Cosplay and Esports: An Interview With Jordyn McCoy
What makes a good game? It’s a hard question to answer. There is a lot to consider, especially if you’re making something competitive, and especially in esports. What works for some people won’t for others so having an original, cohesive and creative look is key. And when you have beautifully crafted characters in a popular title? People are going to cosplay them.
On the 19th July 2018, the Houston Outlaws Overwatch team had an unveiling that would be relatively unique in the esports world. Announcing content creator Jordyn ‘LucyInDisguise’ McCoy as their official team cosplayer, a Twitter post proudly introduced her with a short video. But this news that was met with a wide range of mixed reactions, from positive and negative to outright confusion. But is it so surprising?
Today we talk to McCoy about her role with the team, the gear up to the 2019 Overwatch League season, her future plans and, of course, esports and cosplay.
Who is Jordyn McCoy?
Despite having grown up and lived in Austin, Texas her whole life, Jordyn chats happily from California where she is visiting her boyfriend. It’s early in the morning there and yet she sounds bright and chipper. She’s a natural when it comes to easy and engaging conversation and speaks openly about herself. When the discussion turns to Overwatch though (and her team), McCoy’s tone becomes more intense. You cannot deny how passionate she is about her work and how deeply she cares about the Outlaws.
But to quote a popular, old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: “who is Jordyn McCoy and what does she do?”
A massive Batman fan since she was three years old, McCoy went to her first convention close to home at the age of thirteen years old. She’d gone to meet one of her heroes, Adam West, and decided to find herself a costume to wear. “I dressed as Ellis from Left 4 Dead 2! It was very simple and he is Southern too.” She reflects with a laugh, thinking back. Jordyn enjoyed the experience and wanted to go back right away.
From then on, Jordyn selected cosplays of her favourite characters from comics, games, shows and movies that she loved. But being too young to drive, when she found a regular con in her area, she managed to rope her mother into being her partner and they would attend together. Sometimes both in costume.
At twenty-two years old, Jordyn graduated college in May this year and has since dedicated herself to esports on multiple fronts outside of cosplay.
“I want to stream full time,” she tells me, “but right now I’m only required to do between 5-10 hours a week.” You would be forgiven for thinking that these streams would be Overwatch focused, given her background and job, but when I ask Jordyn is quick to set me straight. “I get pretty upset in Overwatch sometimes,” she admits, “I find it tilting to stream so I play mostly story-based games.”
Jordyn also describes her struggle with insecurity and shyness and how she doesn’t want to project that on stream by playing competitively, so instead she’s sticking to a good variety so that she’s always having fun. She’s just finished Detroit: Become Human (and has some cosplay plans for her favourite character) and is making her way through the Evil Within titles.
When Jordyn is not streaming she’s making things. Through her Instagram, she posts images of art she’s drawn of donators, sells prints and also makes keychains. Although she does not have an online shop she does good business through private sales. “People usually just message me if they want to buy a keychain,” she says, “or sometimes it’s one person buying multiples.” However it can be difficult, legally speaking, to sell esports related merchandise, especially if it Houston Outlaws themed. “Blizzard owns the Outlaws logo and so [merchandise] with that on has to be cleared by them,” McCoy informs me, “I can’t make keychains for sale without their permission.”
With this being the main source of her income, Jordyn lives with her family who is supportive of her desire to pursue a career in esports, even if they don’t altogether understand it. “It’s high risk, high reward, so I make a base fee and the pay is low right now,” she explains, “and I have to cover my own bills.” In particular, Jordyn lovingly talks about her father who is a regular feature in her streams by way of choosing her online hours to get on with household tasks. “He says I am ‘just playing video games’,” she laughs, “so he likes to come and vacuum and mow when I’m streaming. But esports is gonna be on ESPN soon so he will have to accept it!”
Overwatch and the Outlaws
When Overwatch was initially released, Jordyn’s friends instantly picked up the game. But she was wary. “When everyone is crazy about something I find that a turn-off,” she concedes merrily, “but we played on Xbox and they all moved to PC for Overwatch so I had to as well to keep playing with them.” Despite initial misgivings, McCoy was immediately taken with D.Va, Overwatch’s Korean pro gamer turned soldier-celebrity, falling in love with her cute aesthetic and attitude and quickly racking up 250 hours of play with her favourite tank.
Then Jordyn wanted to get better at the game. Searching the internet led her to the Overwatch Contenders and the Houston Outlaws. In college, she would find a quiet corner during long breaks between classes, watch professional games and VODs and take notes so that she could improve. A short while later she would win a Twitter contest to go and see the Overwatch League preseason and had big plans: the Houston Outlaws had their own Overwatch skins, including a D.Va option, and Jordyn wanted to see it properly so that she could get it made.
“People got hung up on cosplay. But with the watch parties and charity events, people eventually realised there is a lot more to what I do than just showing up in a bodysuit.”
Browsing Twitter one day shortly after, she came across a group that wanted to start stream watching parties in Austin, her hometown, for the Outlaws. Attracted to the idea at once, Jordyn was the first responder and subsequently found a local arcade that would host. Even better, if they had over twenty attendees it would be free and the arcade had a lot of the equipment they would need. Happy with finding such a great deal, McCoy poured her focus into making sure one would happen every week. They would name themselves the Lonestar Vanguard.
