A dark sky loomed over the city of Blogtown, even the moon and stars obscured by the thickest of black clouds. As Ricard and Pierre stood outside of a dingy apartment building, the only source of light was a single window on the second floor. Ricard, the older of the two, stood stoic against the darkness and the cold. Pierre shivered beside him and seemed cowed. He jumped when the background organ music suddenly reached a crescendo, drawing a quirked eyebrow from Ricard.
“Don’t be so jumpy, boy,” he said. “The man inside won’t hurt you as long as you’re respectful.”
“You don’t have to treat me like a child,” Pierre replied, stuttering. “I’ll complete our mission, just you wait!”
Ricard gave a smirk and opened the door to the apartment. The music grew in volume as they made their way up the stairs – they were approaching the source and soon would be upon it. At the top of the winding staircase was a solid wooden door with a silver nameplate. Otherwise unadorned, the nameplate only held two letters: AR. Pierre swallowed hard as Ricard reached up a firm hand and gave the door three solid knocks. The organ music did not stop, and no one indicated for them to come in. Yet they opened the door regardless.
The door led to an open chamber lit only by a pair of torches mounted on the wall. A man obscured by a dark cloak sat at a Nintendo Labo organ, his fingers dancing upon the cardboard keys as he filled the apartment with music. He waited until the end of a phrase (as is polite in these situations) and then ceased his song, turning to face Ricard and Pierre. His face was haggard, his eyes rimmed with violet circles and his beard scraggly and disheveled. When he spoke, his voice seemed quiet compared to the music he once played.
“Who are you? What brings you to this once-great apartment?” A look passed between Pierre and Ricard, as if to say: who’s it gonna be? Pierre balked and so Ricard took the reins.
“Sir, we are here from the International Gaming Fashion bureau. We have traveled far in search of judges for that most illustrious of fashion events, the High Score Haute Couture. We sought you out because we know of your extensive background in fashion criticism.” The man scoffed and turned back to his cardboard organ, his face illuminated in the bright light of his Nintendo Switch.
“Extensive background? I suppose you refer to that infamous article, the writing of which has now become known worldwide as the bikini incident?” He gestured to Pierre. “What about you, boy, surely you’ve heard of it?”
“Uh, I mean, that is to say…n-no, sir.”
The man dramatically collapsed onto the organ, a cacophony of discordant notes sounding all over the room. Pierre stepped forward as if to assist, but Ricard placed a firm hand on the boy’s shoulder. When the younger fashion ambassador looked back towards the older, the wiser man simply shook his head. After a moment, the organ player rose up from his seat.
“It was and still is a terrible incident! It is known all throughout the gaming fashion community. I wrote a beautiful article, an eloquent essay in five points discussing all of the benefits of wearing a bikini on the battlefield. I thought it enlightened and clever, but my critics called it archaic and foolish. ‘In an industry trying to be fashion-forward, Adventure Rules has firmly cemented itself as fashion-backward.’ Those are the reviews they wrote about me.” The man turned to face Pierre and took the young fellow by the chin, their eyes locking as he spoke his next words.
“I will never write about fashion again.”
“Mr. Shepard,” Ricard said, choosing his words carefully. “Please, we must insist upon it. The world needs your fashion expertise once more. The High Score Haute Couture is the greatest gaming fashion event the world has ever known. Two incredible and unique fashion styles have been sponsored by two of the greatest bloggers in the gaming fashion industry.” Pierre suddenly found his courage and jumped in.
“Overthinker Y…I know of him. He wrote an excellent article about the overuse of belts that deeply resonated with my own fashionable opinions. Still, I cannot be persuaded. My fashion knowledge has faded too much over the years. Besides, what do I know about compiling results for large–scale blogging events?” Ricard held up a gloved hand to request a moment of silence.
“Did my young friend not say that there were two bloggers involved? The second is pix1001 of Shoot the Rookie. To my knowledge, she wrote a rather charming piece on goggles of which you were rather fond?”
The man gasped and staggered back, his argument defeated by the sheer impressiveness of the two bloggers competing in this event. He tumbled backward into his Labo organ, all of the keys exploding out into the room. Pierre was pelted with cardboard while Ricard somehow managed not to be struck at all. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch which had been sitting on the organ’s sheet music stand was whirling freely through the air. It began to fall towards the pile of cardboard beneath, but just as it approached impact, a hand emerged from the pile and seized the gaming console. Free now from his cloak of darkness, a figure emerged from the pile of cardboard. It was Ian Shepard, the executive producer, chief editor, head writer, lead artist, and social media representative for the gaming blog Adventure Rules! He gave a smile to Ricard and Pierre as he carefully returned his Switch to its docking station.
