The New York Times' iconic photographer Bill Cunningham referred to fashion as armor that helps one survive in everyday life. In reality, his statement applies not only to the offline world but also to the online realm. Of course, not all players pay attention to costumes. Furthermore, there are plenty of excellent games where the clothing, footwear, and accessories of characters can hardly be considered outstanding. That's normal. Nevertheless, why shouldn't developers explore new possibilities in games to ultimately reach a qualitatively different level? Let's discuss in more detail the state of fashion in computer games.
Fashion in World of Warcraft (WoW) is a vibrant and integral aspect of the game that goes beyond mere aesthetics. Within the world of Azeroth, players have the opportunity to craft their characters' appearances with a vast array of armor sets, weapons, and accessories. That is why boosting services are so popular in this game - players prefer to buy WoW Classic Gold rather than farm it on their own (because it is very boring). These cosmetic choices not only allow players to express their unique style and creativity but also serve as a badge of honor for in-game achievements. WoW fashion encompasses a diverse range of themes, from the intricate and lore-rich designs of tier sets to quirky and whimsical holiday-themed outfits. Players often seek out rare and prestigious items to stand out in the game's bustling virtual society, whether it's for role-playing, raiding, or simply strutting their stuff in the bustling cities of Stormwind and Orgrimmar. WoW's fashion culture is a testament to the game's enduring appeal, where players continue to celebrate both their character's power and panache.
Costumes as a means to convey character
While VR is transforming the gaming industry, fashion also influences modern games. It's strange to approach a low-budget horror movie with blockbuster expectations. The same applies to computer games. Some of them prioritize visuals. Expecting philosophical revelations, complex characters, and perfectly fitting costumes from such projects would be odd.
However, poor clothing choices should not be forgiven either. Different requirements can be set for games that aspire to deep and serious world-building. Characters should not exist in a vacuum and wear outfits that clash with the game's universe. People who know special tips for shopping online in a real world want to see well-dressed characters in games too. Nowadays, we often see clothing and accessories that, at best, leave us bewildered. There can be various reasons for this, including tight schedules and lack of funding. For instance, in Final Fantasy X, released in 2001, the clothing of most characters looks beautiful and well thought out, but occasionally, the designed outfits raise some eyebrows. Take Tidus' costume, the main character of Final Fantasy X, for example. He's dressed extremely strangely: in a cropped shirt, a leather jumpsuit with one leg shorter than the other, and bicycle shorts. To complete this absurd ensemble, he wears oversized yellow and black boots. Tidus is a cheerful and brave character, but this costume makes him look like either a clown with bad taste or someone who decided to try on all the silly things they had in their wardrobe at once.
Inappropriate sexualization of characters
In games, if desired, you can compile a whole army of women dressed in overly revealing attire, but here we'll limit ourselves to a couple of examples. The first is Shahdee from Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. This installment of the famous franchise, known for its dark atmosphere, was released in 2004, and many fans still consider it the best. Shahdee is a secondary antagonist in the game, created and endowed with a certain degree of autonomy by the Empress of Time, Kaileena. Shahdee's main task is to stop the Prince, although she herself doesn't believe that the mission can be successful. The developers decided to give the character a costume that is, to put it mildly, unsuitable for combat, partly because it hardly covers anything. Such an outfit would have been justified if Shahdee's goal was to seduce the Prince to his death. The second example is the main heroine of the game Haydee, which gained some popularity on Steam. The project is a hardcore Metroidvania. To attract buyers, they decided to take the easiest route possible. Players control a rather strange character, half-woman, half-robot. The creators of Haydee came up with a minimalist costume for her while endowing her with striking curves. Opinions about the game were divided.
Fashion brands and the gaming industry
In recent years, more and more major brands are recognizing the importance of the gaming industry. In April 2019, the luxury Italian brand Moschino presented a capsule collection inspired by The Sims series. The clothing was adorned with pixelated game symbols: a green symbol representing the character's state, an ice cream cone, and llamas. The collaboration didn't stop with physical items; in August 2019, The Sims 4: Moschino catalog was released. Its main features included clothing, footwear, and accessories from the Italian brand, as well as the ability to pursue a career as a fashion photographer and open your own studio.
Louis Vuitton followed Moschino's example. The French fashion house partnered with Riot Games. Within this collaboration, they created a case for the League of Legends World Championship's main prize and designed exclusive skins for Kai'Sa and Senna. Later, the brand's creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière, unveiled a capsule collection of clothing and accessories. Naturally, it was targeted at affluent League of Legends fans. Louis Vuitton priced its cheapest item (a thin silk scarf) at $170, while the most expensive (a silver leather jacket) came in at $5,650. Last year, several fashion brands released their own games. Gucci, for instance, introduced two eight-bit games for its mobile app, inspired by 1970s and 1980s arcades. One of them resembles a traditional labyrinth game, while the other draws inspiration from the Gucci Ace sneaker model.
Fashion in World of Warcraft is important to express player creativity and serves as a badge of honor for achievement. Other games also put a lot of effort into designing unique costumes. And although there are collaborations between fashion houses and popular games, sometimes it is still impossible to avoid conflicts.
Fashion is a distinct language, rich and concise. It's strange to completely ignore it when creating games. Developers have several ways to create costumes at a worthy level. If the budget allows, it makes sense to follow the example of the authors of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and involve professionals.