‘What I love about cosplayers is we build each other up and cheer for each other’ – Karoinna on how she made her Spectre cosplay at ESL One Birmingham 2024, the Knight from Into the Breach and future LoL and Valorant costumes

On the last weekend of April, Dota 2 fans gathered at Resorts World Arena for ESL One Birmingham 2024. More than just esports, the event embraced the creative spirit of the community with the Qiddiya Cosplay Showcase, where cosplayers brought Dota 2 characters to life. We caught up with one such cosplayer, Karoinna, who cosplayed as Spectre from the game, to ask about becoming a full-time cosplayer, working with UK esports organisation Into the Breach, and how long it took to make her costume.

Games magazines might not be the force they once were in games media, but it was one of them that initially inspired Karoinna to become a cosplayer.

“Since childhood I always liked dressing up and creating art,” the Polish cosplayer tells Esports News UK. “So, initially I thought I’d be an artist, because I’m a gamer I would draw elves and fantasy characters. One day I thought, ‘it would be cool to become one’.

“My brother showed me a Polish games magazine, and he said, ‘look, people are actually becoming these things’. And I was like, ‘ooh yes, I’m doing that!’

“It wasn’t quite clever on my part, as I decided to make my first cosplay two weeks before I started my A Levels, so my parents were a bit worried because I probably should’ve been revising!”


“But in the end it paid off because I’m doing it all time, and I’m having all the fun, and I’m making all the mess that my husband hates me for! He says I expand like mould, because my stuff is everywhere! 

“He said: ‘I put you in the smallest room because you said you didn’t need much space, and now you’ve taken over my office, the kitchen, our bedroom, everywhere!’”

Today Karoinna is a full-time cosplayer, and has been since 2020. She got into it at the start of the pandemic and has produced some excellent costumes in that time, from FemShep in Mass Effect to Spectre in Dota 2 and more.

’16 hours a day for one and a half months’ – Karoinna on making her Dota 2 Spectre cosplay

Karoinna Dota 2 Spectre cosplay at ESL One Birmingham 2024
Photo by Michael Hassall

So, why decide to dress up as Spectre at ESL One Birmingham 2024?

“I started playing Dota 2 in 2011 with my brother,” Karoinna explains. “I was never good but I enjoyed spending time with my brother and my friends. So to prove I’m still worthy, I make costumes of the characters I play!

“Spectre was my third hero I tried to play, I fell in love with her, and then I found a colourful, shiny design. I love shiny things – LEDs, 3D printing etc – so the bigger, more challenging something is, I will make it!”

And a challenge it was. Karoinna spent 16 hours a day working on Spectre for one and a half months, though she also says she was working on a couple of costumes at the same time.

“I 3D modelled and 3D printed it, then assembled it. I had to scan my face with my phone to have a 3D image of myself. That was the tricky bit,” she says.

“It also has foam and leather material, with the dress. I also have shiny LEDs [in the dress].

“I like bulky costumes, and that’s a bit of a problem when using public transport. It’s always a bit scary if they will survive that, or if I get them confiscated, because they don’t look like a normal thing!

“This costume, Spectre, takes two suitcases, plus a weapon, so it was easier to transport it here [to Birmingham] but whenever I make a costume, I try to make it fit in a big suitcase for an airport.”

“Spectre was my third hero I tried to play, I fell in love with her, and then I found a colourful, shiny design. I love shiny things – LEDs, 3D printing etc – so the bigger, more challenging something is, I will make it!”


Karoinna also wore the costume in Berlin last year, and was invited again by ESL to Birmingham after signing up to participate in the cosplay showcase. Key distinction – it was not a competition with a winner, but a showcase – something Karoinna prefers.

“Since covid, we’ve been invited just for showcases, there’s no competition,” she comments. “I think it’s more interesting that way, because more people attend these events in costume, rather than being intimidated that it’s a competition. Everyone will think, ‘I’m not worthy’, which is not true. 

“Try your best, the worst case you will learn as you’ll get feedback afterwards. I like that it’s just a showcase because it eliminates jealousy, or people worrying whether they’re good enough. They just go there to have fun, look cool and just enjoy the event.

