How Aloy Became The Face Of PlayStation

How Aloy Became The Face Of PlayStation
This article is sponsored by PlayStation’s Horizon: Forbidden West.

Every woman deserves a strong female lead to look up to. From enduring pop culture characters like Alien’s Ellen Ripley to Hermione Granger, female leads are a hook for young women looking to make sense of the world in all its mess and chaos.

Horizon’s main character Aloy has rapidly filled this place for young gamers.

Horizon: Zero Dawn (certified gold in January 2021) was released to immense popularity in 2017. Praised by critics and fans alike for its strong visuals (set in post-apocalyptic Utah), deep characterisation and combat style, Aloy has swiftly become the face of Sony’s future, amassing an army of dedicated fans. Voiced by American actress Ashly Burch, Aloy is the strong, fearless lead that propels the game’s narrative — players emote through the character, developing a unique relationship with her throughout gameplay. She’s the kind of representation and ‘icon’ Sony needed — before Aloy, Sony and PlayStation didn’t exactly have a ‘face’.

Aloy is synonymous with the brand and has since transcended the console, reaching new heights.

After years of patiently waiting (and the rumour mill about the game’s development going into overdrive). Horizon: Forbidden West is set for release on February 18th. With enhanced graphics, new mechanics and intriguing plotline in-store, the game will see Aloy’s growing legacy develop — but how exactly did we get here?

Where It All Began

Guerilla Games’ initial development for Horizon: Zero Dawn commenced just after 2011’s Killzone 3. Game director, Mathijs de Jonge, said that the idea for Horizon was pitched by Guerrilla Games’ studio art Director, Jan-Bart, and that developers knew “they wanted a female protagonist fighting machines on a lush Earth far in the future.”

While the overarching theme was set, Lead Narrative Designer John Gonzalez (who’d previously written on Fallout: New Vegas) spent “hundreds of hours” rewriting 20 versions of the game that explored different concepts and characters. The final magic they found between the narrative and gameplay was glued together by Aloy.

Aloy came to life through a combination of Guerilla’s impeccable design — in which the studio has been praised for its attention to detail in her overall look and through the personality and richness Burch’s voicework gave her.

Why Aloy Is So Important

“In the initial concept art, there was this young hunter with red hair,” said Gonzales explaining the team’s in-depth development of Aloy. Gonzales has also stated that they “never thought that it would be a selling point that we have a female protagonist, we thought it would be more a selling point that you’re being the best possible person and character to play as in this world.” The authenticity in crafting Aloy to become the best character possible, rather than crafting her with the stereotypical hallmarks of a ‘female’ character, explains why fans have shown such genuine connection over the years.

It’s also clear that fans were yearning for a character like Aloy — even when Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, revealed in an early interview that they were “nervous” to see the reaction to a game with a female lead, even after rigorous market research. “That has always been the vision by the team, but we had a discussion. Is it risky to do a female character?” said Yoshida.

Kotaku’s Hayley Williams previously reported that Zero Dawn was “an unequivocal landmark of gender equality in AAAs”. “She’s a strong female character in every way, from her practical, unsexualised character design to the pivotal role she plays in the story. Hell, she even comes from a shamelessly matriarchal goddess-worshipping society,” expanded Williams.

In Horizon: Forbidden West, Aloy’s character design will include things like peach fuzz, tousled hair, and Uncanny Valley-esque realistic freckles, while her clothing will stretch realistically at the seams — giant steps for progressive character design.

PlayStation’s Newest Hero

In her short lifespan, Aloy has transcended the confines of Horizon. For example, Fortnite released an Aloy skin in April 2021 — a huge crossover.

“Fortnite is filled with skins drawn from pop culture like John Wick, various Star Wars characters, and a long list of Marvel and DC superheroes. The fact that Aloy gets to stand next to such famous characters in Fortnite proves that Horizon is also a heavy hitter,” said Stan Hogeweg of GameRant, explaining the significance of the move. In September 2021, Aloy also received the Genshin Impact collaboration treatment as well.

The fact that Guerilla Games have pushed so many boundaries in the game’s aesthetic and design is also telling of just how much confidence Sony has in the longevity of the series, and Aloy as a character. The hype for Forbidden West is also immense online right now — judging by that alone, Aloy’s impact is already set to be a longstanding one.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Ashly Burch was British. She is not. She is American. We’ve updated the piece accordingly and apologise for the error.


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