The Snowburner Squad takes their game to the next level

Even if you have never picked up a gaming controller in this day and age, you’ve probably heard of “Halo,” Microsoft’s popular sci-fi first-person shooter videogame.

The game has grossed millions worldwide and has attracted fans around the world, even here in Calgary.

The Snowburner Squad, started by avid-gamer Kris Joosten, is a Calgary group consisting of more than 10 members who actively participate in all things “Halo” and gaming related — and they have the costumes to prove it.

Members of the Snowburner Squad gearing up at Chinook Centre.
Photo by Danny Luong

The Snowburner Squad follows in the footsteps started by the so-called 501st Legion, an elite online community of people who dress up as Stormtroopers from “Star Wars.”

These gaming-inspired costumes are often hand made, with lots of time and effort being put into the impressive finished products.

The “Halo” universe is filled with space marines of all varieties, from genetically engineered super soldiers called Spartans, and elite planet dropping marines called the ODST’s, or Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, to your everyday futuristic grunt found on the ground.

The in-game lore is vast and has many different opportunities for people of all different shapes and sizes to dress up as.

Joosten, 33, says his fascination with costuming all started for him with “Star Wars.”

Joosten recalls that when “Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones” was coming out, he really wanted a lightsaber to take to the theatre. But it didn’t stop there — by the time the third episode of “Star Wars” was out he had made himself a Jedi robe coupled with his lightsaber to wear to the theatre.

The Snowburner Squad, headed by Kris Joosten. Photo by Danny Luong

Joosten, who works security at the Fairmont in Banff Springs, says his favorite part about costuming is starting off with nothing or just a basic kit, and seeing it slowly come together with instructions or figuring it out on your own.

“I like being told I do a good job, to be honest,” says Joosten.

A good job is exactly what all the members of the Snowburners aim to do with their costumes.

Melissa Kirbyson, 23, says her favorite part about going out in her armor is the smiles she gets from little kids.

“Everyone is in awe,” says Kirbyson, a tattoo artist at Heroes and Villains. “It’s fun, you get to be a character.”

Most costumers spend about $1,000 on their costumes, says Patrick Johns, 18, whether creating it from scratch or from a basic kit available online.

“I’ve only finished one costume, and that’s the Master Chief,” says Johns, a sales associate at EB Games. “I didn’t make it very cost effective.

“I used auto body fiberglass so it was really quite expensive,”

Johns says that he put in about 150 hours of fiber glassing, painting, weathering and strapping work into his costume.

Izzy Cheung, left, and Melissa Kirbyson posing in their hand made cos.
Photo by: Danny Luong
“It’s rewarding on its own, with or without the approval of other people,” Izzy Cheung, 22, says of making costumes,

“Just the joy of knowing you made something awesome.

It’s not just for other people, but for yourself as well, you can step back and say ‘Wow, I made that.’”

“Be proud of what you do,” says Cheung, a self-employed costume designer.

Although the hobby does seem nerdy, Cheung says not to let anyone bring you down and encourages those engaged in costuming practices to keep striving to improve.

Johns says that costuming is something that people won’t rag on you for.

“People will call you nerd, but turn around and say, ‘Holy crap that’s awesome.’ And because you can turn it into a profession people will think what you’re doing is really cool.”

dloung@cjournal.ca