GameStart 2014: Yasemin Arslan interview

GameStart 2014: Yasemin Arslan interview
By Jedd Jong

The inaugural GameStart videogame convention kicks off tomorrow and ahead of that, I got to talk to one of the invited guests, Australian cosplayer Yasemin Arslan. She was picked to be the live-action face of the character Lilith from Borderlands 2 and GameStart marks her first official convention appearance outside of Australia. Today, she dressed as Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite. She discussed what got her into videogames, why movies adapted from videogames haven’t really worked and how she deals with creeps at cons.
Within the last few years of gaming, who do you think are some of the great characters to have come from videogames?

Especially over the years, I’ve seen there’s been a lot more complexity with the characters. Even classic games, for example, when Halo started, you had the lead character the Master Chief just be a silent character. But I actually loved the transformation they did in Halo 4, with Cortana as well, they actually made them more human. Definitely love them. Also Ellie from The Last of Us, she’s one of my favourite characters. Regardless of the gender, I just found that to be a really strong, real character, you actually believe that she existed.

Do you feel there’s a difference when you cosplay characters from games as opposed to those from movies because you’ve been in the shoes of the character playing that game?

Absolutely. I think when you’re playing a game, you pretend that you’re that individual, so partaking in…bringing them to life becomes more intimate, more personal. You could say the same thing about movies if you’re more of a fan, but especially with games, you’re literally controlling that character so it’s definitely more personal.

What was one of the first video games that you played?

My first video game is actually Abe’s Oddysee. That was my first and favourite game. I wasn’t that much of a “smart person” as a kid, especially Abe’s Oddysee, there are these levels where you’ve got to test yourself out, you know? Push yourself, the Mudokon, you’ve got to save all of them. That was really fun for me. But then from there I discovered Metal Gear Solid, and that was where I really discovered my passion for FPS games. Now I’ve moved to like Halo, Planetside 2 and also Destiny, I’m playing that a lot right now.

There’s been some controversy in the news with regards to the role of female gamers and game developers within the industry. Is it okay if I ask what your thoughts on that are?

I personally think it’s absolutely disgusting what’s happening in the industry. Gender should not matter these days. To the fact that people are committing suicide over this, because of the bullying, it’s absolutely despicable. We’re all adults, we should all be grown up by now and there should be a chance to develop the industry. More and more women are getting into gaming, we’re adding popularity, finances, we should be embracing this! Gender shouldn’t matter but I think both sides are really tearing it down into a war which is tearing all of us apart. I personally don’t want to be a part of it, I don’t think this should happen in the first place.

I think that after the adaptations of comic books, the next big thing in movies might be adaptations of videogames. Why do you think it is that a lot of videogame-to-film adaptations have not really worked so far?

Oh god [laughs]. It’s more…I think because the games, there’s such a complex universe as it is, it’s so difficult to bring that to screen properly. I don’t think anyone’s done a good job, you’ve had Hitman, you’ve had Silent Hill – they’ve been okay, nothing’s been executed properly. I think there’s also a lack of communication because you’ve already got such a fanatic group who are so in love with the game…

The fanbase?

The fanbase, yes. I just don’t think directors want to listen to them. They want to have their own original idea on it and it just doesn’t work.

So it’s like not sticking to what made the game successful.

Exactly, exactly. They try to make something new and hip and try to make it their own style. For me, if you’re not an avid gamer, you shouldn’t be directing a game film, which I think a lot of them failed on right now [laughs].

What are the best, worst and most interesting experiences you’ve had on a location shoot?

I think best is pushing my limits as an artist, creatively, physically as well. I’ve lost a lot of weight [laughs] on my photoshoots because they push me around. I think the worst thing is probably…nothing serious, but it’s more like the falling apart of my costumes because I jump in rivers, I climb trees and rocks and everything. My costume falls apart while it’s on me and it’s just a heartbreaking thing. That’s the only negative thing but then again, costumes can always be remade, that’s no problem. So yeah.

How important do you think it is for a cosplayer to understand and be into a character before cosplaying that character? There are some cosplayers who choose their characters based mainly on the way they look and not necessarily on the story or personality of the characters.

I personally don’t see much of a problem, I was just speaking to someone previously about this. You can appreciate a game as a game, but then you can appreciate a game as a piece of art. I actually have a lot of friends who don’t even touch videogames and still cosplay from them because they just think it’s beautiful. You can appreciate gaming platforms in so many different ways. For me, as long as you do a little bit of research on the character so you know what you’re talking about at least, then that seals the deal. I’m not fussy, it’s not harming anyone, no big deal [chuckles].

What is the cosplay scene like in Australia?

Definitely these days, it’s a lot more relaxed. You’ve still got a few little quarrels, especially with the international cosplay competitions and between certain groups you know, which is all personal, it’s all quite isolated. Once you’re not part of that scene, it’s just chill. It’s very relaxed and you can always ask anyone for help. Australians, we’re pretty relaxed and we like to band together.

What are some experiences you’ve had meeting fans?

Oof, that’s a pendulum [laughs]. It swings one way or another. I’ve met so many beautiful and amazing people, I’ve helped to inspire them and they’ve helped to inspire me in cosplay. Then there are other strange characters who can kind of cross my line a little bit verbally and physically and I can turn into a little monster [laughs].

How do you handle situations like that?

It depends. If someone is just saying perverted stuff to me for example, I’ll just give them bluntly that I have no interest in that and if they keep going, it will turn a little bit nasty [laughs]. For people who have physically touched me, I’ll be honest, sometimes I’m just in too much shock to realise it’s actually happened. For people to have the gall to touch you, it’s just unbelievable. I have gotten physical sometimes, just out of rage. It’s a shocking experience for someone to violate you and sometimes you just don’t know how you’ll react.

Are there any costume or fashion designers who inspire your work?

For me…god, there’s not really any fashion designers – I actually went to fashion school and I don’t think there’s anyone who’s inspiring, aside from Alexander McQueen who did pass away several years ago but I love his eccentricity, I found [that] amazing. The designers from Dior are wonderful as well. The couture designers from Dior are fantastic. But other than that, I just look to cosplayers for inspiration. Right now Lightning Cosplay, Liz Brickley Cosplay and Jessica Nigri, they’re my favourites at the moment.

Do you communicate with them over Twitter?

Yeah, we actually…we’re kind of friends, especially over Facebook and I’m about to meet them at BlizzCon in a couple of weeks. That’s one good thing I love about the community, that all in all, we band together, we’re like one big family.

My final question is what’s the hardest material you’ve had to source?

The perfect fabric. Especially in Australia, we only have limited resources for fabric, so just your basic stuff and finding the perfect fabric for that particular costume is a pain in the arse. Australia has everything else, fibreglass, we’ve got all that, fabric? Pfft [laughs].

You can see more of Yasemin’s work at her DeviantArt page here.

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