Why are so many official video game clothing missing the mark?

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I’ll start with something that’s going to make me feel old: I remember when people got teased for wearing game-themed clothes or accessories. I remember friends wearing T-shirts Pokemon in school and feeling cool for exactly five minutes until another kid looks the wrong way at it and makes them feel embarrassed. As a teenager, I went to fan-packed conventions absolutely covered in gaming paraphernalia, which got them weird looks from my mom. (I was one of those fans.) It was a tough time. You felt like you couldn’t express yourself or your hobby without earning the anger of someone who thought you were weird.

I am so happy that those days are over. Gambling has become mainstream enough that fandom clothing has become acceptable, even fashionable. Most of the big games have their own boutique websites where fans can purchase shirts, loungewear, accessories, glasses, and any other branded item they desire. Even big fashion brands have jumped into the action: last month, sneaker and clothing brand Puma collaborated to launch a line of Animal crossing-themed shoes and clothing.

This week Australian store BlackMilk released a Legend of Zeldathemed collection that pasted scenes and iconography from the entire series onto trendy leggings, shirts, dresses and more. Even leading indie games usually have their own line of clothing, vinyl records, plush toys, and other related products. So… why is it so ugly?

Merch or die

I’m a self-proclaimed merch junkie: I love buying, wearing, and displaying stuff from my favorite games. My one foot size Nessie plush Apex Legends arrived last week and it has brightened my life ever since. I have an endless selection of Monitoring and Heroes of the Storm-Themed t-shirts. I have a beret that looks like a Animal crossing bell bag. Don’t even get me started on my collection of enamel pins. I consider myself to be a connoisseur of merchandise, simply because the first place I go after discovering a game that I like is the official store.

As a moderate Zelda fan, I was interested in the BlackMilk collection. The brand is pretty high profile, and from what little I know about current fashion it is considered a respectable place to shop. After seeing thousands of unique fan designs and fan-made clothing on sites like Etsy, Instagram, and Twitter, I was excited to see what a brand with designer chops and a big budget could do for Zelda.

Upon discovering the collection, I was immediately disappointed: many designs are simply screenshots or key illustrations from the games pasted onto dresses, skirts, leggings or t-shirts. There are a few interesting models, but overall the designs are loaded and way too obvious (card-based designs are particularly glaring.) There is a time and place to be loud and proud of your favorite games. , but what happened to more subtle or creative fandom clothing?

Our Legend of #Zelda the collection is LIVE ~ https://t.co/dMiFMrsLit

What epic coins did you get?#blackclothes @NintendoAUNZ @ NintendoAmerica pic.twitter.com/R8hQBXqL5r

– BlackMilk Clothing (@BlackMilkTweets) October 11, 2021

BlackMilk isn’t the only store offering gaming-themed clothing that misses the mark. The Apex Legends the official store struggles with its t-shirt designs. Many of them are just white T-shirts with the game logo stuck on the front. In most cases, it’s not even a transparent bottom logo like on this Olympus themed t-shirt that looks like a nightgown at best. The rest of the Mountain peak The clothing line is mostly black or white shirts and pants with some text and the triangular logo on them.

Puma Animal crossing the sneakers are cute, but there was only one model of women’s shoes in the entire group, which seems like a huge oversight for a predominantly female fan community. Monitoring used to have fun clothes, including that D.Va bomber jacket which is still sold at Hot Topic, but as the game’s popularity waned (and Blizzard’s reputation hit rock bottom), it only remains than the less inspired designs.

The big cashout

As much as I love merch, I am also aware of its purpose: to make money and promote the game. People like me who walk around carrying Monitoring The t-shirts are basically free advertising for the game. The ZeldaBlackMilk line wasn’t meant to break down fashion barriers or try something original; its goal was to sell Zelda-themed clothing to slightly more avant-garde people who are already fans and to inspire other BlackMilk buyers to check out the games. Despite the line’s less-than-stellar clothing, the BlackMilk site has always struggled under the load of people trying to check out when the collection launched. This stuff sells, and it sells well, which is why most companies have commodity lines for their larger properties in the first place.

That’s not to say that companies can’t try to do better. Merchandise designers and publishers would do well to take inspiration from fan designers, who have been making incredible creations since the game’s early days. Instead of doing it for money, these artists, designers, and creators are doing it. because they like Zelda, Where Animal crossing, Where To watch, or thousands of other games and franchises. The designs are unique, subtle, and incorporate deeper references than most official merchandise.

The reason there are so many fan designers out there in the first place is that there is a demand for designs that meet different and unique fashion styles. Fan designs may be a bit more expensive than official merchandise – and are more likely to be put down by reputedly inflexible companies like Nintendo – but they more often come from a position of genuine love and joy than merchandise. official, and I think that ultimately results in a better product.

The gaming product phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down. Big developers and publishers with big bucks will continue to favor high-profile collaborations with clothing and merchandise brands in order to earn a few extra bucks and promote their game, and designs will generally be poor to bad. We can only hope that they will follow in the footsteps of smaller fandom designers and take a more subtle and nuanced approach with their clothing designs. Not everyone wants to walk around with Zelda’s gigantic face glued to the back of their bomber jacket.

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