“Fashion is fun.”
November 29, 2019 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Gamers spend hours customising characters, but don't you dare mention fashion by Victoria Tran [The Guardian] “Ask any gamer and they can likely recount tales of how they spent hours perfecting their look in any video game with character customisation, from The Sims to Dragon Age: Inquisition to any massive multiplayer online game. Customising a character is akin to creating our own animated artwork. It’s arguably one of the best parts of The Sims, for example, and people are ravenous for rare “skins” (better known to the non-gamer as, ahem, “outfits”) in games like Overwatch and Fortnite. Millions of people play video games globally every day, and how they dress in those games matters. So why haven’t we talked about fashion in games more? Games have long been used to explore different facets of life, from fantasy lands to wars, but fashion has fallen by the wayside.”

• Fashion in Games: Why It Matters by Victoria Tran [Gamasutra]
“A study from Quantic Foundry noted that for women and non-binary people, fantasy was one of the top 2 primary gaming motivations. (Fantasy being defined as being someone or somewhere else). The ability to feel connected to the character you play or your role is arguably closely tied to fashion. This applies to any kind of game. Halo, Monster Hunter, The Sims, whatever - you want to feel “cool”, “powerful”, or whatever mood that suits the game. Clothes connect you to the character. But of course, the personal aspect of fashion can make it go terribly awry. Due to fashion having such personal and cultural meaning to it, it’s easy to mess it up. Even more so because the industry doesn’t talk about it much. Fashion is often misused, and the most well known example of this is with sexualized fashion. I’ve come to have complicated feelings about it now, and I recommend reading The Inexplicable Sexiness of Ivy Valentine. As she writes, “these outfits don’t tell us anything about the characters wearing them. Sometimes, they directly contradict the stories and personalities of the women in them.” She does also mention reclaiming sexiness for ourselves, though I find the problem with this is that it’s hard sometimes to feel empowerment when lingerie is the only default option.”
posted by Fizz (52 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
r/fashionsouls would like a word.
posted by pharm at 9:14 AM on November 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


I do wish there was a straight up fashion-oriented version of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, where you're not having to deal with all the monsters/villains and can just walk around and be fashionable as shit. Like I just want a tourist mode in ALL games that lets me travel around and be chill and focus on things like food, fashion, & hanging out with my other NPC friends. Like just take all my money and give me that mode in a fucking game.
posted by Fizz at 9:26 AM on November 29, 2019 [16 favorites]


r/fashionsouls is mentioned in the article.

But yeah mostly the article seems to be missing a lot of interesting fashion-oriented stuff in gaming, in pursuit of its stereotype of "games are about killing and boy things". Which yeah, a lot of games are, but even most of the games about killing have fashion dress-up components now. If nothing else to enable the inevitable microtransactions. I think Overwatch is a stellar example of this. Most everyone who plays gets excited about skins, either buying them ($$$) or working hard through events to win them.

But skins are boring, you're wearing someone else's fashion. The really fun thing about gaming is when it allows you to create custom clothing. I've posted about this before, but Final Fantasy XIV (the MMOG) has a really excellent system of clothing, glamors, and camera posing. Also there's a robust third party add-on tool for making your screenshots even more fashionable, like using Reshader. Some of the resulting fashon shoots are on this website, but there's dozens more sites like this.
posted by Nelson at 9:26 AM on November 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


When done right, outfits and their customization can be a great addition to a game. A shame its just a huge pain in the ass to implement well (especially for multiplayer), doubly so if you want it to be really user-customizable so that users can bring in their own materials (or heaven forbid particle fx or mesh modifiers). Systems like this often fall by the wayside unless they are designed in from the get-go as something that cannot be dropped as soon as deadlines start looming.

