Costumes as Game Controllers: Costumes, Power & Transformation

Costumes as Game Controllers

For my new project involving Costumes as Game Controllers, I’ve been doing a lot of preliminary research. I want to take full advantage of costumes as a form of wearable technology in order to heighten the immersive game experience. I have been approaching this project from many sides: conceptual, aesthetic and technological, and it’s been quite exciting and at times an overwhelming experience, even though it’s just begun. This will be the first in a series of posts on this blog updating my progress.

When I worked briefly in costumes design in film and theater, I realized how important costumes were for the overall story. What an actor wears is one of the many powerful tools that help tell the story. Not only is this true from the audience’s point of view but also it was crucial for the wearer too, by helping her fall into the role better and “feel” more like the character in the script. This is my starting point.

Costumes and Power

Halloween is around the corner. It’s a perfect time to start thinking about costumes and what they represent. Super hero costumes are popular, because as an adult or child, it’s easy to idolize these characters with super human strengths. Just look at online stores selling Halloween costumes  — you can’t go far without seeing Superman, Spiderman and Batman costumes. When thinking of Costumes and Power, super heroes are the first thing that come to mind for me. A silky red cape, a brightly colored muscle-hugging suit with matching tights, and the large “S” on the chest are familiar to many as something that is worn by Superman when he is using his super powers. When he’s not Superman, he wears very normal, boring clothing hiding his true strengths.

Clark Kent with normal clothes.

Superman with cape and suit.

So during Halloween, as the kid wearing the costume can feel like a super hero, as the actor wearing her costume feels more like her part, the wearer can feel powerful donning a costume that embodies power.


It’s not just about the worn costume that can emphasize the power that the wearer holds, but the process of transformation from a regular person to someone who posses special powers can also add to the notion of power. There is a word for this in Japanese. It’s “henshin” (変身)which literally means “transforming the body”, but in the context of anime and super-heroes, it also includes the transformation of clothes.

The Japanese TV series, Kamen Rider, is a great example of “henshin.” In this video clip, there are henshins after henshins of past Kamen Riders. Pay attention to the changing of costumes. Kamen Rider Riderman (1:01) is particularly interesting because the act of putting on his mask triggers the transformation.

Gestures and Poses too!

These examples also remind me how important gestures are to show power. The gestures in Kamen rider are large and quick, and are obviously a important part of the henshin process. Superman also uses gestures and poses to express power. Gestures and poses can be used in addition to costumes.