“My first time on stage was in 2019 for ESL, and it’s very exciting [on stage, being involved]. I’m a very touchy person so I cry easily, so that’s why I wear a helmet, because no one can see this (laughs). 

“It’s always a good excuse to be blind [with a headpiece you can’t see out of] because then people will make sure you won’t die on that stage, because that step, it’s crazy!”

UK Dota 2 talent TeaGuvnor helped Karoinna down the steps on stage in the video above, and she also had two helpers at the event – ghigglypuff and Kashi.

Karoinna says: “A massive big thank you to my lovelies, ghigglypuff and Kashi, for being amazing PAs, I have no idea what I would have done without you. Probably I would have been still stuck in my dress somewhere in Birmingham…

“These two were always making me look my best and feel safe, which was super important with my face entirely covered.”

Karoinna also thanked TeaGuvnor, Hanna, Ruby Boulter, ESL marketing manager Ruby Dawn, her ‘work husband’ (and Dota 2 talent) Neal ‘Tsunami’ Khandheria and more in this Twitter thread.

She also highlighted her axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) autoimmune condition, and how she doesn’t let it stop her from doing what she enjoys:

We also had a bonus quote for this article from TeaGuvnor, who helped Karoinna walk down the steps on stage.

He says: “I do cosplay just to make people happy. It’s fun to flip analysing Dota at the top level on its head, as people just dont expect an analyst to also spend time to make a cosplay, which in itself is an incredibly challenging task. It makes people happy seeing an analyst go from a three-piece to suddenly a Dota character. Also, a shoutout to my girlfriend who helps make [my cosplays], without her creativity it wouldn’t be possible.”

Bringing the Into the Breach Knight and other characters to life through cosplay

As mentioned, Karoinna was also commissioned earlier this year to bring the Knight mascot of UK esports organisation Into the Breach, to life, at Insomnia Gaming Festival 72.

“It was my first very big commission in the esports world, which made me really happy,” Karoinna remarks. “This is the branch I enjoy the most – gaming, esports, that’s my thing – and when they approached me I was super excited.

“They initially wanted it to be a male model, so it wasn’t me, it was my husband wearing it. So I was his maker and helper, he was like a doll for me, I had to put things on him. I enjoyed that because it was nice to work with my husband with something related to my business, and to see him have fun.

“He was required to be a certain height, so we bought him seven-inch inserts in his heels! I was worried because he doesn’t do it professionally but he was perfect, honestly I was really proud of him!”

So, which cosplay is Karoinna working on next?

“For esports I mostly cosplay for Dota and Overwatch, but there are other games in the works already – Valorant and League of Legends,” she says. “So please stay tuned. They aren’t ready for show yet, but I hope to finish one this year.

“If a design or character is interesting, I go for that. I also do commissions, so my work is quite varied – it depends what I’m doing at the time.”

“No matter how experienced someone is, no matter if it’s the first cosplay or the hundredth, everyone will cheer for each other, they will help one another.”


With ESL One Birmingham now over, what did Karoinna take from it?

“I met new cosplayers here, but apart from meeting new people, it’s about meeting people I see regularly. I always say it feels like we are a small Dota family that’s growing, because every year we meet more and more people,” she states.

“It’s nice because you talk to people who love the game, the characters and the cosplay, so you feel like you’re in that community. 

“With cosplayers, what I love about us is we build each other up, we help each other. No matter how experienced someone is, no matter if it’s the first cosplay or the hundredth, everyone will cheer for each other, they will help one another.

“I forgot pins and someone gave me one – thank you Inga by the way – someone forgot scissors and glue, we look out for each other and I think that’s amazing.

“If you’re regular, you start meeting more people who work here and you just have fun. It’s work but it feels less stressful because everyone’s having fun, and it’s really enjoyable that way.

“That’s my biggest memory here – meeting people and just being silly!”

We can’t argue with that. In an industry that can sometimes take itself too seriously, it’s another reminder that in-person games events should be all about having fun, and celebrating the community.

So, thank you Karoinna, and here’s another cheer to the cosplay community, from us. We look forward to seeing which other costumes and characters emerge in the future.

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