Its hard to say exactly when, but one day, a concept artist woke up one morning and said, “I’m going to throw lights on this character.” Not because his subject lacked the ability to see in the dark, or needed to know where something was situated on his armor. Practicality couldn’t have been the motive of this alteration. It was because he (or she, feminists) wanted his (or her…) creation to look cool. And nothing says cool like a LED bedazzled soldier.
Glowing armor is a trend in gaming that is rapidly increasing in popularity. Gears of War, Mass Effect, Splinter Cell, Dead Space, Ghost Recon, you name it; an alarming number of games have thrown some sort of glowing element to your garb. Why is so this popular? Why do developers find it necessary that Marcus, Dom, Baird and the crew (I hope I don’t have to say this is a Gears reference) have blue lights on their armor? Why does Sam Fisher (Splinter Cell), a man known for his stealth and apparent invisibility, wear obnoxiously bright green goggles?
For some reason we as gamers are fascinated, maybe even drawn, by these displays of pretty lights and I find it a little weird. What about these lights says stealth? For some reason I have a hard time believing that any mercenary with half a brain is going to see the bright green Tri-Force slowly approaching him (Sam Fisher), and not say, “Hey, whats that?” And what, might I ask, is powering these lights? Batteries? That sounds awfully cost defective. Imagine fighting on the battlefield and one of your lights dies or gets shot out. Your day would be utterly ruined. But that’s beside the point. More pressing should be the fact that hiding behind that cover was ruined because your wearing neon lights that scream “Open” inviting your enemies to fill you with bullets.
Sure these lights might “look” cool, but Ezio, and Batman all look pretty awesome minus glitter and they all, clearly kick ass. So maybe the lights come with the future? Maybe lights come with characters who traverse other worlds. Wait…Splinter Cell. Maybe there is no reason for these lights. But then why are they there?
Maybe I’m being too literal or serious. Regardless, I think it is safe to say that the LEDs that litter the armor of our favorite heroes and heroines (for all y’all fem Sheps out there) are useless. And while some of these instances have explanations, like Sam’s lights are for player visibility, I think that there are other ways achieve these goals. To be honest I actually like Issac Clarke’s RIG (Dead Space). That’s just plain creative. But that is the only application that works in and I would argue that it is also the atmosphere of the game that allows such mechanics. If you want me to hide, flank, or surprise anyone, take my lights off please.