Under a blazingly hot LA sun, by midday on Saturday the EA Play event was in full swing. Fans were whirring, players were seeking shelter under parasols – and with the giant skeletal decorations, it almost felt like stepping into King’s Canyon itself. In part, this is because the entire Apex Legends line-up was there too. Nine characters, in full costume and make-up, were busy acting out their roles and smiling for the cameras to the delight of nearby guests.
But one of these cosplays was particularly remarkable. Octane – the high energy, daredevil character who (canonically) blew his legs off with a grenade when setting a Gauntlet course record – was represented at Play by a double amputee wearing custom prosthetics created specifically for the occasion.
And, in another twist, it turned out the person playing Octane was actually a she.
I was deeply impressed that the diversity present in Apex Legends was being championed at the event through the casting of an amputee to play the character – and I was determined to find out more. I had a chat with Octane’s cosplayer, Erin Ball, and prop maker Aaron Vindua to find out how they achieved the look – and ask why this sort of representation is so important.
So, how do you end up professionally cosplaying as Octane, anyway? Appropriately for the stunt-loving character she played, Ball is a circus performer, and got the role after being contacted by Henchmen Studios (who created the cosplays). While she told me she hadn’t yet played Apex Legends, she’d definitely done her research, and associates Octane with “high energy and running”. “I’m working on that,” she added with a laugh.
According to Ball, the prosthetics she wore – which look remarkably close to the in-game character – are both comfy and somewhat lighter than the ones she normally uses. Ball explains they use the sockets which she wears every day, along with a stilt-like attachment on the bottom. “I use something very similar to these in a lot of performances, so I’m used to it in that way,” she explained.
Vindua told me a bit more about how they were designed – and unsurprisingly it sounds like a fairly complicated process. It started by taking measurements of the circumference of the sockets, before a rough 3D model was made of both the sockets and stilts. From there, they took the character designs from the game and modified them to go around the prosthetic, slide up, and lock into place.
The process of making the prosthetics wasn’t entirely plain sailing, however, and translating Octane’s in-game character design into real life prosthetics required some adjustments. I asked Vindua whether the process of recreating the in-game design had been difficult.
“A little – we had to widen it up because we didn’t want to damage the actual metal rod of the stilt itself, and didn’t want to compromise any of the integral structure or anything like that,” Vindua said. “So we had to model around it. Once we got a nice-fitting model we 3D printed it, cleaned it up and attached it all together.”
The materials used also required a great deal of care and attention. As the prosthetics were made of ABS plastic, Vindua said the room had to be kept “at a constant temperature go make sure [the plastic] didn’t warp”. Beyond the plastic, and rods, hard foam was packed in to “make sure there was no jiggling or turning or twisting”.
Above all else, I wanted to ask Ball whether she thought representation in Apex Legends – and the cosplaying of those characters – was important.
“100 per cent – I think it’s incredible that they’ve brought in an amputee, and representation is very important,” Ball told me.
“I see a lot of movies, for example, where an amputee’s role is played by somebody who is not an amputee, and there are many amputees out there looking for work who are talented, and so I think it’s important for that reason. I think it’s important for kids to see all the different possibilities.”
Of course, there were indeed crowds of Apex fans at the EA Play event to see the Octane cosplay, and I was interested to hear what their reactions had been like. Ball herself wasn’t sure – as her vision and hearing had been tunnelled all day – and at that point she hadn’t yet seen many of the positive tweets praising her cosplay. Vindua, however, said he’d heard plenty of people enthusiastically calling out “go Octane!” throughout the day.
— John Warren is almost 34 wow (@FloppyAdult) June 8, 2019
It was great to see the cosplay get such a positive reception, and credit goes to EA and Respawn, Henchmen Studios, Ball and Vindua and all the others involved who did such a wonderful job in realising both the character and the cosplay.
My final question to Ball was: is she going to give Apex Legends a whirl having cosplayed Octane?
“I’d like to, definitely!”