To promote the parties Jordyn would create Facebook events and posters. They brought decorations and had prizes to give away as the events grew. Sometimes these prizes would be donated to them, but sometimes McCoy and others would buy Funko Pops with their own money and someone in the group would paint them Outlaws colours.
Later, however, fans in Houston started their own watch party. McCoy was dismayed to find that the Houston Outlaws team had started advertising this new group, but not the Lonestar Vanguard, so she tweeted at them. Shortly after this, the Outlaws got in touch and Austin became the location of the first official watch party. The attendee numbers increased dramatically and Jordyn found herself managing donations of items directly from the team, and even a team member signing with poster giveaways, adding to the long list of work she already did.
Soon, Jordyn and the Outlaws were working together to set up booths at conventions. The first event McCoy came dressed normally. But when she said she had an Outlaws themed cosplay at home and she asked if she could come help at the booth as Outlaws D.Va, the team was incredibly enthusiastic. They interviewed her and used her in costume for pictures and videos, and she was considered to be an unofficial ‘mascot’.
From then on Jordyn’s role expanded. She made Outlaws parties happen all over the state of Texas and started the #bandtogether hashtag. Soon, she was signing a contract with the Outlaws’ marketing team and was filming for her announcement video. Having been working with the Outlaws for a long time she was excited for her reveal. “The community is usually so supportive with fan art and cosplay and then when it dropped it received a lot of negative comments and confusion over the role,” Jordyn sighs, “people didn’t get that I’ve been an Outlaws fan since the beginning and I’ve had the [D.Va] suit for a long time. I had been helping the marketing department and went to their events to support them for free.”
“I would rather people not care than be rude,” she continues, “they advertised me as a cosplayer, but my contract is ‘content creator’. I also stream and promote, I make videos and travel to help Outlaws at events. People got hung up on cosplay. But with the watch parties and charity events, people eventually realised there is a lot more to what I do than just showing up in a bodysuit.”
After the announcement from Outlaws themselves, Jordyn decided to focus on her next big event. She had been invited to the Overwatch League grand finals with other Overwatch cosplayers such has Happy Acorn Cosplay, Shounen Soul, and Spiral Cats and needed something special. She turned to friends at Texan based team Frostbite Cosplay with an idea: a full set of Brigitte armour in the Houston Outlaws colour scheme. And sooner rather than later? Jordyn was off to the Barclays Center in New York in style.
Of course, Houston Outlaws have their own events to which McCoy is expected to attend, but she is also allowed to go to tournaments and make appearances on her own whilst representing the team. The Outlaws have since made her a banner which she takes with her and has also financed cosplay prints for her to sell solo, all in their name. But still, Jordyn admits to having a lot of anxiety and finds it hard to fathom that people would want to purchase a picture of her despite the huge rise in cosplay photography as a trade. And people do want a picture of her, as sales are good.
Some cosplayers make their own costumes entirely from scratch and Jordyn is the first to admit that the majority of her cosplays are commissioned pieces from other artists (and sometimes even her own grandmother). But she is learning more and more every day. And she has big ambitions.
“I want to be Genji next,” she says, “I’m making a pattern using Saran wrap to map my body and I’m working with foam. I’ve already made his helmet; I watched videos on youtube to help me because I couldn’t really imagine how a 2D thing could become a 3D thing.”
She has also recently purchased a sewing machine and has already completed two minor projects: a poodle skirt and a cape for a Teen Titans Raven cosplay. “I am feeling a bit plateaued at the moment though,” she laments, “I’m looking forward to season 2 of the Overwatch League. I got hired in the middle of the summer when the season was mostly over. But once things get busier I’d like to stream cosplay stuff once I figure out how to set up the camera! I want to show people my progress as a cosplayer as I get better.” And not only this, Jordyn hopes that her viewers might be inspired to try cosplaying themselves, just as she has been inspired by others in the cosplay community.
“I follow a lot of cosplayers. I love JannetInCosplay who is known for her Talon Widowmaker. She was sponsored by Blizzard. I like Jessica Nigri for her armour and Alyson Tabbitha for makeup.” Jordyn wants to work on her makeup skills and hairstyling just like her role models and hopes to take a class to further her knowledge. “I watch a lot of videos,” she admits, “not just cosplay stuff but regular makeup too.”
And, of course, there are goals outside of esports and Overwatch too.
“I have always loved doing community stuff,” McCoy tells me excitedly, “I started streaming for charity when I was in high school. I want to do superhero cosplays and go to hospitals and parties for kids. That would make them so happy.”
Something that I have no doubt that McCoy will be able to achieve. As our conversation ends and I think about what she has told me, I realise that she has made me very happy. It’s been nearly seven years since I started out on my own esports journey, roughly the same amount of time since McCoy took her first costume to meet Adam West, and in that period the professional gaming scene has exploded. Here we are, two women almost on opposite sides of the world, talking about a brand new career step forged in a still-evolving industry. Jordyn, and others like her such as Los Angeles Valiant Queen Valla cosplayer, Phasma, are bridging a gap between two communities that have existed in the same sphere for a long time but have never really overlapped in this way before.
And if cosplay is the next big thing in esports, what comes after? What new roads do we go down?
I can’t speak for you, but I, personally, am very excited to find out.