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The Internet Is In An Uproar Over Horizon: Forbidden West's New Character Design

Many "Horizon" fans appreciated the rich, detailed setting and fluid gameplay presented in the "Horizon: Forbidden West" State of Play trailer from last week. However, others felt there was more to be desired — not in terms of gameplay, but about how the main character Aloy looks. Some fans noticed that she appeared slightly different from her previous design in "Horizon: Zero Dawn." Her rounded cheeks in particular attracted the attention of internet trolls and unhappy gamers.

In a protected tweet (via ScreenRant) Twitter user @ApexAlphaJ seemingly fueled much of the fanfare with a bold claim that Aloy added to a trend of "masculine as hell" female protagonists with "barely no curves or rough non feminine features." He also claimed that Ellie, the co-protagonist of "The Last of Us Part 2," was similarly masculine. According to @ApexAlphaJ, they are "unlike the average woman," and they suggested that Sony should "hire fans" to create better-looking female characters.

The original tweet included a comparison photo, in which the left side depicted Aloy as she appeared in the new trailer, while the other was a heavily-edited fan version. The edited version smoothed out Aloy's skin, applied eyeliner and mascara, and flashed white pearly teeth. As pointed out by some fans on Twitter, this edited version of Aloy was originally created as a parody of exactly this kind of discourse.

What the discourse over Aloy's looks really means

What might seem like just a rude take actually touches on other problematic points in the games industry. Furious fans have bashed the tweet to argue that Aloy doesn't need an alternate design to appeal to the male gaze. Others also pointed out a few reasons why a more glamorous Aloy wouldn't be realistic in a post-apocalyptic San Fransisco setting. First off, she doesn't have access to makeup or other beauty products that would elevate her to the model standards seen in today's Instagram influencers. Second, who would care about looking good when her life is on the line?

Some argued that, though Aloy looks great either way, the angle the original tweet included wasn't the most flattering one. One user took multiple screenshots of Aloy from different angles and under different lighting, pointing out that she still looks great, while some angles look even better. The argument over Aloy's appearance has naturally turned into an internet meme, in which people paste the fan edit of Aloy over other characters' faces or make jokes about "hir[ing] fans."

In just the past few years, discussions regarding female protagonists in games have become a hot topic in titles like "The Last of Us 2" and "Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart." Female characters have evolved from hyper-sexualized or otherwise flat characters that only exist to be protected by a male protagonist, but if the hubbub concerning Aloy is any indication, this progression still seems to be in for an uphill battle.