At Quinni-Con 2013, 11 costumed contestants took to the stage to compete in a send-up of the US electoral system called Cosplay Candidate. The host, A Count Named Slick-Brass, was serious from the start, eliminating one candidate before she even had a chance to share her platform. This was a raw and unpredictable exploration of the US electoral process through the lens of anime and video game characters running for fantasy office in a slipstream world. The participants in the contest had great knowledge of their characters but didn't necessarily understand all of the political issues at play. There is an inherent absurdity when Link from The Legend of Zelda series, Liechtenstein from Hetalia: Axis Powers, and Internet cryptozoological creation Slender Man, represented by one of his future victims, answer questions about abortion as it pertains to artificial intelligence and staving off nuclear war with Lex Luthor.
The cosplayers were encouraged to answer as their characters would. Liechtenstein insisted on neutrality at every juncture like her savior Switzerland would want her to. Kanaya from Homestuck advocated for over the top slapstick policy. Salamander Man stuck to primitive growls and grunts to the delight of the crowd.
The entire conceit of the game was that the personality traits of the characters would become the campaign platform for each candidate. Obviously, this meant that not ever cosplayer could adequately answer each question. The overall effect was strong. The large audience began to root for or against various candidates as their platforms were defined and then refined on the fly. The cosplayers even began to pander to certain demographics if answering a particular way garnered audience approval. The talking points began to overtake the substance of the arguments as the debate reached its final round.
The top 3 candidates from each primary became the six potential nominees. A shorter round of debate began before the moderator declared, quite correctly, that alliances had formed. These pairs became running mates who coordinated together on the final two questions. Once again, the people decided who would be the ultimate victor.
When asked to choose between Kanaya/Kaito (Vocaloid), Slender Man/Salamander Man, and Link/Liechtenstein, the audience voted for the Kanaya/Kaito ticket. The convention had a huge turn out of Homestuck fans and they were not afraid to cheer on their own. The sizable Hetalia: Axis Powers fans brought Link/Liechtenstein to the cusp of victory but ultimate fell short.
The concept of Cosplay Candidate is a strong one that will hopefully be continued at other conventions in the future. With a more contained space so every answer can be clearly heard, the contest could easily become a convention mainstay.
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