Cosplay leans on identification with narrative content. Most importantly, cosplayers have a dynamic relationship with stories and characters. Most cosplayers do not wish to exactly duplicate the character they portray; rather, they want to bring something of their own, such as elements of their own appearance, into the cosplay. In that sense, they can also be compared to cover bands and other forms of impersonation in which performers enact their own versions of existing material. Moreover, characters are used as signifiers of the fan's own identity. On the one hand, a costume shows off a player's attachment to a certain narrative or character, and a player can gain status through high-quality cosplay. On the other hand, the associations connected with a character are transferred to the player. Expression through a costume of a fictional character is actually self-expression. Cosplayers decide what characters and values fit them. These decisions are the very core of this type of play, but they are ones that the audience might be less concerned with. While the audience can judge a costume and behavior, and their resemblance to the source text, they cannot compare the character with the player.

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