Alternate skins in gaming are fun, but ultimately unnecessary for the enjoyment of a game. In fact, sometimes they can be so bad that they ruin the experience altogether. Skins are supposed to add in a little extra pizazz, excitement, and maybe a fun reference. That’s why it’s so disappointing when skins wind up being lackluster, or worse, controversial.
Here are some of the worst offenders when it comes to controversial skins in gaming.
The stigma about Sigma’s Asylum skin
Overwatch developer Blizzard got a whole lot of flack about Sigma, a hero who wasn’t in the best of shape mentally. He was addled significantly by his experimental attempts to wield the power of a black hole. Fans weren’t the biggest fans of the way Blizzard decided to write this mentally ill character, as they felt that the writers were doing some hardcore stereotyping. One of the most egregious errors on the designers’ part was the so-called "Asylum" skin.
Sigma’s Asylum skin gained attention first and foremost because Sigma’s feet are bare. Sure, he floats, so footwear isn’t a big concern, but why doesn’t he have shoes? In a now deleted comment, an Overwatch designer said that this choice was made because shoelaces in asylums are often outlawed, or else the patients might self harm with the strings.
Did any one give Blizzard the memo that "asylums" aren’t a thing anymore? Mental health facilities aren’t the horrifying places portrayed in scary movies and haunted houses. Fans feel that this Asylum skin supports harmful stereotypes of the mentally ill and the places they go to seek help.
Sewn Chaos Blitzcrank and Amumu were snipped out
Riot Games has a fairly good track record with producing good skins for its League of Legends champions, but there are some times when the studio messes up. Back in 2017, designers were crafting together two "Sewn Chaos" skins for champions Blitzcrank and little mummy Amumu. They were crocheted, teddy bear versions of their base skins. Pretty cute… but not the quality fans were used to from Riot.
When they were previewed on Reddit, these skins didn’t have the most warm of welcomes.
"They’re seriously godawful," read one comment. "I know that the designers put plenty of efforts on these, but seriously, look at other champions instead of freaking Amumu and Blitzcrank."
Players were upset that these champs were getting more skins while others were ignored. On top of that, fans felt that the Sewn Chaos skins were lazily made.
Ultimately, the hullabaloo was so bad that Riot pulled the skins after release on the Public Beta Environment. A Riot employee posted this explanation:
"Sometimes we work on things that just don’t end up hitting our quality bar. And usually, we try to cut those things well before they actually hit PBE, but in this case we were a little too late. The truth is neither Sewn Chaos Blitzcrank nor Sewn Chaos Amumu hit the quality expected of our recent skins, so we’re making the call to remove them."
Christie from Dead or Alive in leather
Dead or Alive games aren’t exactly known to be the most… modest. The women fighting in these games typically have a little more… we’ll say "bounce" than necessary. What’s worse is that the designers have decided that alternate skins should resemble lingerie as much as possible — as if that’s appropriate for fights to the death.
One of the skimpiest of skimpy outfits is from Dead or Alive 4. Christie, a white-haired assassin with attitude, is usually dressed to impress. Her strappy leather leotard is outright ridiculous, though. It barely covers her most salacious parts, and this dominatrix-esque outfit is only accentuated by fishnets and thigh high boots. It’s kind of ridiculous, even for Dead or Alive standards.
Super Smash Bros. has some seriously lackluster alts
Sometimes the biggest controversy around a skin is that it’s boring. Designers make one tiny change, hardly noticeable in some cases, and expect players to notice. It’s hard to appreciate such small additions.
In Super Smash Bros., for instance, players are in agreement that Pink-haired Bowser is blasé at best and pitiful at worst. Bowser usually has firey orange hair, so the lighter pink shade is barely noticeable. Alternate skins are meant to be different enough that players won’t be confused as to who is who when there are several Bowsers bouncing around the screen.
The same goes for Spiky-eared Pichu. It’s a nice reference to Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver, wherein there was a bed-headed Pichu, but the detail is very small. Again, it makes the alternate Pichu skin hard to distinguish between others. Cute, but it doesn’t do the job.
Lollipoppy was the scariest skin of all
Once upon a time, there was an abomination of a skin in League of Legends known as Lollipoppy. This reimagining of the adorable little Poppy was supposed to be a charming reference to Willy Wonka’s oompa loompas, but it just wound up being a joke. The Lollipoppy splash art was a weird, creepily smiling Poppy who looked like she was about to slip into a diabetic coma due to all the sweets.
Years later, Lollipoppy was reworked into something much less disturbing. The original, riffed on face was preserved in a leering lollipop in the new and improved splash art. This was one example of a bad skin gone good — hopefully other developers took note.