It's another long day of fighting evil ahead of me in The Secret World. Normally the toughest choice ahead of me would be which character to play.
Picking that will be easy. The real question: what the hell am I going to wear?
Mankini gate is done and gone. However in all the coverage, there's never really been enough said for me about the in game store available to The Secret World players. I have choices to be making. Do I want to fight evil while dapper in a suit? Do I want to wear a pretty little off the shoulder number? Do I want to be a cosmonaut? Admittedly some of the choices are stranger than the others, but the choices remain.
Yes Funcom may have put a foot wrong with an outfit or two, but I'll admit it. I'm a clothes horse. Gear is gear. Clothes are completely different. Anyone can gear up. It's an inescapable part of MMO life. I fight, therefore I gear. Or something.
My gentlemen can be rough, can be suave, can be strange. My women can be gorgeous, can be trashy, can be woefully unarmored. It's just one more added choice that gives the sensation of freedom. Gear will come sure as rain will fall. It's a construct of the games that we play and unavoidable some of the time. That doesn't mean it's bad however. It doesn't mean I can't have fun. In fact having the gear be invisible on ones character really hands the character over to the player. I don't have to look like anyone else about to walk into that Nightmare mode. I don't need to share a look with the other Templars in their admittedly sexy red uniforms.
Between the idea of the skill wheel and the wardrobe, I have the freedom to be whatever I want. That... that is precious.
Sure you might wonder what good are a bunch of digital dress up items for your player character dolly. Put like that I have to agree with you. These aren't just free outfits, unless you are a player who gets a stipend from Funcom. If you want to battle the filth as David Tennants Tenth Doctor, you're going to need those vet points for 3-d glasses. Feel more like Matt Smith? Funcom Points lead to Feziness, it's like fuzziness but much cooler.
To me though it comes across as a sense of player agency. A modicum of control over my experience and my character. Yes, just like every other player, I am locked into the locales available in the game, the missions available and the dungeons. Don't get me wrong, I love it there. Richard Sonnac can talk to me all day long. Nassir will never get old. Fighting the filth will always be a reason to get out and do the job, cause chaos or do good works. Whatever rationale I apply.
If it was an armor based game, where my gear is as you see on my character? Well yes that works for many people and they love showing off what they have achieved on their character. I want something more though. I don't want to be judged by my pauldrons of power. I want to be looked at because between the cash store and the game options I have brought sexy back. It's a liberation, the idea that even when playing as one of many other MMO players, when playing as a cog in the faceless secret socities, I can be me. I can wear what I will, craft the look I want and enhance my character through fashion.
Ultimately yes it's just dress up. So too is raid gear in other game universes. The difference being my dress up is a reflection of how I felt that day, that time when I logged in. Maybe I want to cosplay as a sexy Egyptian priestess with the Keeper of the Nile outfit. Maybe instead I decided that shorts, shirt and sensible boots were the order of the day. It's my little piece of freedom, my little choice of what to wear that shows everyone else playing what I want them to see.
We, unlike our characters, are born and grow. One of the earliest freedoms we ever get as children is the right and power to pick what we'll wear today. What we want to look like. Who we want to present to the world. The Secret World gives us this sense, gives us a chance to present who we want to the world by letting us pick what we wear and giving us a wide variety to pick from. Our characters may not have had the growing up that we as real people had to go through but they can, in some small way become their own people.
It may be digital dress up dollies, it may be simply clever marketing in the game making me want to mull over my options before I shotgun evil in the face. Or maybe if I’m feeling very cynical it is just another way to get money. It's still one of those early freedoms, one personal to everyone. One that makes it feel less like a game and more like an experience, an event. Something to be remembered.
Though seriously... what will I wear today?