Animal Crossing is a game for everybody. This emphasised even in its introduction - when picking a name for your character, the game encourages players to avoid anything that might be construed in an offensive manner. However, the insane popularity of the game throughout the pandemic has meant some very different play styles started to make themselves known. Rather than the wholesome, caring environment that Animal Crossing always sought to foster, players were intentionally antagonising villagers so they’d leave their homes because they were ugly. In fact, this Polygon article literally describes it as "grooming your populace", which is one way to describe the days I spent trying to get Goose to leave.
So in a way, Gillette releasing these codes is an encouragement for players to take another look at the core values of the game. In their "Skinclusive Summer Line" 'lookbook', the brand explained the move to digital skin-love:
"In a game where customisation is everything and as a brand that stands up for every woman's right to feel comfortable in her own skin - everywhere, we wanted to offer players the option to replicate their IRL skin with their avatar."
Spanning over 19 skin types, the 8 in-game skin tones, there's a total of 264 designs for players. "This is our vision for the future of gaming", Gillette explained. If this is the future of gaming, count me as wanting to get a hell of a lot more involved. Gillette must be serious about this premise as they even hired designer Nicole Cuddihy to design the outfits. "While momentum for diversity in design is building, there are many areas where progress feels slow" explains Cuddihy. "Why can I add scars and wrinkles to elven warriors or outlaws, but not characters in less combat-driven games? This lookbook aims to counter those conventions".
And counter them it does. Ranging from "fierce freckles", "vitiligo vibe" and "acne angel" to "rockin' rosacea" and "poppin prosthesis", I can't say I've seen a brand (specifically one not traditionally associated with the gaming industry), work so hard to encourage inclusivity. So I picked up my Switch and downloaded a few codes myself, so my character could finally look like, well, me, and my skin conditions that make me anxious around this time of year.
First up - freckles. For context; I'm ginger. They're bloody everywhere. Whilst I previously already had a code downloaded that gave my character freckles, I love that Gillette and Cuddihy have included them all over the face and neck, not just the cheeks to look 'cute'.
"Cellulite lewk" came next and whilst I can't say I'm wild about the title, being able to have a character that looks like me feels pretty damn good. In fact, as the "skinsider knowledge" piece says, 90% of women experience cellulite as women's bodies carry more fat around hips and thighs. So can more videogames normalise this now, please?
Eczema is something I've had since I was pretty young and never did I think it would be "en vogue". Gillette and Cuddihy haven't romanticised it, like so many other features in the game, they've just... normalised it.
Gillette's skinclusive codes are a step forward for gaming, and whilst it's a shame Nintendo and Animal Crossing developers didn't take it upon themselves to create these options, hopefully this is the start of more inclusive characters and customisable outfits beyond New Horizons life.[Images featured from Animal Crossing: New Horizons]