Fashion versus function in the video-game world

Have you ever been really into a scene in a game, and then noticed Lara Croft is wearing earrings? Or a necklace that could certainly get caught on a cliff edge or tree branch if she slips? And then instead of focusing on the game, you are thinking wouldn’t it be so much more practical if her accessories matched the realistic action her character was undertaking? I take earrings off before a shower, let alone swinging from a chandelier! 

This is just one example of when fashion detracts from the gaming experience rather than adds to it. Fashion can be such a vital element to games, especially ones that try and at least mimic a sense of reality, and if done right, it can be a really impactful way of showing character, story, and identity. But, if not well-executed, it can really distract from the game. 

Now I’m not talking about games like Animal Crossing, or Bratz, where fashion is a fundamental part of the game. I mean action, adventure, or fantasy games, where the unrealistic element of the design choices when it comes to fashion end up ruining something that could be really brilliant. Of course in genres like fantasy games, fashion choices can be bold, innovative and creative, but clothes still need to have some sense of practicality, or else… what is the point? 

Catwoman’s latex skintight suit is certainly not the first thing I’d think to wear when climbing or fighting. Don’t get me wrong, she looks bomb, but I’m not quite sure about the functional side to this design. Again, the ensemble itself is stunning, and as a fashion piece it has many brilliant qualities, but when put into the context of the game and the character’s need to move and scale comfortably, it starts to fall apart.

Functionality and fashion don’t always have to link, but in games with very action-based content, I think it can be hard not to question some of the sartorial choices. And don’t even get me started on thinking about how dry cleaning works when it comes to fashion and costume in video games. Now yes, they are video games, and we aren’t meant to question how the characters clean their clothes each day and how to take proper care of their latex, but if the game does fashion right, you won’t be thinking about these things, you’ll be focused on the game. For me, these choices only really standout when they aren’t executed as well as they could have been and end up taking me out of what should be an immersive experience.

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Leia Butler

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January 2022
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