We’re proud to bring you a piece today from Tyler Burnette, a great supporter of Beneath the Tangles. He recently attended Yama-Con, and his approach to the convention led some reflection on how we communicate at conventions—and with people around us in general. Enjoy!
One of the hardest lessons we have to learn as humans is learning to relate to each other. Every person is a completely unique individual, and it is impossible to make any kind of blanket statement that can adequately define even a group of two people. We must strive to know each other on a personal basis in order to truly empathize with them. Whether the differences are cultural, ideological, or historical, if we want to get to know people, we must engage them with eyes, ears, and hearts open. Oftentimes, the first step of introduction is the hardest.
As some of the people active on BtT’s Facebook page will attest to, I am somewhat of a fan of Danganronpa, so much so that I decide to cosplay at Yama-Con this year in an admittedly cheap and somewhat lazy Makoto Naegi costume (The cowlick kept falling down without any hair spray!). I was hoping that by seeking out some other Danganronpa fans, we might be able to converse about the series and share our favorite moments. I met a few of them. Most all of them skewed younger than myself, which may have been a hindrance to starting up conversation. Much of the time, when I saw someone else doing a another Danganronpa cosplay, I would address them by their character name and compliment them on their costume if we didn’t make eye contact. Part of the cosplay experience for me is role-playing, and I thought my Bryce Pappenbrook impression was better than it was. If we made eye contact or I thought they recognized my character, I would occasionally point at them and string off a line from the character. This mostly yielded confused expressions or “Oh no, he’s a psycho who is a decade older than me” reactions since it is probable they did not recognize my costume. As such, I only had a little bit of fortune talking with other fans, and no one vocally recognized my costume before I mentioned it. It probably would have been to my advantage to notice more positive things about the other cosplayers and wait for them to bring up my costume if they noticed it.
A little later on the last day of the convention, a nice fellow gathered a significant group of people to play the game Werewolf. It is similar to Town of Salem, but my eyes brightened a bit because it is also very similar to Danganronpa, involving bluffing, social awareness, memory, and human psychology. To top it off, there was another Danganronpa cosplayer in the game dressed as Kokichi Ouma from V3. I had said “hello” earlier after recognizing the cosplay, but I don’t know if I had mentioned I was cosplaying Naegi from the series.
As I love the role playing aspect of cosplay, and maybe said a little too much as I got into the game. I stood up grandstanding and pointed at the Kokichi cosplayer and accused the cosplayer of being the werewolf, throwing out a few of Naegi’s lines from the show and referencing the other player as the Ultimate High School Level Mastermind. I was hoping for a smile or potentially reciprocated roleplayed defense of their character. Very quickly, though, I had a feeling like I went a tad overboard in my accusation. I needed to realize that not everyone at the convention is into cosplaying for the same reasons I am, and not everyone is nearly as comfortable in groups as I might be. I could have really offended or even distressed the person. I am grateful the cosplayer took the accusation, realizing it was a game, and remained calm over the matter. Kokichi received a “not guilty” verdict and continued to play.
Given my competitive nature and experience with these style games, I dropped my facade as Naegi and morphed into something closer to myself in these games: a bit of a ruthless competitor willing to sacrifice teammates for a victory, a decidedly un-Naegi action to take. I was a bit too aggressive in my accusations, which may have turned off a number of players. It would have been far better for me to dial myself back and work harder at role playing how the character would actually have behaved. If the players picked this up, they might have enjoyed the concept of having a Makoto Naegi cosplayer as a player in a Danganronpa style game!
As a result of the way I actually played it, though, I was lynched in-game as a suspected werewolf very early, a mildly tragic irony voting the protagonist of Danganronpa as “guilty”! Ultimately, I never even found out if the townsfolk were victorious over the werewolves, making my efforts to “play optimally and win” moot and pointless.
I learned an important lesson that concern for the emotions and feelings of others is far more important than winning at a game. Likewise, consideration for your neighbors should be our primary concern when trying to trying to improve our efforts in evangelism. It is much akin to the question to Paul in the New Testament of whether we should partake in food sacrificed to idols as well as whether we should adhere to stricter standards of procedure when those around us adhere to them (1 Corinthians 8, Romans 14) We should act in a way which would instigate neither questions of our beliefs nor shake the conviction of fellow believers. In matters of principle, stand like a rock. In matters of style, flow with the stream. Resist changing standards of ethics. Acquiesce to changing standard of aesthetics. Most of all, we need to act in love, compassion, and empathy for all others—even for Ultimate High School Level Despairs.
Tyler Burnette has been anime fan since his youth in the late 90s where he developed an affinity for science fiction shows like Cowboy Bebop, Gundam Wing, and Crest of the Stars shown on platforms such as Toonami, Adult Swim, and Anime Unleashed. Presently his favorite anime is Trinity Blood as it ties in his interests in politics, anime, and theology. He grew up in a non-denominational church which he still attends regularly and graduated from King College with a degree in Political Science and History with an interest in economics and is an avid strategy gamer.