Two years ago, BioWare asked fans to choose the face of Mass Effect 3’s FemShep. Amidst blue-eyed-blonde-haired controversy, the public spoke and chose a fiery winner. Though time has passed and the game has long since released, I’ve never forgotten this showcase of pageantry.
What is it that makes a character look so damn good?
Is it the hair? The eyes? The conventions of social norms? Or simply, dat ass?
I’m no psychologist when it comes to understanding the human brain, but I am an Art Historian and can break down what makes something “beautiful” using the principles of Swiss art historian, Heinrich Wolfflin, at least to some degree. Wolfflin was known for his ways of just looking at a painting, tracing the lines of a face, and absorbing the warmth of colors just by gazing upon a piece of art for hours on end. Of course there’s a much more complicated process to his way or thinking, but for this article let’s just go with plain ol’ staring.
I remember the first time I saw Modern Warfare’s Soap MacTavish. Sure you played as him in CoD 4, but it wasn’t until Modern Warfare 2, in the glistening snow, when you finally glimpsed upon the hottie hero of a war-torn world. I kid you not, when the screen flashed over his tanned-five-o-clock-shadow face and I saw that Mohawk, I literally dropped my jaw and went, “DAAYYYUUUUMMMMM!!!”
Personally, I’m a sucker for a badass looking guy with a Mohawk, but the more I looked at him and thought about his character, it was far beyond the machismo persona — it was the fact that we knew him. Maybe it was a bit of self love as he was the character we played as in the first Modern Warfare game, but his looks didn’t hurt either.
If you look at other leading male soldiers in recent games, say Borderlands 2’s Axton or Mass Effect 3’s James Vega, what do they all have in common? The Mohawk. Yep. It’s the hair. I’ll say it now, no matter how much a girl (or guy) say they want the “good guy,” they always, always want a “bad boy.” When you think of military dudes now, what haircuts do they usually have? The crew cut. With Soap and other in-game soldiers, they’ve got the Mohawk. The Mohawk is the symbol of total badassery. They simply do not give an eff to protocol and it is that aesthetic conflict that make Soap and other male characters so dang desirable.
Now let’s flashback to Mass Effect 3’s leading lady. In the Facebook pageant contest, folks were up in arms over why a blond chick got picked above the rest. What most folks overlooked is that the real culprit was the varying hairstyles.
I mean, look at all the other choices — all the hairdos are absolutely horrendous other than the one that won. Why would someone go into a battle looking like Shepard 4 or 6? Those hairstyles aren’t even practical. The first three are all pretty much the same in different colors but a badass haircut like that already belonged to Jack, the biotic baddie.
That left us with option 5. FemShep’s hair is tousled as if she’s in the heat of battle and ain’t nobody got time for brushing hair. And although FemShep’s chosen updo is practical, the messy hair leaves much to the sullied imagination. Don’t have an imagination? Well just think of all the characters (or yourself) running their fingers through FemShep’s hair as you unlock the paramour achievement.
They say that it’s the clothes that make the man, but I beg to differ — It’s the hair.
Tune in for Part II as I divulge further into what makes a video game character sexy.