Another thing is that even a lightweight system of alternate outfits or skins can get very expensive on the content end, especially if you have a high quality bar (and who doesn't these days).
posted by Soi-hah at 9:37 AM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Gamers spend hours customising characters, but don't you dare mention fashion by Victoria Tran

"Nice skin"
"Thanks, I downloaded it from Vict/"
"/SSSSHHH we NEVER say that NAME!!"
posted by otherchaz at 9:41 AM on November 29, 2019 [7 favorites]


In the Warframe community there's a mantra that "Fashionframe is Endgame."

Once players explore all the various game play options the game has, many settle into playing around with the myriad of customize options that are available, from decorating their characters, their weapons, their ships, their clan halls, their pets, etc., etc., etc., with custom skins, colours, decals, bolt-ons, particle effects and the like.

The developers are very aware of this and have been increasing the customization options over time, both free and premium. In fact, they even support community involvement through the Tennogen program where a curated collection of community created skins are available in the cash shop and the creators receive a portion of the revenue earned.
posted by Clever User Name at 9:42 AM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


Ha. I was just (kinda) thinking about this last night while (finally. I know.) playing God of War. I was all up in the boutique and thinking "hmm...I should probably spend some of this money buying armor or something for the kid so he isn't just tiny timmying it up in last seasons just straight up rags." And then I realized I'm already like the worst parent ever for bringing an 8-yr-old along for a cross-countryside muder spree so I just went ahead and spent every dime on myself. Worth it. My nipples look so perky in my new Reaver top. (I love god of war. It's soo campy) Sure hope Atreus doesn't die of like wolf attack or something...I mean, I'd help, but Daddy's busy looking fierce.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:42 AM on November 29, 2019 [16 favorites]


I feel like i'm the opposite of this - I like fashion in real life, but I basically only play games where a) there's no visual representation of your gear, or b) where I've got the option for a first-person viewpoint, like Skyrim or Fallout - in which case, I think about it for five minutes at character creation, and then the appearance of my character pretty much entirely disappears, since there's no other players to see it.
posted by sagc at 9:47 AM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Not gonna lie- this is why I prefer third-person to first-person perspective.

I want to see how good my ass looks in the outfit I designed while I fight these demons or aliens or whatever.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2019 [8 favorites]


I'm a big fan of the fashion element in Destiny (r/DestinyFashion), and Errolson Hugh doing the costumes for Death Stranding was just mm mm good. But unless it's something visually basic like Minecraft, I've never really cared for user-generated skins. I am very often attracted to the aesthetic experience of a game, with its internal consistency, and I really, really dislike it when someone crashes through that experience with their MS Paint Dragonball Z cosplay.* I much prefer Destiny's approach,** with a professionally-generated pool of options that you can tweak and combine, rather than a user-generated pool.

*In a single-player game I don't care; dance how you feel.
**I actually think Destiny's approach can/should be considerably expanded, but it's got the right foundation.
posted by Fish Sauce at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2019



I want to see how good my ass looks in the outfit I designed while I fight these demons or aliens or whatever.


Also why I never choose a male character.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:05 AM on November 29, 2019


Where is my fashion game that has same production calibre as the next Shooty McShootface game?

Fashion is what you wear while doing things. I don't think people are gonna spend money on the AAA version of "all dressed up and nowhere to go."

Even if people spend 80% of the game on the fashion segment, they're going to want that 20% to have "somewhere to go."
posted by explosion at 10:22 AM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


The sad thing is that the money guys have noticed and made sure that all the best fashion components comes from real money purchases (often in lootbox form) instead of gameplay. But in embracing the idea of paying money for custimization, they've inherently minimized it's importance. It's "just cosmetic", after all.

There's a real point to this article beyond that, though, in that "fashion" in most games on the production side is either about looking badass or looking funny. There's a lot more to fashion about that which generally isn't explored because of who games are being made for. Victoria Tran actually examines that angle a bit more in this GDC talk.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:26 AM on November 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


So why haven’t we talked about fashion in games more?

