Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a new high for oldie representation in video games

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a new high for oldie representation in video games

I just finished making my character for Dragon’s Dogma 2 thanks to the free character creator demo released ahead of the game, and I’m overjoyed at how gloriously, convincingly old I can be in this game. I feel very seen and very represented.

I know this might sound a bit rich coming from a bearded, straight white man. But as a member of Generation X — I’ll be 50 this year — I belong to, arguably, the first generation to grow up on video games. And as we age, it sometimes feels as though we’re being quietly edged out, or at least ignored, by the medium we love. But a 2020 study by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe found that 31% of 45-to-64-year-olds play video games; our numbers are growing, and the demographic tsunami of retirement-age gamers is slowly building and will probably hit the industry in the next decade or so.

Video games may no longer be seen as literal child’s play, but they’re still perceived as a young person’s pastime. Some game design innovations have made it easier to keep up — particularly the advent of handhelds like the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck, which are so much more compatible with busy family life than a PC or console. However, when it comes to playable characters in games, representation of older people has been somewhat limited. In mainstream action adventures, you can be a grizzled, male silver fox like Geralt in The Witcher or Joel in The Last of Us, or you can be hot and young. As far as character creators go, you can be hot and young, or you can be hot and young with bright white hair and wrinkles that look like they’ve been painted on.

A headshot of an old white woman with a deeply wrinkled neck in the Dragon’s Dogma 2 character creator. Next to her appear a range of other old faces of various ethnicities to choose from Image: Capcom via Polygon

That’s not the case with the Dragon’s Dogma 2 character creator; it’s a marvel. Look at those deeply wrinkled faces, speaking of decades of adventure and wisdom gained! Look at the range of body types, which contains the usual variations on fit and muscular, but also “rangy and pigeon-chested,” “a bit paunchy, had too much pie,” and “I’ve seen some shit and not in a good way.” Look at the necks, which can be fat or saggy or scrawny, and aren’t all just triangles of muscle. Check out the revolutionary posture controls, which let you give yourself the slight stoop and shambling gait of an exhausted parent. It warms my cockles! These are actually older-looking bodies with older-looking skin — not just the wireframes of younger bodies that have been reskinned with the signifiers of age.

If I have a note, it’s about the range of hairstyles, which could feature more receding hairlines, more thinning hair, and a wider range of more convincing grays, as well as more suitable styles for older women. Still, I was delighted to find my own style included: “completely bald on top but letting it grow out a bit because fuck it.” Usually, your only options are bald as a cue ball, Justin Bieber’s hair but white, or Ed Harris in Love Lies Bleeding.

The posture screen in the Dragon’s Dogma 2 character creator, showing a heavyset, balding middle aged man in his underwear, walking with a slight stoop Image: Capcom via Polygon

I want to be clear that this is not just about representation for older gamers (or middle-aged gamers who are becoming increasingly aware of the relentless march of time). It can be about your role-playing taste, too. I’ve always been someone who just enjoys being an old dude in games. My main World of Warcraft character is a bald troll with a mullet of pure white hair — the trolls’ stooping gait and gnarly, big-nosed visage make them look convincing as older characters. Invariably, I try to make my characters look old, not because I feel old, but because I have a natural urge to warp video games’ stereotypically youthful portrayal of physical heroism into something more weathered or dignified. I also think old people are cool and hard-won experience is awesome.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 fulfills my dreams of being the ultimate older character in a video game. Capcom, you have the thanks of my generation of gamers. When our time comes — when we have nothing but free time, and nothing to spend our pensions on but video games — we won’t forget this.