Where I work, one of our priorities when doing character customization is to give the player one expectation for a clothing item, and then meet that expectation regardless of the sex of the avatar. Because of this, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about gender and gender expression, and the gender coding in clothing and motifs. We like to design things that only need small tweaks to look appealing on different bodies, and we also like to let the player determine how masculine or feminine they want their avatar to look. From many, many months of doing this work and decades of gaming between us, it has come to our attention that not every character customization system does this.

Aion does not do this, and is therefore my guinea pig for this exercise. Aion has some very nice, rich, tasty costume designs, (and it’s up to you whether it’s good or bad that they do this because I’m not casting judgement in this post) but they basically come up with two completely different designs per single “outfit.” The female version is often extremely feminine, and the male version is generally more masculine. That’s par for the course for Korean MMOs, but the part that drives me up the wall is that entire motifs and design elements are gutted from one or the other to achieve this type of gendering. So much good design,withheld from a costume for such a flimsy reason.

What I’ve done here for this exercise is to take every element from the “base” costume and transpose it onto the other, while attempting to preserve the original feminine/masculine gender expression that Aion loves so well. One of the original costumes usually emerges as the more gender coded of the two, but therein lies the very fun challenge: make lacy frou-frou masculine enough for your typical male player not to immediately sell the costume on the game market.

Feel free to do this exercise yourself if you like!

I was intending to refer to this post for a looong time. It’s a really nice thought excersize for anyone interested in learning firsthand what is the inherent problem of double standards in costume design.

Its sequel, where another set of clothes is translated verbatim onto the other gender (and thus, the guy ends up in a corset and frilly skirt), can be viewed here.



more about double standards | more about costume design

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