Karli's Corner @karlibra
The Cosplay Geek

Hello everyone, my name is Karli, and I'd like for you to get to know me better and I'd love to get to know you! Growing up in the Midwest, I always spent my time with as many creative outlets as possible. Whether that was writing, painting, makeup, drawing, sewing, even some modeling...that didn't matter. I was just happy to have something that not only made me happy, but also took some stress off my shoulders, because it wasn't something I easily found in other activities. After deciding I needed to be somewhere else, a place where the arts are thriving and booming, I took matters into my own hands to graduate early online so that I could finally make my way to the west coast at 17. It wasn't until a year ago at 22 that I found stumbled into the world of cosplaying, and that's where I found one of my biggest passions.... With Cosplay, I could finally combine all of my loves into one. I have learned quite a lot over the last year and I hope that I can share all of my findings with you, and continue this journey together. I'd love to explore different thoughts & questions with you all.

 
 
 

The Adventure of Team Polarized

     Some things in life are amazing, some things in life are surprising, and some things in life are very…strange. With that being said, I am very excited to share with you my most recent adventure that I’ve been lucky enough to go on! Recently, I was a part of a project that involved one of my favorite games, and allowed me to cosplay with some of the most talented people I know. I also had the opportunity to work alongside some of my favorite photography & videography talents in the cosplay community! Luckily for all of us, the whole project ended up being completely funded by followers who believed in our vision and by people who wanted to see our dream become a reality. For those of you may not have been around from the beginning, I would like to provide you with backstory to this journey so that you can see just how meaningful this project truly was.

     If I could mysteriously rewind time back to April of this year, I would find myself at the local game store with one of my closest friends. As two 23 year olds who are bigger fans of staying indoors as opposed to exploring the night life, we were both looking for something new to entertain ourselves. Bored out of our minds, we agreed on getting a game to play as I had been wanting to put my neglected PS4 to use for some time. I'm embarrassed to say that while I had owned my console for at least a year, the only purpose it had served up until that point was to stream movies & music while working on cosplays. I must be honest; I had always been intimidated by modern games and was worried about becoming too consumed by them. I had known too many people and have heard many friends discuss how they aren't able to easily accomplish anything once hooked on a good game. However, I finally felt ready to dive into the world of gaming again, and there was a specific one in mind when we walked into the store that day. Once we had arrived, the employee excitedly asked us if we needed any help. Immediately, I turned to them and said "Yes, do you have Life is Strange?"

     As a cosplayer who frequently attends conventions, you'll often see attendees walking around in costumes that you aren't necessarily familiar with. There are thousands of series, games, and fandoms to cosplay from that usually have complex outfits, giant props, or colorful wigs. With the rate that new contents keeps being produced, you'll often find yourself thinking "Hey, I love that costume even though I have absolutely no idea where it's from!" However, what had caught my attention early this year was when I had noticed a trend of con-goers wearing what seemed like ordinary clothing while dawning blue hair, full sleeve tattoos or carrying around Polaroid cameras. At first it had not occurred to me that these people were cosplaying at all, until later when I stumbled upon their pictures online. This is how I discovered the names of the characters Chloe & Max from the game Life is Strange published by Square Enix. Upon further reading, I had learned that Life is Strange is a game created by the developers at DontNod that follows a student named Max Caulfield. Max is a kind, caring and dorky photography student who does everything in her best effort to save the people of her town Arcadia Bay who may be in great danger. This includes the person she is closest with, Chloe Price, a blue-haired rebel who got kicked out of Blackwell Academy after difficulty facing some troubles of her past. With the help of her mysterious ability to rewind time, Max reunites with Chloe after years of being apart to discover the truth of something much darker looming over Blackwell. Together as partners in time, their relationship grows stronger while also being challenged by several ugly truths that are painful for them and the player to discover. Because of this aspect, there are many moments of the game that can cause the player to feel emotional towards either the characters in the game, or the themes at hand. This is also one of the main reasons the fans of the game become so intensely passionate about it.

     Before I had even finished the game, I was already piecing together a last minute cosplay       of the character Rachel Amber. When you first play Life is Strange, you will quickly find dozens of missing person signs of Rachel that were posted around Arcadia Bay. The mysterious disappearance of Rachel Amber is one of the major plot-points of the game. The cosplay itself consisted of ripped jeans, a strawberry blonde wig, a red flannel shirt, and her signature blue feather earring. While the outfit itself was nowhere near as complex as some of my others, I had grown to form my own personal connection and appreciation for Rachel. Luckily for myself, I ended up finishing the game right before the convention and had realized how much I identified with her. The first time that I cosplayed - Rachel, I felt as though I had become her and that I could finally see through her eyes. I was able to pose with my amazingly talented friend Kate in her own Chloe cosplay at Fanime 2016. We shared laughs, tears and discussed our favorite moments of the game. It was truly unlike any other experience I have had while cosplaying before as different characters. Later at that convention, we met, bonded & befriend fellow Life is Strange lover Amethyst Leon. The beauty of Life if Strange, is that it brings together people all over the world, and we all seem to have an unspoken sense of understanding for each other. I know I don't speak for only myself when I say that Amethyst was one the of original Chloe cosplayers that initially sparked my interest in the game. Meeting her was an honor, and it was exciting to fangirl together over the game we both held close to our hearts. With that being said, I was caught completely off guard when she later approached me to be part of a passion project that was very special to her.

