I really feel like some days, Wildstar differs very wildly from other sorts of games and communities with some of the trends it bucks. Case in point: a thread on the Wildstar forums devoted to a player’s scantily clad male character Photoshops. Not only would something like this not really be seen on other game forums (maybe I’m wrong) but the poster would be flamed out of town. Not only is this guy exceptionally good at what he does (even if the subject matter is codpieces) but it gave me a really good reference point for a topic that I usually do have to talk about. One of the reasons that Ixum made the thread is because there’s not enough skimpy armor for men and he wanted to try and recreate what he’d think it’d look like. Man abs aside, it made me realize something I’ve been kinda nattering about for a while: there is a considerable lack of skimpy or otherwise sexy armor in this game.
It is interesting to me that this is one of the features of the game considering that some of the criticisms of Wildstar early on was how sexualized female body shapes seemed to be. During their initial beta, it was pretty clear that many of the female body types had very little variation and were entirely hourglass, often with bust sizes that looked impractical, if not downright painful. Wildstar did take the criticism to heart, though, and changed them up a bit more and reduced bust sizing where necessary. It’s still not perfect (perfect would be body sliders) but it’s better. Jeremy Gaffney, head of Carbine Studios, also remarked about how they wanted to give players starting outfits that were not too revealing as well. They wanted players to be able make choices they would be happy with and not feel like they were thrust into wearing something that would make them uncomfortable.
From what I’ve seen so far in game, the armor veers towards fully covering and looking fairly practical. Despite having cross-armor type costuming capabilities, armor you receive for your class also looks appropriate for the type of combat your character would naturally do. Light armor looks like actual cloth in most cases, same with heavy and medium armor. Very little of it has any eye-rolling skimpiness, and one of the few places it does seems to be a handful of “booty shorts” models that are peppered into the questing experience. There’s almost no boob-windows, definitely no backless chest pieces, and nothing that reads immediately as a “sexy” outfit, though players could (and have) thrown something together in that direction using the costuming feature. But the point is that the game lets you make that choice, versus having it be most of your options. I would even go far as to say that the “skimpier” armor isn’t immediately sexual looking – anything that is strips of clothing looks appropriately alien (think the Eldan costume) or is either modeled after something we might wear in real life (The starting outfit tunic looks like a simple tank top I own, actually.) I believe that one of the reasons that more revealing armor doesn’t look like lingerie might have something to do with the fact that it wears exactly the same on men as women.
See the duster coat I am wearing in the header graphic? That looks exactly the same on myself as a male player. Not delineating between women and men with how an armor sits on a character model is a great way to make sure that your armor doesn’t look sexual on one model (females) and not on another (males) and therefore stressing a very problematic message about women’s bodies. One of the things I really hated about World of Warcraft was that due to design choice or bad modeling, robes and plate armor would magically turn into giant cleavage windows or plate thongs on women, but not for the men. There’s really none of this in Wildstar at all, and it leads the player to feel that they are allowed to wear whatever armor they want and they can expect that it will look how they choose. It also means that none of the armor feels innately gendered. While some armor feels “dressier” than others, character models of any gender can wear it and have it feel “appropriate.” Granted, swinging the pendulum hard in the direction of gender neutrality might leave some cold but after seeing a sea of MMORPGs make women characters look like they have no choice but to run around in negligees, it’s nice to feel a bit more covered up. I usually play spell-casters in RPG games and being free of a feminine robe that fits like a dress is pretty amazing.
The armor is not the only thing about Wildstar that feels less gendered and sexual – a lot of the world itself is like this. I don’t feel that when I’m running around, questing or whatever, that I’m supposed to feel like women in Nexus are sexy. Granted, there’s a handful of instances I can think of where women are sexualized but overall, the game does not focus on this as either an explicit or implicit motif. (And I will talk about these instances in my next blog post, barring an asteroid hitting Carbine) It’s one of the ways I’ve felt more comfortable as a player in Wildstar, mostly because being bombarded with grotesquely sexual content in a video game bothers me on a really personal level.
All in all, the armor in this video game is easily one of the best features I’ve found so far. It feels practical (boots and pants that look rugged abound), non-gendered and ultimately a lot of fun to wear and style appropriately. It makes picking up gear an event I look forward to, rather than something I dread, especially as someone who plays exclusively women characters.