Unfortunately, I think the root-cause answer to this might be "homophobia."
posted by mhoye at 10:41 AM on November 29, 2019 [6 favorites]


Everything I know about videogames and fashion I learned from Space Channel Five. (draws the numeral "5" on the backside of your display glass with finger, sashays onto a purple spaceship)
posted by Mothlight at 10:42 AM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


City of Heroes was great for this. And it's still great, as it's out there for free now.
posted by Splunge at 10:48 AM on November 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


Fashion may not be the only point of Second Life, but it's a huge part of it (mirabile dictu, Second Life still exists). I believe in the early days, there were a few real-world fashion houses that established stores in SL. Not sure if any are still there.
posted by adamrice at 10:51 AM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Fashion is what you wear while doing things. I don't think people are gonna spend money on the AAA version of "all dressed up and nowhere to go."

I disagree with this completely. The reason people aren't spending money on a game like this is because we don't have a game like this. We NEED more of this style of game.
posted by Fizz at 10:56 AM on November 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


Sometimes I log on to Warframe with the intention to blast my way through hallways of cannon fodder but end up spending 20-30 minutes playing Fashionframe instead, because there's no point being a badass space ninja unless you look fly as hell. Come to think of it, all of my favorite video games have had degrees of cosmetic customization ranging from "high" to "ridiculous".

However, there's probably a distinction between cosmetics and fashion and I certainly wouldn't mind if video games explored the latter more.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 11:07 AM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


In the Warframe community there's a mantra that "Fashionframe is Endgame."

In FFXIV, it's "glamour is the true endgame". We had people grind the new 24 man raid to get the 2B glamour chest.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:28 AM on November 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


I absolutely love going all pretty pretty princess in games. I thought that was half the fun?
posted by East14thTaco at 12:06 PM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


The reason people aren't spending money on a game like this is because we don't have a game like this. We NEED more of this style of game.
There were some games like this for PC, 20-ish years ago. They weren't very good (they were basically digital paper dolls and nothing much else) and almost nobody bought them. I don't remember the names, but my girlfriend at the time bought some and never played any of them more than once. She played the Sims obsessively for years, though, and I remember spending a frantic weekend getting her Sims back up and running for her when she bought a new computer and had some software compatibility issues. (Honestly, Sims was a lot of fun, and I'm probably going to install it on my laptop now.)
posted by Fish Sauce at 12:20 PM on November 29, 2019


On WoW playing dressup was the main reason I would do anything--raids, challenge modes, PvP. I spent countless hours putting on different combinations of items and occasionally people would whisper me saying I had a cool/unusual transmogs outfit.
posted by polymodus at 12:26 PM on November 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


Code Vein has a crazy-huge character creator built in. Seriously, like 100+ eyebrow styles (for example), and the ability to move and place them differently. But the clothing? Very few options, aside from colors/patterns. And most options (especially for female characters) are completely anime-ridiculous. But the kinds of makeup you can mess with, eyes, faces and hair is pretty wild.

I only played the demo, wasn't crazy about the gameplay.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:27 PM on November 29, 2019


Then there's the flipside where my murder hobo is wandering around the Commonwealth wearing a sequined dress, mailman's hat, and an assorted mix of completely unmatched armor pieces because those are what have the bonuses I want.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:52 PM on November 29, 2019 [10 favorites]


So why haven’t we talked about fashion in games more?

I'm going to chalk a lot of that up to the whole "IT'S NOT A DOLL, IT'S AN ACTION FIGURE!!1!" mindset where people can do things coded as 'girly' as long as you give it a different name.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:12 PM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


GCU Sweet and Full of Grace: Yesssss! Wearing fabulous outfits in post-apocalyptic games makes me think of this Key & Peele sketch. I mean, really, Key's character looks like he's having a much better post-apocalyptic time.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:15 PM on November 29, 2019


I find it to be kind of annoying in some games, that appearance is valued over functionality. In the latest Ghost Recon, you can find new items of clothing, or purchase them, but they don’t matter. You have the same reaction to cold or heat in a t-shirt, a hoodie, or a heavy jacket, which is to say ... none at all.

