Gamescom, Europe’s biggest gaming convention, announced Tuesday that no weapon replicas of any type will be allowed at the venue for its weekend-long event that begins Aug. 18 in Cologne, Germany, an announcement that came less than two weeks after nine people died in a mass shooting 350 miles away in Munich.
The announcement caused uproar within the cosplay community, which is quite popular at Gamescom. Many cosplayers spend hours creating weapon replicas to go with their characters that are now forbidden at the event. Gamescom is the premier event to showcase their hard work, which has intensified the harsh feelings, especially so close to the event.
The news hit hard in Germany, as cosplayer and #gamescom were both trending on Twitter within hours of the announcement. The sentiment from German cosplay groups on Facebook and others on social media generated a handful of opinions, including some expressed on a Reddit thread started by the reporter). There are many layers to the issue. First, there is discontent with the organizers for saying that Gamescom “Also lives from the creativity of your costumes and as such cosplayers are still heartily welcome,” while telling them in the following sentence that all weapon-like items are not permitted at the venue at all. Receiving such crucial information two weeks before the event is also damaging for some cosplayers, as there might not be enough time to reconsider costume choices into something more recognizable without a weapon.
— HerrConsolero (@HerrConsolero) August 2, 2016
Costumes, yes – Imitation weapons, no ?#Gamescom
— Cat (@kat_von_ger) August 2, 2016
Second, although replicas of shooting weapons should be banned, there’s no harm in weapons clearly showing they are right out of a fantasy game, such as a gigantic sword or a bow beyond doubt not meant for shooting anything. There could also simply be a better weapon/security check for cosplayers, and Gamescom staff could mark the props with colored stickers to let other attendees know that their weapons pose no harm.
There’s a reasonable comparison to Japan Expo, another big convention that took place in Paris last month. Fear of terror was comparable there, with the city still reeling from bombings that took place in November. Yet the event allowed cosplayers to wear their full costume, not only parts of it, under the following conditions:
It can absolutely not be confused with a real weapon. It must be made of harmless material only, such as foam, cardboard, light wood, or worbla. It mustn’t have any part made of metal, metal items being strictly forbidden
Another source of frustration from German cosplayers came from the feeling that the same rules do not apply to everyone. Walking acts of exhibitors are allowed to have weapons that will be previously checked by Gamescom staff, according to Tuesday’s announcement, making a lot of the cosplayers furious. This could be partly because Gamescom does not want to add more security to check all the cosplayers’ weapons, as well as it being a question of money being put into it and the value behind it for Gamescom. Cosplayers will still come, with or without weapons, and be free advertising shields for the various video game companies exhibiting at Gamescom.
There are also people who wholeheartedly agree with the new policy and take the “Better safe than sorry” approach. Cosplay costumes can be scary and quite realistic, especially to visitors and families with small children new to the world of cosplay. Adding in all the recent events, sour memories might come up, and why not avoid it from the get-go if possible?
Now one can agree or disagree with these points, as there is no right or wrong in a situation like this. It’s worth noting several politicians such as Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel or France’s François Hollande have repeatedly reminded their nations to stay strong and united and to not give in to fear and terror. But limiting the use of items made of foam at a convention about games sets a troubling precedent, and it’s one the cosplay community is concerned could continue going forward.
Cosplayers will surely think twice about which costume they will bring to a convention if they can’t sport their weapon, which is often iconic for gaming characters, or if they will attend the event at all. This is not only a loss for the convention, as some visitors only come to watch their heroes be brought to life by cosplayers, but also for the exhibitors, as their free advertisement will be gone.
Is this the end of conventions as we know them? No, surely not. Only time will tell what is in store for future conventions, but seeing examples such as the aforementioned Japan Expo weapon rules gives cosplayers a glimpse of hope for next year’s Gamescom and their favorite two-meter sword buddy.