First off thanks to Andrew for the incredible picture – I never could have taken such a good photograph of my own getup.
OK so when it comes to costumes I really appreciate quick & crafty elements, and slightly tweaking expectations and sensibilities. What do I mean by that? Well I was pleasantly surprised that the inclusion of an operating laptop in my costume meant people were confused – mostly inquiring, “How are you powering this?” I mean it is a laptop, so it has an internal battery. But because it’s on a costume, it’s a curveball – interesting!
At parties the weekend before Halloween proper only one person knew the costume reference – this was expected. So I spent a bunch of time explaining the history of the game/s and Sega’s particular port. Meanwhile what I wanted out of the costume was to actually play the game, as a character from the game – very meta.
I originally put aside a neutral grey suit, but switched to a red suit with thick stripes, accompanied by a pinstripe tan-with-red-stitching undershirt, primarily as to give the costume a bit of texture and not seem so generically drab. I followed instructions very similar to that of Instructables user fynflood, while knowing I was designing for an actual laptop and not simply a mounted keyboard. (Honestly my version makes a lot more sense, because I can actually *show* what my character is, and not be stuck explaining it…)
I wound up with an suit-and-armature design like this:
You can see the punched metal flat bar has one half of velcro strip on it – more on this in a bit.
At this point the first ‘wiggle’ into the costume slightly tore some fabric that was perhaps too tight on the armature, but that was fine because it was all hidden and only served to loosen up the fabric to make putting it on and taking it off go faster. (The first time took several struggling minutes, now I can put it on in about 15 seconds.)
Unlike the Instructables post I didn’t use Campermount tape, but padded foam tape instead. Very similar, but with a bit more give and bounce to it. Also it comes in thicker sizes so frankly it’s a bit more comfortable.
OK about that velcro! The punched flat bar coming out of the holes in the suit were lined with the ‘loop’ half of strips of velcro. This is industrial strength stuff, I think it holds about 25lbs. per sq. inch, so that will be plenty to accommodate my 2+ lb. laptop. On the laptop side of things I had to do some maneuvering. Because of the location of vents on the underside of my laptop, and the curve of it’s chassis, I couldn’t velcro directly 1:1. So I did another layer of cardboard with velcro to the bottom of the laptop, like so:
Basically: armature -> loop/hook -> cardboard -> loop/hook -> laptop.
Again this is strong stuff – it basically takes both hands to remove the laptop from the armature, one arm to leverage against the armature and the other to do the removing. Also to ensure not damaging the laptop I affixed some strips of tack-free painters tape first, that way if I need to restore the laptop afterwards I won’t be removing industrial strength velcro from the chassis!
Now! To simplify describing the costume to others, I wanted to display the name of the game somewhere. I eventually opted for a box on the laptop lid, facing forward. I wanted to light the box/sign from within – mostly so it could be seen at night, at parties. So I built a frame:
I prefer to use crafty approaches, and I especially prefer to use only what I already have on hand: cardboard, foamcore, tape, hot glue, etc. I don’t like to ‘overthink’ things. So here I used a layer of foamcore sandwiched between two layers of sturdy 5mm cardboard, with a cutout for where the letters of the sign would eventually be. I originally printed the title on clear transparency, but even with dimmed lighting it didn’t look good, and I didn’t have any spraypaint on hand so I had to just use marker to black out the clear transparency:
I made a slot to run the USB cable into the box, and lined the edge with black EVA foam to prevent light leak from the side and give a uniform seal, while blending in with the black of my ThinkPad laptop:
This allows me to easily plug in the light, and even reprogram the lights inside as needed – I’m using BlinkyTape by the way! The light box is also mounted with velcro on tape, so it can all be easily removed and reused without damaging the laptop chassis.
I set the LEDs to white with a gradual fade so there’s some ‘movement’ happening:
All in all, simple, fun, and interactive (at least for me – I get to type to kill zombies!!):
The original game that inspired my costume is Typing of the Dead. I still have that CD, and have created a ROM of it, but the game had a protection where you have to “run” the CD, physically, to play the game; of course modern laptops don’t have CD drives anymore, and I didn’t want to run a crack on my work laptop; so I downloaded the 2013 Steam game Typing of the Dead: Overkill, which is just as good and a lot less is required because I can install Steam on any PC without hassle. Then I crank up the sound on my laptop or hide a small pair of Bluetooth speakers on my person, and type-to-kill!!
Gameplay looks like this:
I routinely score above 94% accuracy even in later, more-complex levels of the game.
THOUGHTS: What was really interesting about this costume was how everyone was confused by where the power source is – people thought I was using the battery on my back somehow. I thought that was brilliant, and that inquiry got me thinking: my laptop does eventually run out of power, so I very well plan to modify the costume to include a power source inside the Dreamcast/battery location, with an inverter for providing AC power to the laptop. It’ll add weight to the back, but be totally worth it (otherwise at full brightness and in graphics mode the battery lasts about 3.5 – plenty for a trip to work, but not ideal for conventions or parties).