Sometimes, I don’t care, but sometimes, if I’m gonna be putting sniper bullets into brainpans, I’d feel better about it if my avatar reacted to the environment a bit more.
posted by drivingmenuts at 1:29 PM on November 29, 2019


They weren't very good (they were basically digital paper dolls and nothing much else) and almost nobody bought them.

Tran mentions "Roiworld or Dollmaker" in the article which were basically paper dolls on Flash portals.

I also saw a talk she did on the same subject on Youtube.
posted by RobotHero at 1:53 PM on November 29, 2019


When I played Skyrim, pretty much the first thing I did was to make my way all the way from the starting area to Solitude in the northwest corner, because that was where the best dressmaker in all the land was supposed to live.

I was sorely disappointed when her finest wares were all hideous messes of patches and quilting. I ended up playing the rest of the game in a simple white shift because it looked cute, and I was doing my standard choice of "stealthy glass cannon" with a side serving of "intense save scumming" so it's not like heavy armor was a thing I wanted...
posted by egypturnash at 2:02 PM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


I have an interesting relationship to game fashion.

In the real world...I'm basically apathetic about fashion. I'm one of *those* people, who would be happiest not having to leave the house to interact with people, or if I do, let me just wear something simple. If it's appropriate, I'm happiest in jeans (or khaki short pants) and a t-shirt /polo shirt/ simple button-down short-sleeve. (Middle-aged cishet white male, incidentally.)

Part of it is, I feel incredibly inadequate when it comes to fashion--I have a very difficult time telling what goes together and despite decades of trying to develop a better eye, still have to go ask someone if it's anything more complicated than matching to jeans/khaki. (I don't have any sort of diagnosed color-blindness, but it's very common for my wife to ask me what color a shirt I'm wearing is and have me get it wrong.)

I play World of Warcraft. My wife has next to no interest in the game...except that they have dress-up contests a couple of times a year, and she loves competing in those. What I seem to enjoy most in the game is collecting, so in order to have something I can share in-game with her, I devote 90% of my play time to collecting dress-up ("transmog") appearances.

(Interestingly enough, my wife has nearly no interest in real-life fashion either. She cares more than I do, but she hates shopping for clothes and wants a nice limited closet of reliable things to wear...she just wants those to be nicer/more complicated than my preference.)
posted by Four Ds at 2:55 PM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


The "fashion in games" moment of 2019 has to be Louis Vuitton designing skins for League of Legends.

"Qiyana, also known as the Empress of the Elements, wears a total look designed by Nicolas Ghesquière, Louis Vuitton’s Artistic Director of Women’s Collections. Reminiscent of recent silhouettes seen on the runway, the look combines a cropped top and high-waisted pants with signature Louis Vuitton accessories such as the Dauphine bag and Star Trail boots. Qiyana’s ring blade has also been reinterpreted with the emblematic Monogram and V-shaped ornaments."
posted by xdvesper at 3:10 PM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


One of the things I enjoyed in my time playing LOTRO back in the day was being able to equip gear in cosmetic slots, and dye it, to create your own outfits. I often got compliments on an ensemble I put together. I wish I could have hung out a shingle as an adventurer outfitter.
posted by Fleebnork at 3:46 PM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


MMOs usually have a variety of fashion endgames like FFXIV with glamours and housing. The real downside is that female characters have 2-3x the number of options male characters have available on a good day but they have so many different versions of pants. Also, there's plenty of rich players who stand in town with the latest clothing and chat too.

The only kind of dress-up focused game I can think of would be like Style Savvy (3DS) where the MC is running a store and selling outfits.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 3:48 PM on November 29, 2019


But wait? What exactly its so wrong with Victoria Tran's video game fashion designs that they can't even be mentioned?

