Freckles And Their Representation In Video Games
Representation in video games has always been a common topic. From highly sexualized female characters to primarily stereotypical Black, Asian and Latin characters. Typically used as bad guys or comedic relief in games. As someone who is covered head to toe in freckles and moles. – I’ve noticed that freckled characters, albeit main or secondary characters, have suddenly popped up in video games. And I never knew it was something that mattered to me until I put some real thought into it.
I feel it’s essential to have plenty of representation in the majority of video games. And, as a straight white Irish male, I would say I usually do. But I never knew how much I see my freckles as part of my identity until now, and how I’ve come to realise the only story-based games I’ve managed to complete this year featured freckled characters.
It may be that they’re simply good games and this is all coincidence. – The metascores would back that up. – But still, once I came to this realisation, I struggled to find a freckled character model in a video game pre-2018.
Game Characters With Freckles:
Thus far, the only non-customizable models featuring prominent freckled characters in video games I could find are as follows:
1. God of War (2018) – Arteus
2. My Hero Academia: One Justice (2018) – Midoriya
3. A Plague Tale: Innocence (2019) – Amica de Rune
4. The Last Of Us Part II 2020)
5. Road 96 (2021) – Zoe
Please let me know in the comments below if you know of more good examples so I can add them to the list!
Character Creators & Freckled Characters
Many character creators have included freckles. However, they tend to be limited in their design, and I found them primarily in the games I below:
- Fallout 4
- The Sims 3 & 4
A very interesting narrative has been crafted around The Sims and the fact the default model included skin tones and hairstyles which are very limited and very white-centric… This is covered excellently in this video by motherboard, and it shows how modders are trying to enable better representation in The Sims games.
Unique features like hairstyles, freckles, birthmarks, moles, glasses, and extensive skin shades have been brought to The Sims using mods since 2008. This is due to some stating The Sims games which feature purchased style expansions make it hard for people to create sims to look like themselves. – Especially if they are a minority – without paying for the expansions.
Why Are There Not More Freckled Characters In Video Games?
There are a few key factors influencing where I can see reasons why freckles are not common in video games. These are primarily split between cultural views on freckles and the workload to implement them – technical limitations.
Freckles have been used as tropes in media
Traditionally in media, freckles have been used in kids’ make-up and character design to signify youth and innocence – or regionality such as USA southerner, Scottish or Irish. learn more about the youthful freckle tv trope.
Freckles are perceived as ‘Ugly’ in some cultures
Call me biassed but I disagree. However, It is a common perception in East Asian cultures, especially in china that freckles are considered ugly. Due to their symbolism of being poor as you have been working a lot outdoors to get them.
However, this opinion can also be seen in Western media due to the lack of freckled people in media and adverts across the board.
I think it may be easy to jump to accuse beauty standards, Yet, in gaming, I believe it may be one of the least common reasons.
Simply put, modern games have textures and graphics to enable a character to have freckles. For example, many 2d sprite characters only have a few pixels for eyes. How can you reasonably represent freckles on them? Although, in 3D games even as far back as the N64, I don’t think this is a reasonable excuse for a lack of freckled characters in video games.
It’s just more effort
This is by far the most convincing reason why there are very few freckled characters. Generally, the introduction of freckles on a character would be conceived in the initial design process to implement something from the previously mentioned TV tropes.
So unless there is significance to the freckles, the only other reason would be aesthetic. And in their own right, this leads to several design iterations of models and freckle patterns which all increase the total design time. Simply put, if they are not needed, why do it? Time is money… However, when it comes to representation – this is the best way for someone to be of a minority race, have a visible disability, glasses, or other visible characteristics. As these shouldn’t be used to suggest something about a character.
Representation is clearly getting better
The industry is making moves in the right direction when it comes to representation. Games are having more female leads, fleshed out and deep LGBTQIA+ characters, and even as I have shown – with freckles!
Having felt firsthand how much something such as freckles on a game character or glasses on a protagonist like Gordon Freeman has meant to me. I think this direction is great. It enables more real and unique stories to be told showing the different experiences many people have. Giving us more distinctive and exciting stories to experience!
Why I Wrote this Article
I got curious when I notice in the last two years. That the games I been playing actually featured characters with freckles and I never noticed them before that. Following some basic research I noticed there have been so few, and this hasn’t been written about. But also thought it was weird that out of the 5 story driven games I have completed in the last year a minority of the games didn’t contain a freckled main character. So I feel in some sort of subconscious way this must be a factor which makes me personally engage with a game more. So I felt compelled to do more research and make it into this Blog, for others to build off of.
When Inclusivity Gets A Bit Weird…
You may have seen the blizzard inclusivity tool. Which at first glance seems good, as it ensures that they are inclusive in their character design. But does this just make it a tool to ensure they appeal to as many people as possible? And what does a ten on the sexuality or race scale even mean? I hate to say that something like this in and of itself has an anchored bias that the straight, athletic, smart middle-class white male is the base for all of these scales. Which in its own right suggests something… who decides an Egyptian is a 7? A woman is a 5? The designer. This exercise is somewhat biased and loaded… But I’m sure it helps keep inclusivity in mind. Is this a good thing? a bad thing? or just a weird thing? Let me know what you think!
What Other Inclusivity Things In Video Games Have You Noticed?
Why can’t somebody be an amputee without it being a part of a story? Have you seen a colostomy bag in game? Have you seen people of your nationality in a game? Something I haven’t even mentioned? Let us know! I think Inclusivity is a really interesting topic in video gaming and would love to write more on it.