Playing pretend: attire’s role in roleplaying:

Within roleplaying games players are asked to adopt the morality, views, and emotions of the character they play.  Along the progression of their character they make choices that help define the direction their character develops.  One important aspect of how the player attaches to their character is the gear the character uses.  Are they dressed in mages clothes wielding a staff, or are they armored from head to toe with a sword and shield?  Attire alone can tell a lot of the character’s story, and thus is an important part of how the player identifies with their character.  In Fallout 4, the player is immersed in a post-apocalyptic world where they must use the gear of modern warfare or makeshift solutions of the wasteland to take part in combat, or instead they can choose to wear clothing and role-play the life of a more unassuming character.


(A player character dressed using a mixture of gear types to utilize their unique strengths, sacrificing a unifying aesthetic in Fallout 4)

The diversity of clothing items in Fallout 4 ensures that the players who want to focus solely on stats can build a powerful unit that is an amalgam of styles.  With a base clothing item such as road leathers or a vault suit, the player can add to their armor piece by piece, switching out their armor for better, more fortified gear as they find it in the wasteland.  This may even fit into the roleplaying narrative of some players who adopt the mentality of survival above all else.

Whereas a character purist can seek out the gear that best reflects their character’s tastes, attributes, and playstyle.  Some players will seek out complete gear sets to wear the uniform of their favorite faction, military fatigues and combat armor for a future soldier, or a tuxedo and formal hat to play as a smooth talking merchant. They forego gear purely based on stats; a sneaky assassin wouldn’t need cumbersome metal armor, and a melee combat juggernaut has little use for a clean suit.  When roleplaying the player may restrict their choices of attire to maintain the consistency of their character.


(A player character with a bandana equipped; that along with a suppressor on their weapon, presents the aesthetic of a sneaky morally questionable character in Fallout 4))

Some items are sought after by the player simply to be worn as trophies from their travels, to tell the tale of their character’s progression. In Fallout 4 the Hazmat suit grants a powerful amount of resistance against radiation but provides little protection against anything else.  However, it’s domed helmet and orange coloring are reminiscent of an astronaut’s garbs.  Within their playthrough the player donning the Hazmat suit could pretend to have returned from being frozen in space after the bombs dropped to find their home planet in ruins.


(The Hazmat suit within Fallout 4)

When a player assumes the role of the character they control, their attachment to the gameplay increases dramatically; it becomes a manifestation of their will and their expression, as opposed to a character whose will and narrative the player enacts.  Furthermore the enjoyment a player derives from an RPG is in their dedication to character, similar to a child’s commitment to playing astronaut as they moon hop from room to room.  It is in how the player walks, talks, behaves, and even dresses, in and out of the narrative points, that they express themselves through their character that makes roleplaying the immersive experience it is.


Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on Facebook, and Instagram.

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