*clicks through*

Oh, oh I see. Nevermind.
posted by hippybear at 4:26 PM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Is this where I can complain that if you choose a female avatar in Pokémon Go, you have to pay game currency to outfit them in full length pants? We didn’t even get clamdiggers until this past summer, three years after game launch - before then the only free options were shorts or miniskirts.
posted by bettafish at 4:49 PM on November 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


I absolutely love going all pretty pretty princess in games. I thought that was half the fun?

KRATOS IS THE PRETTIEST PRINCESS!!!
posted by sexyrobot at 6:08 PM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


But wait? What exactly its so wrong with Victoria Tran's video game fashion designs that they can't even be mentioned?

Victoria's Secret is unmentionable(s).
posted by juv3nal at 6:10 PM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


I do wish there was a straight up fashion-oriented version of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest

Final Fantasy X-2 gets a lot of shit, but the dress spheres were a fun and interesting battle system, though a lot of the outfits themselves were questionable. It'd be interesting to revamp and bring that back. Not really what you were talking about in terms of low stress, but another way of bringing in fashion/dress up to a typical RPG.

I feel like cosplay has helped some video game fashion get a little better in the last decade - at some point, some game designers realized that people walking around dressed as their characters was a good advertisement for the game, and started designing clothes that people could maybe wear, along with making them memorable that they'd want to wear them (I remember some Bioware designers talking about this around Dragon Age: Inquisition - specifically putting in pouches so people would have a place to stash their wallets/cell phones). But there's still a lot of really meh options for clothing in a lot of games. Having fifty possible outfits isn't helping with the gameplay if I find myself hating every single option.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:16 PM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


at some point, some game designers realized that people walking around dressed as their characters was a good advertisement for the game
Author Gene Wolfe used to claim that the outfit his character Severian typically wore in The Book of the New Sun (hood, leather pants, big fuck-off sword) was chosen specifically for cosplaying.
That might have just been a distraction though. This is Wolfe we're talking about, after all.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:26 PM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


A generation of game designers have been brought up on the 8 Types of Fun, one of which is customisation. Customising your character, or your quarters, is Fun, and as the industry moved away from "what is personally fun for me, the designer?" into "what kinds of things do players actually enjoy?", and as it became easier to share screenshots and virtual spaces with other people, customisation became more and more common.

I think the answer that this writer/designer is looking for is probably embedded in the piece: when she mentions why more games don't have fashion 'mechanics', her example of one that does is Hitman 2, where you don ridiculous costumes that correspond with different permitted and restricted areas, despite you always looking like a very serious bald man with a barcode tattoo on his neck. That... doesn't seem like it's got a lot to do with fashion. She closes with an argument that 'fashion is the story of who we are', but the fashion industry is infamous for its obtuseness and lack of authenticity. In games, the story of who we are is usually communicated through our actions, not just what we look like.
posted by Merus at 10:42 PM on November 29, 2019


I wasn't a Zelda person at all, really, and then Breath of the Wild let me be nonbinary fashionplate/amnesiac dirt gremlin Link and like three hundred hours of gameplay later I am definitely a Zelda person. I wouldn't have played nearly enough of it to get stuck into the game at first if I hadn't been wandering around getting enough materials for matching tops and pants.

I played hours of Shadowhand, a (great) combat solitaire game, because you play dressup as a dashing noblewoman/highwayman in masks and tight pants. I enjoy a card game as much as the next guy but no way would there have been motivation without the paper doll aspect.

