I pay a lot of attention to character design in most forms of visual media, and videgames is a genre near and dear to my heart. I've witnessed what seems like an eternal, cringe-inducing trainwreck/parade of absolutely rediculous character design decisions over the years. From the Rambo style action heroes and tough guys with mullets of the 80s to the super deformed, gigantic phallus-like sword wielding protagonists of the mid 90s to the scantily clad cliches of fantasy genres we find to this very day. They have inspired droves of horrifyingly obsessed cosplayers to not only try and appear like their favorite game characters, but actually try HARD to look like them. Looking back on it all I have gained perspective, and I am terribly frightened by what I see today and what all this could bring. I'm talking about shoulder pads.
I'm looking at you, Epic.
Some are massive. Others look like they've been made of cast iron. Some glow, or have glowing parts. My first question is 'why'? They would be completely impractical. They would be heavy. They would obstruct movement. I haven't seen more shoulder pads since I lovingly gazed at Angela Bauer in her power suits while watching 'Who's the Boss?'. While undeniably sexy and drool inducing on an advertising executive in the late 1980s they simply do not translate well to current gen videogame characters - they look lame. On top of all this they seem to have become the new black. Can we get just a little believability and originality? It's not a lot to ask for!
I forsee a not-too-distant future where cosplayers fashion these shoulder pads for conventions and have trouble fitting through doors. I see errant wings of armour grazing cheeks like umbrellas on a crowded street as people walk by in the opposite direction. I see glowing, homebrew shoulder pads catching fire while convention goers run screaming. I hear charred bodies moaning 'I should have listened to my friends and been Kirby this year'.
I guess these shortcomings are what make the design in games like Half Life 2 (incredible), Splinter Cell (believable), Team Fortress 2 (damn fun) and Metal Gear (original) so great. They're dripping with style and personality, they make sense for the world they exist in. In short, little is superfluous. It's efficient. Solid, good design. Let's hope the shoulder pad craze dies as quickly as parachute pants and spandex.
Thanks Epic, I'll never look at Angela Bauer the same way.