“Thank you for coming to shake me from my doldrums. I know now that I must judge this High Score Haute Couture and help decide the most fashionable video game character of all time! We have no time to waste. Quickly, let’s make our way to the runway and bring an end to this overlong exposition.” And with that, the three men made their way to the biggest fashion event in video game history. They arrived just as the first competitor was preparing for his run. Countless gamers and fashion fans lined the seats around the catwalk while camera bulbs flashed all about the room. Pierre leaned down to speak with Ian over the roar of the crowd.
“The first competitor’s name is Repede,” he said. “He’s a real dog, sir.”
“Most men are, Pierre,” Ian replied, “but this show isn’t about his strength of character. It’s about the strength of his wardrobe.”
As is typical for gaming fashion shows of this scale, each competitor would demonstrate their fashion versatility in three distinct “walks.” Repede’s first walk focused primarily on displaying some of his key accessories: his rattling chain, his classy pipe, and his golden tail ring. Ian turned to face Ricard just as Repede’s assistant Judith descended onto the stage.
“That pipe is quite something,” he said. “It’s classy and elegant in a way which makes me feel like Repede is not a bad influence. I don’t even want to smoke, I just want a cool pipe.”
“I personally like the chains,” Ricard replied. “Their ominous jingle is perfect for setting the mood people should be in when I walk into a room.”
As the first walk ended, a song began to play in the background. Ricard immediately wrinkled his brow while Pierre’s face lit up with joy. A bright beam of light appeared on Repede, who showed off a glistening dagger as three figures appeared on stage with him. Ian watched with curious eyes as Repede showed off a number of combat maneuvers, taking down each projection with skilled ease.
“I can certainly appreciate a dog that kills people who annoy me,” Ricard said, a smirk on his face. Ian turned to face him and quirked an eyebrow.
“You’re an unusual man, Ricard. I can’t tell yet if it’s the good kind or the bad kind.” Pierre suddenly grabbed Ian’s shoulder and gestured to the runway.
“Look! Look! Repede is doing his final walk!”
Taking a fashionable red dagger in his mouth and building up a blue light around his body, Repede became the only light on the stage as he darted down the runway. With an epic outburst of power, Repede unleashed lightning and rain all upon the stage. Flashes of brilliant light burned the image of Repede and his red dagger into the minds of the fans. Ian looked about for a moment, confused that the rain was not getting his clothes wet, but Pierre had opened an umbrella and was holding it over them.
“I came prepared, sir,” he said. “Great show, eh?”
“Absolutely,” Ian replied. “Repede has a very cool aesthetic even without a lot of actual fashion to display. His lack of a busy wardrobe allowed him to focus on a few key features. And working other characters from his game into his routine must have been an exciting twist for fans of the Tales franchise.” Ricard frowned at that.
“Ah, but is the reference to these characters unwelcome for those unfamiliar with Tales? I don’t know any of Repede’s friends and they mean nothing to me.” Pierre furrowed his brow and a flash of lightning accentuated his features as he pointed his free hand at Ricard.
“But sir! You must admit that Repede’s moves were very impressive! Action, magic, and fashion all in one show? There was even that lovely song during the second act. I personally felt that Repede was incredible!”
“More action than fashion, I thought,” Ricard replied. “You’re too distracted by showmanship, Pierre. True fashion should speak for itself. It is subtle, understated, classy. The pipe, perhaps, provided a bit of that. But ultimately I feel Repede was too brash in his presentation to win this competiton.”
“Weren’t you the one saying that you wanted a dog like Repede?” Ian asked. Ricard shrugged.
“Just because I want a dog like him doesn’t mean I want to run around wearing a chain and a ring on my tail and call that an outfit.” Ian sighed and turned towards the runway.
“The second competitor is getting ready to come out,” he said. “Let’s focus on that before we make any judgments.”
Music began to wash over the crowd as a flickering green light appeared on the stage. That green changed to a rainbow of colors as light reflected off of the golden armor of the second competitor, who began to move down the runway. As they went, the armor began to dissipate and reveal a lithe woman in a form-fitting blue flightsuit. She performed a number of acrobatic stunts – in high heels, no less! – before returning to her armor and then firing a missile only to blast it out of the air with frightening precision.
