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Cosplay (or, costume play) allows fans to become characters they know and love.

Film and television teach us that a costume can be used to transform an actor into their character. In some cases, we see actors transform into multiple characters in the same genre of film. Alternatively, sometimes multiple actors play the same character, notably the three actors who have donned the Spider-Man suit since 2002. Within a narrative, costumes can be used to show the metamorphosis of a character from their everyday self to a different version of themselves. Superheroes use masks and capes to represent their alter ego; Harry Potter dresses in wizarding robes as he attends Hogwarts.

For fans, Cosplay allows them to follow these forms of transformation, using costumes to take on the identities of their favourite characters. Cosplay also creates a beacon that enables people to visibly project which fandoms they belong to. In physical spaces such as popular culture and comic conventions, these beacons enable enthusiasts to connect with others in their fandom and form a bond and community around their common passions.