Why Fashion in (Most) Games Sucks, and Why You Should Care

In this 2019 GDC talk, Kitfox Games’ Victoria Tran explores the recent history of fashion in games and provides multiple tips for making your own character design runway-worthy.

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21 thoughts on “Why Fashion in (Most) Games Sucks, and Why You Should Care

  1. Fashion is endgame in pretty much any game that allows customization. and I do have to say that while it would be cool to see fashion introduced as a more meaningful decision in games with its own mechanics, I also think that adding gameplay incentives to fashion customization kind of defeats the point of personal expression in games to a degree. A lot of times the ways that fashion is traditionally used, it's a conflict of whether you want form or function, as stat-based improvements of gears run the risk of forcing players into expressions they don't enjoy or agree with in favor of having a mechanical edge. Often players who fight according to their tastes either require functions that eliminate that discrepancy, (via things like glamour systems which impose the skins of armors to the stats of another) or forces the player to play sub-optimally to maintain their personal expression. Part of what makes cosmetic-only fashion desirable is how it allows players to express themselves without imposing on the existing gameplay mechanics which would otherwise cater to more min/max focused players, especially if the game is PvP centered. Hitman is definitely a good example as to how meaningful interactions with fashion can assist gameplay, and it would be interesting to see fashion explored as a meaningful decision, but the extent to which you do that will by and large depend on the type of game you're playing, and how powerful fashion is there. Personally, as someone who constantly changes my characters' attire in MMOs to express my mood, my character's personality, and the situations they're in, I honestly prefer having a good repertoire of accessible clothing that's only aesthetically relevant so I can work my fashion into the characters I play over working around my fashion to suit the needs of the game, but I suppose there's at least potential in exploring fashion mechanics.

    Also obligatory of course Ivy turns up in a discussion of fashion in games lol. I do wish people would give props to some of her other outfits besides SCIV's dental floss armor though.

  2. The fashion element was one of the most fun things about, of all things, Def Jam: Fight for NY for the PS2. The characters were so customizable, both in fashion and in fighting style. Super underrated game.

  3. I came into this super skeptical… thinking it was just going to be another feminist complaining about bikini armor, but there are some decent points in here.

    I don't think "fashion" always needs to make sense though. At the end of the day, it should be about whatever the developers want. If they want sexy skimpy bikini armor… I don't think there's anything wrong with that. And if they want hyper realistic combat armor for everyone… I don't think there's anything wrong with that either.

    I DO think their logic should be consistent and equal though. Like Mortal Kombat 11… no skimpy outfits for females, but half of the outfits for male characters are either shirtless or in loin cloths. Pick one.

    I do like customizing characters though, and it is sometimes annoying when you can't find something that looks good to you. I've put like 1000 hours into Warframe and there are a few frames that just look so ugly to me, I never use them unless they offer me some kind of utility that I need for whatever gameplay I'm currently doing. But when I want to stylishly slaughter Grineer scum? I load up one of my decked out fashionframes that I've spent hours customizing and perfecting.

  4. Is Jill’s outfit just sexual pandering just it more of cute fashionable outfit? She’s not wearing pasties and a butt plug. Even if she was I would take it steps further and say that people aren’t picking costumes to look at the character. They want a taste of being the character wearing it. Look at Rupaul’s drag race. People aren’t in drag to look like an old lady or Mormon (Mormon fashion used to be a thing) they’re dressing like a hot itch. That’s kind of gets at why people like Ivy and like being Ivy. It’s fun, it can be deeply compelling.

  5. One thing that drove me absolutely up the fucking walls in The Last of Us was the main cast not wearing any gloves.
    As an IRL example; gloves are an important piece of equipment for urban explorers, modern combat is another field where gloves are a very important part of ones kit.
    But in TLOU the characters travel post-apocalyptic city ruins where a dangerous zombie fungus is taking over, not to mention the rusty jagged metals, glass shards et.c. that can pose a danger to ones hands, the sparse availability anti-septics or antibiotics for that matter, oh and did I mention that there are ZOMBIES, THAT BITE!
    And the worst part is that Joel can punch zombies in the face bare handed, despite IRL punching someone in the face is ill adviced for a): you can break your fingers with a badly glancing blow b): you can easily get a tooth embedded in your knuckles, which carries high risk of infection even from a non-zombified human's teeth.

  6. Okay, I think she might've brushed a bit lightly over "what fashion is", and I often think she completely misunderstands what "fashion really is" especially with the "cultural appropriation" and such. "Fashion is a response, not an island" is a saying from a very smart person within the fashion world, and it's absolutely true. Fashion have always been a response to either physical or psychological things happening in our world. I could go into debt as to why this is, but it's a very complicated subject, and it often takes point in both the cultural view at the time, as well as a lot of other social and physical factors.

    Her interview to me seemed more like "fashion is an island, lets turn this island into a game" which I think is a somewhat missed opportunity. While I agree with some of the things she said, I have to completely disagree with quite a bit of other things she said. Hiring "a more diverse team" does not equal "more diverse fashion". That has more to do with a person to person basis, their upbringing etc. I really think the whole "hire a more diverse team" is such a racist thing, because it judges the book by its cover.

    I really felt like this talk missed a lot of important points when it comes to fashion, and how it can be used in a game to not only make it more immersive (take the witcher for example) but also amplify what you want to get across etc. how you want the world to see you.

  7. I always wished a mmorpg would take a stand and gender it's armor, not in a way that would limit players from wearing it based on sex but like if the wizard of legend whose loot youre chasing was a girl the robe may be a dress and you may and up a guy in a dress because that's the best gear with the best stats for that slot or like if you're adventuring with a knight in heavy armor and you'd never know i it was a woman because heavy plate is not form fitting with cleavage holes that make stabbing your heart really easy

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