Tabitha Lyons – Artyfakes – Streaming, cosplay and prop making

Credit: Artyfakes

Esports events are now a far-cry from what they once were. Gone are the days where you’d find a hundred avid gamers cooped up in a dark room with PCs and just the floor to sleep on. Around the world the crème de la crème are competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. The production is often on par with the best in the world and they are now a true spectacle for any spectator. 

Whilst seeing the best battle it out on CS:GO, Dota 2 or League of Legends to name the most popular titles is clearly the main draw for many – there are peripherals fast becoming intrinsic to making esports events the extravaganzas they are today.

At ESL One Frankfurt just a few years back there was a rodeo, human table football and various other activities that effectively make the event more than just your standard match – it’s an all-encompassing festival where everyone is welcome.

Introducing cosplay; an art that marries itself beautifully to the gaming world and esports. It’s far from rare nowadays to see cosplayers invited and paid, like players and broadcasters, to attend events.

Fans and more accomplished cosplayers alike are invited to don costume that best represents their favourite hero, champion or character from the game they so deeply love. They’re a fabulous addition to the competitive action and an integral part to building the unique esports events experience.

We’re by no means experts in cosplay. Whilst we do believe that certain members of the ESI editorial team would scrub up well; we thought we would leave it to an expert to provide insight into the ever-growing world.

Tabitha “Artyfakes” Lyons hails from Norfolk, UK and is a renowned cosplayer not just in the UK but across the globe often flying out to conventions and events to both cosplay and judge. We spoke to Tabitha about the wonderful world of cosplay and just how she expects it to grow in the future.

Esports Insider: How did you get into cosplay and what is it that makes you love doing it?

Tabitha: I’m technically quite late to the whole cosplay scene having only got into it in late 2012. I’ve been in and around the Live Action Roleplay (“LAR”) community for years. My dad and I started our prop making company in 2007 and initially our bread and butter sales were to the LAR community. We did props for film, TV and theatre but it was few and far between.

“The wonderful thing about cosplay is it’s still quite new – and people still give you a weird look as if to ask ‘What on earth are you doing?'”

When Skyrim came out and I fell in love with the design of the weapons, so I thought it would be a great idea to do an inspired shoot to show off our props. I did a photoshoot dressed as Dovahkiin and put it online. A website (ironically) called Geeks Are Sexy basically found it and showcased it and said “look at this sexy cosplay” and that was genuinely the first time I’d heard of it. I then googled it and fell in love.

I chucked together another cosplay and popped along to a convention and I loved it. My dad pushed me on stage and entered me into the competition and I ended up coming third. At the time I thought “this is insane” and I started cosplaying from there. In my first year I had some great costumes with massive wings etc and people really liked them. From there I started to get invited as a guest to events and it just took off. It was kind of crazy and really changed the direction of my business and it’s sort of happening again with the esports industry.

Esports Insider: You talk about the esports industry; how has cosplay changed and developed with esports? How has it impacted your business?

Tabitha: We were the first prop makers and cosplayers to stream on Twitch. It’s primarily a gaming platform but as soon as we started streaming the prop making aspect we started getting jobs like making trophies for ESL, Riot Games and other big companies.

Halo Wars 2 trophy (Credit: Artyfakes)

I have been invited to events like DreamHack and honestly we couldn’t be happier. We’re slowly making our way into the esports industry and it’s where I see the future of our business. At the moment we work really closely with Twitch and it’s great to be involved and integrate cosplay into it.

The wonderful thing about cosplay is that it’s still quite new – and people still give you  a weird look as if to ask “what on earth are you doing?” Then they ask for a picture anyway. Instead of exclusively watching the tournaments, cosplay offers another way for people to feel more involved. I’m far from a professional player but I can still be part of the community and show support; it’s great and immersive.

Esports Insider: The esports and gaming community in general sometimes get a bad reputation for their attitude towards female streamers. Have you encountered such problems?

Tabitha: I actually am pretty lucky and really haven’t had any such problems on Twitch. I don’t know if it’s because it’s my business that I stream or because my dad is there working with me but generally my moderators don’t actually have to do too much. If I wear an extremely low cut top and it’s overly hot I might get a bit of stick but I tend to just give it back to them and then they’re quiet. That’s just the internet in general, though – they would never say anything like that to your face.

The father daughter team ran a creative live workshop at Insomnia ’58

Esports Insider: On the prop side, you’ve started running workshops. How do they work and do you plan on expanding them?

Tabitha: Definitely. We’ve been teaching for a little over two years now and it just makes sense. There are so many people making their own stuff right now and there’s no one really around offering to teach it. Twitch is a great advertisement for us because when people book a workshop they know what we’re like. They don’t just turn up for a weekend in Norfolk having no idea who we are, what sort of personalities we have or what sort of materials they’ll be working with. We’ve got our little Twitch family and it’s great. We’ve had people come from Scotland, Cornwall and next month even Norway to do a course.

“I’m excited to see what the future holds – I know it’s cliché but that’s the way that esports is”

The best thing about the courses is they also inspire us. When you’ve been doing this for as long as we have it can get quite mundane but seeing fresh faces get so excited about the prop they’ve just made is amazing. We’re learning all the time as well. They may do something in a different way that we’ve never thought of before and it can help us hone our techniques. I absolutely love the workshop part of the business.

Esports Insider: The forecasts on the esports industry are pretty impressive. Do you see your business and the art of cosplay growing with it?

Tabitha streamed live from the Fnatic Bunkr in February

Tabitha: I certainly hope so. For us, we moved into the gaming and esports industry because it makes more money than the movie industry – it’s a growing thing. We’ve been making trophies for esports companies but we can take it further.

We can make sets on stage for the players; we can make the room feel like you’re in the arena and so much more. I’m excited to see what the future holds – I know it’s cliché but that’s the way that esports is.

Esports Insider: On your streaming side, you do a mixture of Creative and gaming streams. What’s the ultimate goal?

Tabitha: My personal goal is to be a full-time streamer but obviously my dad wouldn’t be able to do the prop making all by himself. At the moment my gaming streams are more popular than my creative streams but I think that’s probably down to the fact that Twitch Creates is fairly well hidden.

I remember when we were put on the front-page and showcased when we were making props for Riot Games. We had over 3,000 people in the chat and they kept telling us that we would be banned for non-gaming content. This was well over a year after Twitch Creates was launched. I love gaming and I want to be a part of the whole gaming thing – I have however admitted to myself that I’m never going to be a professional gamer.

Esports Insider: Obviously there’s a lot of cosplay for just gaming in general. Do you, as a cosplayer enjoy esports?

Tabitha: The thing about esports is that people genuinely don’t realise how hard it is.

The first game I streamed other than Mario Kart was Hearthstone and when I was at Dreamhack I made friends with a few of the guys who worked there. One of the best players and streamers was there and they asked if I wanted to cast a game with them. I tried it, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Whether it be casting, playing or hosting they are just so talented and I love everything about it. With CS:GO I said to myself that I wouldn’t play on stream as I simply can’t shoot… if you watch these guys compete they are so insanely skilled. It’s one thing playing from your room but they are just on a whole new level. It’s one step above anything I can even imagine.