Character Outfits: Aesthetics Versus Practicality
December 2, 2010 | Follow comments
I, personally, love cosplaying. Video game character costumes are just plain fun to wear, half of the time, because of those crazy details that you typically don’t see in normal outfits. One could argue that these outfits definitely make games more interesting to play and can add to the aesthetic value of the game, but how does practicality of venturing around in some of these outfits match up to aesthetics?
For starters, there will always be the more complicated designs for outfits, especially for female characters. Take almost anyone, male or female from the Final Fantasy series, and you’ll know what I’m talking about if you don’t already. Their costumes typically have multiple pieces to them and tend to look pretty unique from most other characters’ getups. Yuna’s costume from Final Fantasy X, for example, was one of the prettiest outfits I’ve ever seen on a heroine in a game. It’s loosely based off of a Japanese kimono, and she wears accessories like a blue hair braid, silver bracelet and a silver necklace to help finish off her look. Between her staff-like weapons and her ornately designed outfit, she was one beautifully created character. Not only that, but all of these things helped define her role as the summoner character in the game—not only did she act like one, but her look gave it away as well. From yet another kind of game altogether, Bayonetta, from Bayonetta, also has a pretty complicated look to her outfit. Her outfit also seems to fit her role and personality because of the color scheme, and the fact that it resembles something that a witch or a black mage might wear. It’s darker, mysterious, and really does play into the aesthetics of it all; however, in either of these cases, are these costumes really all that practical to wear if you plan on crushing bad guys, journeying the globe, and saving mankind?
Well, I can’t say I’d pick either of those two outfits to jump right into and start saving the world. Having worn Yuna’s costume before for cosplay events, I’ve had to safety-pin the outfit together so it stays where it should on me. Although the real thing would probably be a little better made than my own costume, it still can’t be something any sane person would willingly chose to journey in. It’s beautiful, and it would get soiled in about a day or two of running around. Not to mention, I’ve always wondered how characters like her are supposed to stay warm in the colder regions of the game. As for Bayonetta’s, first-off, it’s completely skin-tight, and second-off, she’s wearing heals. On the level of practicality, this is not an outfit I’d likely choose to venture in either. Not because I’d feel self-conscious in it but more because it would be apt to become uncomfortable fast—very fast. A skin-tight suit would prove hard to breathe in after awhile, and running around in heals can’t be fun for very long. I completely understand that all of this is hypothetical, and that anything is possible in video games, but when you put the practical-spin on all of this, you start to think that certain character outfit designs maybe weren’t the most realistic, especially when you try to make and/or wear them yourself. These are just a couple of characters, among many others, with complicated outfit-designs.
Let’s look at some of the more realistic outfits for a second. A lot of them can be found in shooters, more so on the male characters, in games like, Resident Evil, Uncharted, and Tomb Raider. Characters like Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy both sport fairly practical getups that decently protect them from any given zombie invasion. At the very least, they have more freedom than the previously discussed characters to run around more comfortably without worrying if they’re about to trip over their own feet or get tangled in the fabrics of their outfit. Nathan Drake’s outfit is what you might see modern guy wearing down the street: a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans. Pretty casual, but I’d say that’s the way to go if you’re going on some serious adventuring. Lastly, Lara Croft’s outfit has gotten a bit ridiculous with some of the variations, but the most practical one that I found was one of her with her shorts and a blue, cami top. It definitely still has some flair to it, as she does have certain accessories that play into her outfit, but overall, it wouldn’t be outrageous to wear. Not much protection, but definitely more practical than most other female-characters’ outfits in RPG’s or even in fighters.
Before I wrap things up, I want to take a look at why these characters have the outfits they do. For characters like Yuna and Bayonetta, as I mentioned before, their outfits help establish their personality and role in the game. Yuna’s outfit makes her look like a summoner—between the complexity of the designs of her costumes and the use of colors, she looks like a character who can cast spells and call upon magical creatures (aka aeons) for help. Bayonetta’s outfit makes her look like she is some sort of a magic caster as well, only in a darker form. Instead of being more delicate and sweet-natured, as some of the colors of Yuna’s outfit might imply, her outfit helps make her look more confident, yet someone with not as friendly of a personality. She also looks like she is able to cast more destructive spells. As for our three practical outfitters, Chris, Leon, Nathan, and Lara, these characters were practically made for physical combat, no magic needed. Not only do they live in slightly more realistic worlds than those of the other two, but their costumes help portray this, as well as their roles in them, as well.
Overall, Japanese games, especially Japanese RPGs, tend to dress their characters up in more flashy styles to help capture their roles and personalities, whereas American games tend to be a little less showy with their costumes. Could this be, more or less, a social commentary difference between the two types of game developers? Well, when looking at the Japanese culture, dressing up and having some fashion sense is almost common sense. When going out on the streets, you’ll rarely find someone dressed-down. Compared to American culture, teens in sweatpants and hoodies and adults with a tee-shirt and jeans aren’t uncommon. There could indeed be a cultural correlation between the way people dress and the design of video game character outfits.
Although this article is pretty much for fun, and I know that video game outfits are usually meant to be more creative and original to a degree, the bottom line is that, typically, you won’t find many practical outfits with much artistic value in mind. Unfortunately, many character-outfits weren’t really made with the task in mind, per-say. However, I’m kind of glad that at least in the gaming world, the creative costumes hold up just as well as the realistic ones do—if only it worked that way in real life.