“Before you say you want one of those,” Ian said, looking at Ricard, “I should warn you that saying such a thing about a woman has very different implications than saying it about a dog.” Ricard shrugged.
“I just want that armor.”
As the music changed, so did the nature of Samus Aran’s second walk. Once again in her blue flightsuit, a series of green lasers erupted before her. As she interfered with each beam of light, it played a sound – it soon became apparent that she was actually playing music along with the tune. This became even more impressive when she played the notes with her legs while cartwheeling. The demonstration of athletic prowess led into a move where pieces of many different suits of armor cycled on and off of Samus’s body, showing off a number of armor styles.
“How is she even doing that?” Pierre asked. Ian shrugged.
“No idea, but it’s pretty cool. Oh hey, there’s some new music playing.”
Here Samus showed off the morph ball mode of her suit in a giant game of pinball, bouncing around the runway and racking up points in the game – and with the audience. Her final strike freed the space pirate Ridley, but he was no match for Samus’s combat abilities. She unleashed the full power of the power suit against him before then taking the time to display each part of the armor and how it worked before striking a final pose that left everyone breathless.
“Oh my goodness, sir!” Pierre exclaimed. “She did it! The superhero landing!” Ricard scoffed.
“Anyone can do that move. I was too busy focused on how unfashionable that suit was. Did you see the awful shoulder pads? And the flightsuit underneath was too revealing. A classy woman would never wear such a tight outfit. It leaves nothing to the imagination.” Pierre became quite frustrated and slammed his hand on the back of Ian’s chair, barely missing the blogger’s head.
“Repede is the one who left nothing to the imagination! It’s a double standard to allow him to use his body as an asset but then to criticize Samus for the form-fitting nature of her own suit…sir.” Ian raised a hand to silence the two of them.
“I concede that neither her armor nor the suit beneath it particularly appealed to my own personal sense of fashion. However, objectively speaking Samus did show off a lot more fashion than Repede.”
“More outfits does not translate directly to more fashion,” Ricard replied. “Ultimately, I think both competitors made the same mistake – an overemphasis on showmanship over fashionable outfits.”
“I think that’s where you’re wrong, Ricard,” Ian said. “Both of their shows greatly featured action, yes, but that action had an underlying purpose. Look at Samus, for instance. Why did she do so many flips and kicks in those heels? To show that they are comfortable and easy to move about in. Why did she cartwheel and stretch in her skin-tight flightsuit? To practically demonstrate its flexibility and lightness. The whole last part of her show was about displaying her power suit’s functionality. Sure, her show on the surface may have appeared to be nothing more than a concert with some flashy lights and dancing, but in reality everything she did was a way of telling us about the outfits that she wore. Each of these shows should be evaluated not just on the outfits, but on the display of ability that demonstrated exactly what each outfit could do.”
Ricard stumbled back, his pride wounded by this brilliant argument. He tumbled backward into a table and his glasses fell from the second floor down to the ground level. Pierre stepped over to his older companion and offered to help him up, but Ricard refused. The younger fashion fan then turned to Ian.
“Sir…who will you vote for?” Ian brought a hand to his beard and stroked it thoughtfully. Repede looked great and had a very cool outfit that the blogger found visually pleasing. The fantasy aesthetic appealed to him more than the sci-fi look, and Repede’s simple accessories seemed versatile. Yet when looking at the big picture, he thought about everything he’d told Ricard about Samus’s show. Her three walks did an excellent job of demonstrating not only the look of her gear but also the practical function. It was a seamless and subtle display that made anyone who saw it want a power suit of their own. His decision was clear.
“People of the crowd!” Ian declared. “I am ready to announce my vote. After seeing both shows and carefully considering the fashion of each competitor, I believe that the winner of this competition is Samus Aran, sponsored by Overthinker Y. Everyone should give a huge round of applause for Repede, who fought hard to impress with his fashion and fell behind Samus by only an inch. Thank you all for coming today, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s High Score Haute Couture. Three cheers for our winner, Samus!” As the crowd hip-horrayed, Pierre turned to Ricard, who was still sitting on the floor.
“Sir, should we remind him that there are two other judges who have to submit their votes before a winner is final?” Ricard shook his head.
“Just let him go, Pierre.”