. Heck, it already seems Assassin's Creed might be taking that risk with a female assassin this fall. As a female myself, I can vouch for the fact that we look great in white hoodies and are very graceful when plummeting into hay.
On the reverse side, some games truly do need to stick with their male protagonists. Travis Touchdown, Solid Snake, Manny Calavera, Sonic… testosterone is part of their charm. Same for Half-Life 2, but really, how could Gordon Freeman ever be a woman when he's silent the whole time? (ZING.) It would also be pretty awkward and upsetting to play Duke Nukem Forever if it starred a vulgar, school boy-obsessed, cigar-smoking woman with rippling biceps, but no more awkward and upsetting than it was just suffering through that game, period. Making fun of DNF is still funny, right?
But enough talk! Here are some of my favorite gender-bending costumes that are creative, inspiring, and bootylicious. Do people still say bootylicious? I'm really behind on the times, guys.
The Legend of Zelda
These two ladies couldn't be more adorable as their versions of She-Link. Even more impressive, the girls decided to sport Link's Four Swords outfits instead of the standard green garb. Makes you wonder what a male Zelda would look like… hmm. I'm thinking purple corduroy pants with a gold-trimmed vest. Cosplayers, get on that.
2. Kratos, "Goddess of War"
God of War
As I mentioned above, this is a pretty cool one. I didn't know who Raychul Moore was until I did a "Girls of Geek" calendar spread with her to raise money for breast cancer. After a bit of research, I realized, "Hey! She's the Femme Kratos!" and my fangirl-ing commenced. Not many chicks can pull off a skirt that short, but Raychul does it with confidence, style, and freakishly long legs. Damn her.
This version of female Kratos is also a favorite of mine, mostly because of the thigh injury. Look, Kratos gets hurt, okay? He isn't invincible. He's not like a god or someth-oh.
3. Squall Leonhart
Is that a gunblade I'm seeing? Not only is she the hottest Squall of all time, complete with long, gorgeous hair, flat stomach, and somewhere around 500 (necessary?) belts, she has a gunblade. This… this isn't even fair. Hey, I have red hair-maybe I'll make a female Reno costume! …Anyone? …Hello?
4. Sub-Zero and Scorpion
I can't tell if these girls are wearing contacts or if their eyes really are that freaky. Either way, they look like they're about to finish me. Fine! You can cut in front of me in the Starbucks line! Calm down, ladies. Don't be rippin' my spine out. I need that.
Devil May Cry
I… I don't even know how to react to this one. It gives me weird feelings in my pants. Dante has been comfortably at the top of my list of ‘Hottest Game Characters' since I played Devil May Cry 1. He is smooth, handsome, sarcastic… but now he's a chick. I love the costume, but Dante, please don't get an operation. Having boobs isn't that great, I swear. Underwire bras set off metal detectors and golfing is nearly impossible.
6. Ash(ley) Ketchum
Jessica Nigri is known for her overtly sexy cosplays, but this one I find just plain adorable. With this rendition, she appropriately calls herself "Ashley Ketchum." Is this costume available for purchase in the "Sexy Versions of Everything" section of Halloween stores yet? Because there is a Sexy Big Bird costume. If Sexy Big Bird exists, I should be able to be female Ash this year, no question.
7. Phoenix Wright
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Okay, I had to throw this one in here for fun, even though it would likely be considered "crossplay" as opposed to "gender-bending." In 2008, Japan's all-female Takarazuka Revue troupe put on an stage show of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, where the women played both the male and female roles. I don't know how they pulled it off, but somehow this chick looks great as Phoenix. Must be all the product she used. I OBJECT to that much hair gel!
8. The Princess of Persia
Prince of Persia 4
By far my favorite of the group. Meagan Marie is an over-achiever, as both a member of the Crystal Dynamics team and an exceptional cosplayer. What a fantastic version of the cocky Prince from PoP4! It's accurate, sexy, and somehow threatening at the same time. (Likely because of the claw-for-a-hand.) With this costume, Meagan was part of a cosplay group (which included Raychul's female Kratos, above) that attended Comic Con 2010. Every girl involved dressed as a female version of male video game character. While each ensemble undoubtedly turned heads, this rendition of the Prince stood out to me as the most detailed and creative. Well, done ladies. Can I join next time?
P.S. I urge you to check out the photo galleries on Meagan's website-talk about a spot-on Mad Moxxi!
There you have it! Yet another gallery of awesome cosplay-but this time, with a twist. There are many examples of gender-bending cosplay all over the Internet, including a group called "Gender Bent Justice League" that has given a handful of DC characters a sex change in a surprisingly classy way. Check them out!
While we're on the subject of me being an ignorant cosplayer, has anyone mastered what I've dubbed the "layer cake cosplay" yet? For example, I would cosplay as Master Chief cosplaying as Cortana cosplaying as Sailor Moon. My armor would be all painted blue and I'd have long, swishy blonde pigtails … Is that a thing? It should be a thing.
Oh, and before I go, here's one last gender-bender cosplay for the ladies:
Kotaku Presents' debut season features Lisa Foiles, who is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as an actress/web host in Hollywood and is continuing to dabble in video game voiceovers. For more info, visit Lisa's official website She's also on Twitter.