Sunday, 19 October 2014

Elitism in Gaming And How Shows Must Evolve, Death Eaters, Plus - Van Dyck By Candlelight

Oh my word, it's been a long time...

But now, after some punishing work schedules, I have 2 weeks to myself with not one minute to be spent at my desk in my studio. No sir, I want me some rest and space to think.

The problem is that even when I am at my desk painting, I do a lot of mulling, soul searching and mental raging about things which confound and anger me in my hobbies.

Over the last couple of years, I've been taking in a few conventions which share a general thematic link with gaming, albeit once removed. One thing which has struck me repeatedly (some may wish it were a piano from an upper storey) is just how welcoming and inclusive were all those presenting and attending, collectively drawing from the whole experience far more then the sum of the parts as it were. I know of very few historical gaming conventions where this is the case. Oh my but don't historical gamers (and I generalise here as there are exceptions) think that they are a cut above the rest? Fantasy gamers, traditionally have a sneering contempt for historical gamers and role players all think that the world of gaming is subordinate both creatively and culturally to whatever system they play.

Doubt this? Then stop, look and listen at every event you attend, shop you browse and so on and so forth...

Those who have a ball in every court seem less affected because they appear to be able to draw a lot more from the hobby and be less partizan because of the more rounded vision their own immersion affords them. They always seem to be the ones for whom, interaction and enjoyment of the hobby in all it's forms and the sharing of that with others is paramount.

My own personal Bugbear are those who deride and belittle fantasy gamers but then indulge in little bit of illicit D&D. This is akin to the T.V evangelist who decries pornography only to be caught mid-masturbation in an adult movie theatre. Perhaps by doing this they get a frisson more excitement... Who can say?

But the point is that unless the traditional pattern events, don't start to diversify, and start accepting that although they may not personally like this or that, it's good for business, they will be a footnote in the history of the gaming hobby. Cosplay, comics, modelling, painting, seminars by luminaries and authors not to mention tolerance for other gaming genres are all intertwined and can all give something to the atmosphere and standing of a show.

Elitism must take a back seat in favour of inclusion.

Moving on, I've not really done much in terms of gaming as I've been frankly disinterested for the last month. I have however, been hard at work on putting together a movie-grade costume depicting a 'Death Eater' from the film adaptations of the Harry Potter books by J.K.Rowling. What started off as a bit of 'Say guys, let's put on a show' idea has evolved into a project which has seen £600 (and rising by the day) go into getting the whole thing to at least the same standard as the costumes produced by Warner Bothers.

The Death Eaters have a very distinctive yet individualised appearance. They do however have a few consistent themes in the shape of black voluminous robes, wicked looking masks and wands carried at the waist in what is tantamount to a holster.

They at once look to be in the past and present sartorially, and tis means that you can really go to town on the whole thing.

I decided on a quite functional costume in that the wizard in question was a traveller rather than a stay at home type and so embroidery on the outfit would be minimal.

 Began with the boots, which were a pair of 15th century riding boots which set me back £135 from Foxblade Trading and which, are simply wonderful...

 However, they are by nature of their design a very close fit at the thigh, and so suitable leg wear was something of an issue. In the end I decided that jeggings - a hybrid of lycra jleggings and jeans - were the answer. The main problem being that they are sold in womenswear stores. So...

I walk into Dorothy Perkins and ask where I can try on some size 22 'jeggings' in a long fitting.

I explain that I am a wizard and not a cross-dresser which eases their minds a little.
I am then taken via the rear entrance, through the ladies changing rooms and into the adjacent Burtons store where I try on a 20L but find that nature has decreed that a little more gusset is required. I walk into Burtons and hand them over to a young chap on the desk who looks a little flustered to see a long haired 19 stone geezer holding ladies trousers.

Anyway, in the end I have had to order them online to get the 22 but at £18 I will look damn good...
Where were jeggings when I was a Goths? They feel like jeans but with none of the rough seams AND a bottom lift effect (not that I need it).
It gave the ladies in DP a good giggle too...
Next I had to find the distinctive robe and tunic. As I stated previously there is a lot of room for personal customisation but the general silhouette is one of cloaked menace. I'm currently speaking to a few seamstresses but it looks as if this expensive bit of kit will be made a professional costumier who was recommended by a friend of mine who has worked on films such as Gladiator and whom now runs a specialist leather working business servicing the arts and live roleplaying sectors. Google Evenlode Studio to see Richard's awesome leather armour! 
Here's an example of a few Death Eaters from the films... 

My original mask was to be leather, custom made to my specifications by Vicky Adams at Masktastic, and which looks like this:


However I have since found a props manufacturer who has been commissioned to make me a more 'movie grade' mask which at £175 is not cheap, but I think you will agree, rather awesome:

There is no reason why either mask could not be considered 'canon' however I think the latter of the two has that 'been there and done it' look about it.

The all important wand came from Alivan's Master Wand Makers in the U.S and is solid Gabon Ebony. I'll not mention the cost of that little beauty, but it really has the feel of the stories about it with it's embroidered case and monogrammed packaging:

I am a stickler for small details which bring a costume or character to life and so along with assorted trinkets, I also commissioned two copper bound spell books/journals from Will at Phoenix Copper Art, in which I will pen spells, observations and the like - all in character of course. As you can see, they are beautiful and were very reasonably priced at under £40 for the pair:

Once I have everything to my satisfaction, I'll hopefully be able to use the whole shebang to help raising funds for children's cancer charities and Sheffield Children's Hospital, and I hope that more of my friends and family will join me in that venture.

And finally, I recently went on a candlelight tour of historic Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, seat of the Devonshire family. Now, Chatsworth a pretty awesome pile in the daylight but the house by candlelight is awesome. 

I have never seen so many Van Dyck portraits in one place.

The art on display was breathtaking, the son et lumiere in the garden stunningly atmospheric and as for the Inigo Jones sketches, I was blown away. These sketches had not been exhibited for 40 years and were the main reason I had wanted to attend the candlelight visit.

You simply have to see this place by night... It's just something else.  It cost £18 per ticket and we didn't regret a single, I assure you!

Did I mention the fireplaces were lit so that a gentle smokey tang drifted through the house?

Did I mention the contemporary sketches of both 16th and 17th century battles?

Oh my...

Anyway here are a few pics. I had not realised that photography would be permitted and so I only had my iPhone to hand. Still, I think it conveys at least some of the beauty of the place in semi-darkness: