Setting the trend: the fashion-forward world of mobile games

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Two of the biggest industries in the world are finding support for an increasing number of collaborations, as the cultural titans of video gaming and fashion reach more people than ever before. The success in recent years of games like Pocket Styler that focus directly on the fashion industry is a testament to this shift, offering up potential new avenues for fashion houses and high street shops to reach a wider audience through video games.

The idea of fashion mixing with video games has been present since those early character creation screens gave us a range of pixelated t-shirts to browse through. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, for example, lets players flick between several well-known branded items, including designs from Thrasher, DC Shoes, and Airwalk. Not only did this allow real-life skaters to dress up in their favourite gear, but it also built a brand identity and helped the fashion names to become synonymous with the game’s culture.

On the other end of the scale, many of the games marketed for the first Nintendo DS allowed creative younger audiences to experience the fast-paced fashion industry for themselves, with games such as Style Savvy, Imagine Fashion Designer, and Fashion Designer: Style Icon promising to teach players the practical side of fashion. These games involved a great deal of gameplay, ranging from designing clothes to running a sartorial empire.

These days, a character creation screen comes as standard for most RPGs or MMOs, where players will, in some cases, happily pay real-world money for virtual designs and accessories. How we look in games affects how we play, and fashion is a creative way for gamers to express themselves in an otherwise scripted space.

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When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many brands took to games and virtual shows to promote their designs, rather than run the risk of a cancelled catwalk event. Gucci was in The Sims, Louis Vuitton dressed League of Legends characters, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons players could dress their avatar head-to-toe in Valentino. The standard has now been set much higher for fashion in games, and the concept of a “dress-up game” has taken on a wider audience.

One such game is Pocket Styler, a game that found its feet astonishingly quickly, having reached over 11 million downloads since launch in May 2021. The last year has seen the game grow both in terms of player count and the range of items available, meaning that to log on in Spring of 2022 is to enter an entire community dedicated to the creative potential of fashion trends. Players are not only able to design their own avatar from a wide selection of adjustable features, but can dress thousands of models in endless combinations of clothing from every corner of the fashion world.

Each day, new challenges are added, which require the player to dress their model in appropriate clothing for the event, for example an outdoor yoga class, or a celebrity wedding reception. These looks can range from cute and casual to fierce and formal, with the models themselves representing people of varied ethnicities and appearances. It is fully possible to find your next great look while playing Pocket Styler, trying on items virtually and matching them with this season’s must-have accessories without spending a packet in real life. Alternatively, players can push the limits of fashion, debuting daring new combinations and getting feedback from the fashion-forward Pocket Styler social community.

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Alongside the daily challenges, regular new drops help to keep things fresh. The in-game shop has thousands of items to choose from, with new ‘trending’ pieces dictated by the Pocket Styler community every few days, and ‘collections’ that are updated regularly to keep seasons varied. These have ranged from the nautical-themed Voyage collection to the warm tones and dark patterns of their Autumn wardrobe. Given the breadth of players in the community, with new competition entries coming from all over the world, it is possible for both players and the fashion designers themselves to gather feedback on their designs and outfit choices.

The possibilities are endless for games like Pocket Styler, where no element of an outfit goes unnoticed. Brands could offer a jewellery line in-game, focus on handbags, or design entire top-to-toe collections. Collaborations with high-end fashion designers would create a sense of excitement within the community, in the hopes that items adorning a virtual model could one day be sitting on their real-world shelves.

With fashion becoming increasingly intertwined with video games, we may soon see trends dictated by what our favourite characters are wearing. For those already playing Pocket Styler, which is free on the App Store and Google Play, this future is fast becoming a reality.

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