The first time fashion was a thing for me in games was Soul Calibur on Dreamcast, where I chose characters based entirely on their aesthetic and flat out refused to play anybody I deemed unworthy of my eyeballs. The later versions where you can make OCs and hyper customize your fighter with like, jeweled paldrons on their butt and stuff? Entirely the motivation to buy them if I even did - a fighting game is just a fighting game for me, but a fighting game where I can unlock new croptops for my beetle themed magical boy battle team? Sign me up.
posted by Mizu at 11:50 PM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Came here to mention fashionframe. I only play occasionally but my partner and some of their friends are heavy players. The number of times I’ve seen in Discord, “Wait, can’t start the mission yet, gotta fashionframe” and then 30 minutes go by...
posted by brook horse at 6:34 AM on November 30, 2019


Yesssss! Wearing fabulous outfits in post-apocalyptic games

I hear ya and you can certainly build an aesthetic there but I meant ruthlessly minmaxing and getting the "best" set of bonuses even though, no way around it, you end up just looking dumbass.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:02 AM on November 30, 2019


I'm thinking back to my maxed out bank in WoW, every slot filled with shit like rare grey lvl 15 boots, pauldrons for [not my class], holiday limited edition shit (Valentine's day black dress!!) ...I had a program on my computer to pre-plan my outfits, and would go out and find the drops I needed...so satisfying. I love the idea of a game where you just do that, find and gather clothes (and build/furnish/decorate your house, like in EverQuest).
posted by captain afab at 8:30 AM on November 30, 2019


WoW has a twice-yearly fashion event called the Trial of Style. You queue up and join five other people, and you are given a theme, and you have I think one or two minutes to put together a fitting outfit, and then everybody gets matched with everybody else, Kittenwar style, and once everybody's been matched with everybody else the people with the top three vote totals get prizes (which is mostly more event tokens than the losers get, tokens which can be traded in for an exclusive or no-longer-available gear appearance set, but even if you never win you can save enough tokens after maybe five or six trials). It's great fun.

Of course right now I'm in the process of sinking thousands of gold into leveling up old crafting professions to collect more item appearances, so I might be a little biased.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:53 AM on November 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm suddenly reminded of the time I spent ~10 hours in World of Warcraft getting a full set of Blood Elf level 1 gear muled over to my bank alt in Stormwind. The trick here being I was trying to smuggle Horde goods into the Alliance. It involved leveling the Belf up to be able to buy the gear, then making a treacherous run to a neutral Auction House, then selling it to myself as quick as I could lest someone poach my items. All so I could amuse everyone else in Stormwind with the site of a level 1 Human dressed like a Blood Elf.
posted by Nelson at 9:28 AM on November 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


Tragically grey or white-quality items (like the starting gear you spawn with) can't be collected as appearances, so you can totally run around town like that but you can't apply the appearance of the gear to high-level items.

(Before the visual revamp I had collected a set of appearances that replicated the look of the guards in Stormwind and it was fun to watch people double-take in Horde cities when they saw my blood elf paladin, looking for all the world like a human guard, standing around.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:58 AM on November 30, 2019


One of my favorite things to do in video games is to customize my avatar. Whenever I play Animal Crossing I change my outfit to how I'm feeling that day, complete with accessories. It makes me feel like I'm really in the game. I even like customizing my car in games like Mario Kart.

Also don't forget about games like Style Savvy where the games are primarily about fashion but they're probably overlooked because they're targeted towards girls.
posted by starlybri at 3:54 PM on November 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


Is it fashion if it's not driven by trends (i.e., this season's colour/skirt length/sword hilt adornments/whatever) but personal and idiosyncratic?
posted by acb at 1:55 AM on December 2, 2019


Even if you're not driven by shorter-term trends, you're operating within context of longer-term trends. For example, your interpretation of someone wearing jeans will be different that it would have been 100 years ago.
posted by RobotHero at 6:16 AM on December 2, 2019


Is it fashion if it's not driven by trends (i.e., this season's colour/skirt length/sword hilt adornments/whatever) but personal and idiosyncratic?

There are definate trends, though they tend towards more towards cosplay - as an example, before we got an actual 2B outfit in FFXIV, there was a certain side quest that was well known for it rewarding a bandage style headgear that was popular for rolling a custom 2B outfit. There are guides in Japan that tell you the exact items for specific looks based on various characters, and some can get very convincing.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:47 PM on December 2, 2019


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