Star Wars Outlaws: Characters Just Need to Look Interesting

Complaining about Kay Vess’ looks misses the point. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gamer in possession of a good deal of free time must be in want of a woman to be weird about. This time, that woman is Kay Vess, the protagonist of Ubisoft’s upcoming open-world game Star Wars Outlaws. The character looks slightly different in the new story trailer than in past looks at the game, with a more prominent chin and a more mullet-y haircut.

In the past, the perceived non-hotness of Horizon Forbidden West’s Aloy, Resident Evil 4 Remake’s Ashley, and The Last of Us Part 2’s Abby have all inspired gamers to froth with rage. Even Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s Tifa — maybe the most straightforwardly “hot” woman to ever be featured in a video game — inspired discourse because gamers thought Square Enix shrunk her boobs too much in comparison to the original game. A certain subset of gamers aren’t happy unless video game women look like they’re ready to pose on the cover of Maxim at any moment. They don’t understand the purpose of art and they don’t see women as people.

This faction of gamers has a completely unhinged understanding of why characters and stories exist. Most art does not exist, specifically, to turn the audience on. Obviously, there are erotic works in every medium, and there have been since The Epic of Gilgamesh or Song of Solomon. But, that’s a specific context.

You’re missing out on a lot of great art if the primary criteria you judge female characters by is whether they make you horny. The way characters look is an expression of who they are. People obviously can’t control certain aspects of their appearance — their height, their skin color, etc. — but there are plenty of things that they can control.

What people do with the aspects of their appearance that are within their control speak to how they see themselves and what they value. This is something that Hollywood has lost a bit as actors are increasingly expected to look more and more perfect if they’re going to lead a movie. When someone more unconventionally attractive, like Chris Pratt or Kumail Nanjiani, does get cast in a big-budget movie, that tends to come with the expectation that they get in He-Man shape. Anodyne hotness has replaced character, and that bleeds over to what players expect in games.

The peach fuzz on Aloy’s cheeks doesn’t register as a realistic detail for this faction of gamers because most on-screen representations of women are divorced from how regular people look. I like how Kay Vess looks. She looks like a real person, and she looks like she could be a smuggler. It’s the same reason I like Abby’s look in The Last of Us Part 2.

Her slightly burned skin and peach fuzz are believable for a person living in the post-post-apocalyptic world of the Horizon series. It’s a different approach than female video game characters got in the ’90s and ’00s, when they were often buxom and scantily clad. These reflections offer a new perspective on the portrayal of female characters in video games and the changing expectations of both gamers and the industry.

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