     When Amethyst first asked me to be part of her Life is Strange music video that she had       written a year prior, I was slightly reluctant to agree to it. I knew just how much meaning was behind it for her, and I didn't want to make any promises I couldn't keep. My biggest fear in life is letting others down, and so I wanted to confirm that I was able to even go before I set anything in stone. However, to my surprise my requested days off at work were approved and so I was given the green light to go. The group consisted of Amethyst as Chloe Price, myself as Rachel Amber, and our mutual friend Alicia as Max Caulfield. We were also lucky enough to have supporting characters in the video by having our friend Ray with her Victoria Chase cosplay and Haaku with their Brooke Scott cosplay. Amethyst invited her good friend and photographer Alf to do the photography for the project and inquired with us as to who we could invite as our lucky videographer. I was excited to work with Alf as I was already a fan of his previous shoot with Amethyst in her Chloe Cosplay, and knew he also had a deep appreciation for the game. I immediately knew that I had to suggest my good friend Erick as our videographer, as he was someone I regularly worked with to put out videos of my other cosplays. Not only did I have all of my confidence in Erick for filming the project, but we also shared the same love and appreciation for the game. This is when we finally had the whole team assembled and dubbed ourselves as Team Polarized.

     Once we had established our group and our crew, the next question was how we were all going to afford this trip? With anything that requires travel and time off work, money and expenses tend to add up. Team Polarized casually tossed the idea around of setting up a fundraiser to help get our group to Portland, and ultimately decided to give Patreon a try. We didn't expect much, but we figured that any bit would help. Patreon is a website where creators are able to be funded by their fans in order to put out content with more quality at a much faster rate. Fans are able to pledge to the creators that they love, and are able to receive both digital and/or tangible rewards in return. After deciding on how we would reward our patrons for their support, we finally decided to launch our fundraiser a month in advance. We figured that this would give us enough time to get close to our goal if we were lucky. Little did we know, our whole project became completely funded in less than 10 hours. We were all in shock that people wanted to support our project that all started out as just a small idea. It was at this point we knew we had to create something beautiful for the people who believed in us more than we even believed in ourselves.

     On August 25th, our crew officially took off for Oregon in 2 separate cars, and the drive was roughly 16 hours. Life is Strange is based roughly on the Pacific Northwest region, and so we had set our sights on bringing the game to life. The journey was long, dark, and it wasn't until around 5am that all members reached our destination in Portland. After taking a few hours to nap at Alicia's apartment where we were staying, we officially used Day 1 write down all major scenes, scout locations, and develop a filming strategy for the next two days. We all acknowledged that it was going to be long hours spent in costume, with early wake up times and with late bed times. Our first day of filming, I remember waking up right before 5am to get started on makeup, so that we could head to Blue Moon Diner to film our first scene. I will forever cherish that moment, as it was very surreal seeing everyone in character on location. We later found ourselves at Reed University which felt so much like Blackwell Academy, that we were nearly convinced we were inside the game. We were all determined about getting the scenes we needed, but never hesitated to enjoy the little things along the way and to make the most of our time together. We found ourselves on the coast on the final day, where we wrapped up our filming near some abandoned train tracks and at a lighthouse that overlooked the ocean. Because of how many locations and scenes we managed to squeeze into such a small period of time, there were indeed moments where the tension was high. However, this was only because of how passionate we all were for the final product, and our desire to make everyone who supported us proud. Luckily, our group all meshed well together and we pushed through to accomplish every single thing on our list. At the end of the day, we rejoiced by removing our wigs and moshing around in excitement. Our two days of filming had quickly come to an end, which was a very bittersweet moment that was difficult to let go of, and made it even more difficult to say goodbye.

     When we finally were all home from the trip, the suspense kicked in as we anxiously and excitedly awaited the video to be finished. There were many drafts of the video that were created, and it was important that it stayed true to our original vision. We all wanted something that honored the characters and could give hope to others who identified closely with them. A common theme in the game is that there are many moments of loss and sorrow, however, our goal was to make those who felt pain, to instead feel joy and closure. The twist to our video is that we decided to make it have an alternate ending not featured in the game, or rather, and ending that we felt the series truly deserved. After watching the final version of the video, I was certain we had accomplished that much. We had planned to do a soft release to those who donated first, starting with our 6 highest donators. We were all blown away with the love and support from our patrons and eagerly awaited the day we released it to the world. It was only a matter of time.

