I noticed that a lot of games tend to have hats. I was wondering why? Is it some sort of tradition to add hats to your games? What makes this trend so popular in game development?
Players like to personalize their characters. Players also like to show off their achievements in the game to other players. Hats are a very easy to implement way to do that.
- Because they are right on top of the character's head, they are a very visible feature. A hat can usually be seen from most angles other players will usually see the character.
- They don't have any joints which require complex animations. You can simply append them statically to the head-bone. That makes them simple to produce for 3d artists.
- Novelty hats can have almost any shape imaginable, so the artists have a lot of creative freedom.
- They are unlikely to interfere with any other features or animations of the character model.
Beyond a game design perspective, the reason a lot of games have hats is mostly due to Team Fortress 2's hat system.
Team Fortress 2 added hats in 2009. The ability to trade hats and hats being at different rarities made them into a very popular feature and somewhat of an inside joke (being that Team Fortress 2 was a hat trading game with a FPS minigame).
Games have had cosmetics in some form or another for a long time, but TF2 certainly popularised the idea of hats being used. Subsequently, other games used hats as cosmetics, often as a reference to TF2.
- ... are easy to design/make
- ... don't require much space in an inventory (depends on the game)
- ... are easy to theme according to an in-game event or a away-from-keyboard event (such as Halloween and FIFA World cup)
- ... can show off how long the player has been playing the game, or how dedicated he is
- ... can let the player to show off without masking/hiding the face of the character; or it can be used to mask the player's face, depending on the hat.
Commercial Reasons for using Hats in Video Games
I want to outline the commercial incentive to game publishers (and distributors) to utilize hats as a cosmetic feature in a video game. This commercial reasoning is directly related to the sentimental value gamers often experience. All points addressed use reference to previously mentioned reasons (which are largely valid reasons).
- Hats give us a feeling of independence and a sense of autonomy while playing a game that we like - particularly in a game with a community that we feel we're a part of. This makes us feel accomplished and gives us a sense of reward.
- (mentioned earlier - RE: hats showing accomplishment, loyalty) These attributes keep gamers engaged while playing, and encourage players to continue supporting the game - commercially keeping the game relevant, while satisfying players psychological need for their own ability to display an item that is a statement of their loyalty, or their general position in the game; and in some cases: personal wealth.
- Commercially, these games engage a high number of players, who may continue their subscription with their goal being set on the attainment of a particular "hat" ("cosmetic symbol"). This also contributes to the competitive aspect - further fueling players to play more, and keep the community alive.
Lastly, a note on controversy related to greed and increasing profit margins thru simple additions. I would suspect that many view these game items as a poor, "sell-out" features as many see certain micro-transactions based games that use a "pay to win" model. I'm sure many, as I do - disagree with this logic. The game developers only stay profitable by adding attractive and enticing content that players want. With the addition of hats to a game - it is unarguably a cheap way (little relative expense is needed by the developer) to keep players immersed in the virtual environment,to sustain profits, and even to keep the development team engaged with the community, providing artists with the ability to make decisions about upcoming design content.