Square Enix, you fancy.

This image of Sazh casually chucking his chocobo chick in the air disturbs me.

Original Article here

     To celebrate its 25th anniversary, video game studio Square Enix teamed up with Prada for a photo editorial published in men’s lifestyle magazine Arena Homme+. Now I could go on about how god awful I think the collection they chose was or how interesting I find the decision behind putting female lead Lightning in shapeless menswear, but no. I want to talk instead about something I only just realized tonight. That Square Enix has been sending love letters to the fashion industry for some time now and it has been playing with the boundaries between fashion design, costume design, and character design longer then you would expect.

     Alright, I fully admit that my second thought upon initially reading about the Prada collaboration was “Man, they must’ve been super desperate to get in on the Nicola Formichetti/CCP Games wagon as fast as they could…” but thinking back, Square Enix was already there, and I’m not talking about the buckleporn. Two instances come to mind: The importance of clothing (and well, shopping) in the action RPG The World Ends With You and more importantly the collaboration with Japanese label ROEN for Final Fantasy Versus XIII.

     Nintendo DS game The World Ends With You (also known as TWEWY) is heavily based on youth culture in Shibuya, and pays homage to its life and energy. One of the most interesting ways it manifests this is integrating the importance of brands and the shifting of fashion trends into gameplay. Combat in the game centers around the use of “pins” corresponding to special moves. The pins are divided into different brands/labels and when paired with the matching brand’s clothing it receives power-ups. Each section of town also has a brand that is “popular”, where pins/clothing of the same label are more powerful/effective. The interesting thing is if a character favors a particular brand, and defeats a certain amount of enemies in a row in an area, the popularity shifts to whatever the character is wearing/using. And eventually it shifts back or changes randomly but your success still makes an effect on the popularity of a label. I think Square Enix does a great job of recreating the strange nature of trends with this mechanic. The entire game has this hyper-awareness of the obsession with fashion and consumerism in Japanese youth culture.

     The other interesting development is Square Enix’s collaboration with Japanese clothing label ROEN for Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Still unreleased, ROEN designed the clothing for the male characters to then later be produced as a physical line for retail. This I find particularly interesting because I’ve always been fascinated at where the line blurs between character design and costume/fashion design. It amazes me how similar these titles actually are and yet how separate they can be, for me, it’s all world building. This collaboration completely pushes through that, much in the same way Nicola Formichetti/Mugler attempted to do with the virtual zombie boy for CCP Games. I’m not talking about a future where virtual clothing holds as much sway as physical, but we’ve now opened up a new avenue for fashion to comfortably exist in. A new way of exploring adornment as a means of reality and identity constructing, be it a part of your fantasy, or yourself. I think Square Enix has become more and more aware of this, since so much of what they pride themselves on is world building (successfully or not). At the very least they are playing, and have been for longer then I realized.

     As we move into a more globally connected digital world, how we express ourselves through fashioning our avatars is a new conversation we are having. I think the gaming world as a whole is beginning to toy with this more and more, ironically finding ways to be more relevant with physical tie-ins. I think I’ll continue this next week, stepping out of the Square Enix frame and tackling some western based trends.
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