Waifus Over Gameplay: Are Developers Spending Too Much Time on Attractive Characters?

Game developers seem to be spending more time on creating attractive characters and focusing less on interesting gameplay. Guest contributor Lisa Nguyen explores this subject for Pause Resume.

I want developers to create the games they want to.

I understand that video games are a business, and to many companies, selling a high amount of units and getting the most media buzz is the highest priority. As players, we notice the visuals first. Developers want us to be invested in their characters. But why has the focus been more on an attractive set of pixels rather than a satisfying gameplay experience?

I started paying more attention to this change at the release of the newest Shining series. I grew up playing this series, which had a large variety of interesting characters and required strategy and planning. The series has shifted to focusing more on attractive characters to manufacture merchandise. I saw it again with the Deception series. The stories have involved different characters and engaging storylines where players must set strategically placed traps within different environments. The fourth installment shifted into sexy playable characters and goofy trap elements.

But what is the exact purpose of changing game characters to be more sexy and attractive? Was it to give players a subject to argue about online or is it important to the plot? Tales of Berseria’s Velvet Crowe wears clothing meant to give players the impression that she was a dangerous, evil character. Her appearance also has relevance to the gameplay, such as the bandages on her left arm that conceal an unknown power.

” …what is the exact purpose of changing game characters to be more sexy and attractive?”

Link of The Legend of Zelda series has always received a mixed reception, depending on his character design. Though Link is an iconic, well-known character, his The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild appearance brings more search results for ‘He’s so cute! rather than questioning what new abilities are displayed in game.

When Zelda was announced, her appearance also received more attention over what role she will play in the game. Nintendo is focusing more on beautiful landscapes rather than discussing what new gameplay developments they have created for the long-running series.

Developers shouldn’t just be relying on cute characters to sell a game. Intelligent Systems captured lightning in a bottle with Fire Emblem Awakening. Lucina and Chrom, the main characters of Awakening, saw a burst of popularity. Intelligent Systems attempted to create this again with Azura, the mysterious aqua-haired character players meet in Fates, but this mostly failed. Azura faded into the background, while Lucina and Chrom continue to shine on promotional materials.

When BioWare announces sequels to Mass Effect and Dragon Age, most players focused on the list of romanceable characters. Dragon Age: Origins was wildly popular for its unique gameplay and cast of characters. Unfortunately, Dragon Age II received a negative reception. Bioware couldn’t hook players on their characters and romance again. Players expressed their displeasure of the repetitive dungeons, short gameplay time, and plot. Bioware listened to player feedback and applied it to the third installment of the series, Dragon Age Inquisition.

Developers should attempt to create a balance. Create satisfying, challenging gameplay experiences and also characters that are interesting and engaging. From Software and CD Projekt are able to balance both. Interesting, challenging gameplay experiences are colourfully blended with bright characters within bleak worlds.

Should developers completely stop creating attractive characters? Of course not. Players are a diverse group, with some focusing more on a new waifu and some who only want a challenge. In the future, developers should strive for more balance to create more memorable game experiences and not just a cute face.

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