     I don't believe any of us were prepared for the amount of praise it would receive the day we released it to the public. It was September 28th that the video went live, and it was announced it at 9am to all of our followers. We were all overflowed with love from Life is Strange fans, and noticed dozens of shares from everyone who had patiently waited to see our video. Those who watched our video expressed that they loved the way it began, progressed, and ended so fluidly. The landscape, scenery and nature in the video did not go unnoticed, as our followers appreciated our attention to detail. We received messages from people who fell in love all over again with the series, and people who were unfamiliar with the game that expressed the desire to give it a try. One of the most flattering moments of the whole release is when it was acknowledged by the game developers DontNod themselves on their Twitter. It was certainly and undoubtedly an unforgettable experience for all of us.

     Life is Strange may mean something personally different to everyone, but it all means something special to those who are a part of the fandom. We have since caught up with our patrons and supporters who have asked us questions about the making of our video. It has been a lot of fun to answer questions that they had about the trials and tribulations of coming together, and we have enjoyed surprising them with trivia that wouldn't have known just from watching the video alone. To our surprise, a lot of people have told us that they would love to see us all work together again on another project as it was obvious how well we worked together. Does the future have room from another project from Team Polarized? Will there be a sequel, or even perhaps a prequel? Will we all be reunited once again? Time will only tell. If there's one thing I'm certain about, I am most certain that meeting this team, forming these friendships and putting out this video has been the highlight of my year. It will definitely be a memory I will always fondly look back on, and if I had the ability to rewind time to do it all over again, I would not hesitate for a second.

 

Once Hidden, Now Exposed

     It's scary to jump into this. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time now. You're probably expecting a sympathy story of sorts, and while it may initially seem that way, this is my own odd way of introducing myself to you for the very first time...or at least, in a way that I never have before. I want you to know my voice; I want you to know a little bit more about who I am. Most importantly, I want you to know why this means so much to me.

 

     All of my life, I had always found it difficult to communicate with those around me. I was never the best at socializing, but I always had so much going on in my head that I wanted to process out loud with others. But it never was that easy, as it was difficult to put my thoughts into words without slipping up every little thing I wanted to say. Any attempt I would make to speak up, I would often be disregarded, or left feeling misunderstood. Was I too quiet? Was it my tone of voice? Was I simply just not making sense? Did I ever actually talk out loud or was I just imagining that I had? As a result, it would scare me away from speaking with others, especially in groups, and so I kept mostly to myself. The thoughts in my head guarded by closed lips. All of the feelings I had kept safe in journals stored under my bed.

 

     As a way of dealing with my endless number of thoughts, I would often find myself writing letters to people in my life, expressing to them how I felt. Whether it was about them, challenges I was facing, questions I was stumped with, or ideas I wanted to explore, I needed to get those feelings translated into words. I would write them novels never to be seen. Words never to be read. All of my thoughts carefully collected on paper would be kept safe in countless notebooks, locked away from everybody who wasn't me. Those I would write to would never receive, but at least I would get my release and at least I would get my relief.

 

     Writing became one of my favorite ways to express myself and it became my escape. It made me happy, unlike anything else I had ever tried before. It was my safe place and my comfort zone, something no one could take away so long as I protected it. Soon enough it was a regular thing to write to myself, for myself. I became confident in the voice I had, even if no one else could actually hear it. After years of developing a writing style of my own, I eventually felt proud enough to begin calling myself a writer. So proud that after some time went by, I even felt brave enough to share my title to those I felt closest to.

 

"Oh! You're a writer?"

"That's cool, what kind of things do you write?"

"Where can I see your work?"

"You are a writer, but only for yourself?"

"It's all private? Can you please show me?"

 

     Just like how I had felt regret speaking publicly in the past, I then instantly began to regret mentioning my writing. I wanted to take it back because I wasn't ready to share my thoughts. The cycle of second guessing I started all over again. How could I expose myself like that? I began to shy away. I had nothing to prove that I was a writer, and in turn, it felt like I wasn't one. I decided I wasn't worthy and so I dropped my pen, removed the "writer" title from any profile I had, and forced myself to try new things instead. I tried just about anything creative to help take my mind off of things, and even to connect with similar people. Eventually, I was lucky enough to later find myself in a new hobby that helped me connect with others, the hobby that you very likely know me for today.

 

     But it wasn't until now though, that I finally have been presented with the opportunity to prove to myself and to others something I am so very proud of but also something I was scared to ever jump back into. Just like how it can be scary to get back to the gym, picking up my pen also felt terrifying. However, over the last year or so, I have been challenged with many different areas of my life and taught the importance of taking risks. Without trying, you will never know how far you will go, and it's also not as scary as you thought once you begin.

 

     I have also learned the importance of believing those who believe in you. They see your potential, and they want you to see it for yourself as well.  I would have never accepted this offer if it weren't for all of the support from my friends and those who follow my creative journey. I would have been too nervous to start writing again, especially on a public level like this. I am beyond grateful that things fell into place the way they did, and I am happy to have found myself in a community that is accepting of who I am. I now have friends that I finally can connect to and grow with. I also have friends that are eager to hear my thoughts, whether they are written or out loud. And while the letters I wrote to others in my past still remain hidden on pages in notebooks I'd have to dig up to find, I look forward to sharing my thoughts and my world with you all now. Let us continue to learn more about each other together, and thrive in a way we never have before.