[The Aberrant Gamer is a weekly, somewhat NSFW column by Leigh Alexander, dedicated to the kinks and quirks we gamers tend to keep under our hats-- those predilections and peccadilloes less commonly discussed in conventional media. Hentai gaming, fantasy fanfics, twisted psychology and notes from the dark side-- we'll expose, discuss and enjoy the delicious underbelly of our beloved gaming universe.]

-Long-form console games demand a lot from us—tens of hours, blood, sweat and tears—and often, that’s what’s required just to finish the major story arc. The perfectionist gamer compelled to meticulously unlock, collect and complete every subquest, minigame and secret in some of today’s titles might be an example of aberrant psychology all on his own. I mean, don’t you wonder what the person who ranks Foxhound, gets straight S in Dante Must Die mode, consistently ties up 100% completion—and writes dead-serious 200-page FAQs about it, complete with ASCII diagrams—is like in real life?

We’ve all been like that at least once, though—for me, hours and hours of Chocobo Hot-and-Cold come to mind. But the consistently-obsessive completionist is an aberrant gamer for a future column. Today we’ll talk about the majority of us, and what keeps us pushing through the epics—especially as the core audience matures and has, it seems, increasingly diminishing time to pour into long, long games and all the little extras they often require to produce the most satisfying endings or end-of-game evaluation results.

In fact, it seems there’s very little these days that can motivate us to work our way down a task list of minutiae necessary to gain some reward not essential to simply finishing the game. These days, lots of people don’t care about getting every Piece of Heart, for example—but there is one reward that’s worth innumerable detours, time, and sleepless nights. Only one prize is always in fashion—the almighty flesh-baring, exploitive, jaw-dropping Alternate Costume.

The Alternate Costume is the ultimate act of video game completion, usually achievable either at the very end of a game or as a bonus incentive for a New Game Plus mode. Often, the alternate costume is completely implausible—it’s something totally out-of-character, like BDSM gear for a mannerly maiden, or completely impractical, like a silly mascot costume to be worn in a dead-serious gorefest.

The pressure’s off. You’ve won, game’s over, your duty to the characters satisfied. Now, the only way to sever the fatiguing cord of empathy connecting you to a character with whom you’ve shared goals, trials, tribulations and objectives for some sixty hours is to turn them into pure eye-candy. As a monument to this cathartic ritual, The Aberrant Gamer rounds up five of the most memorable alternate costumes in console gaming epics.

5. “Blue Virgin” – Cornelia, Shadow Hearts 2
This pretty, short-skirt-and-petticoat number is worn by a fighting marionette—not, technically, a character herself, but an adorable companion to a character who uses her as a weapon (and, eerily enough, an avatar for his late daughter). It’s memorable because it’s a copy of major heroine Alice’s dress in the original Shadow Hearts. The dress, which also allows Cornelia to perform Alice’s ultimate spell, offers a full-on rear view panty shot during the animation—a marionette wearing white undies that have a bunny on the butt is more than worthy of this list. Even more worthy is Cornelia’s “Beautiful Fool” costume—if you can call it a costume—which was cut from both the European and American releases of this game (check it out here and see why).

-4. “Octopus” – Jennifer, Rule of Rose
Rule of Rose came under fire and was excluded from release in UK for its depictions of children as victims of violence and implied sexuality. Most gamers, though, found its visuals and story more compelling than offensive, because it stopped short of being overtly exploitive. Finish the game, though, and tremulous teen Jennifer can be clad in a fetishistic nurse look, gothic Lolita ensemble, and weirdest of all, a bizarrely realistic giant octopus costume, tentacles and all, with a giant frozen tuna as a weapon. Even companion dog Brown gets a crab makeover.

-3. “Texas Cowgirl” – Fiona, Haunting Ground
Yow. Haunting Ground’s Fiona has one of the most gratuitously-rendered bodies outside of the fighting genre, and her giddyap-cowgirl ensemble is pretty eye-popping, featuring a teeny bikini and crotchless chaps. Not that Fiona’s other post-game costume changes are exactly demure. The appropriately titled “Illegal in Some States” outfit sends Fiona high-stepping in full dominatrix regalia—when I say “plunging neckline,” I mean more like a… belly line, with thigh-high boots and a bullwhip for a weapon. Just as blush-inducing is the Surgical Gown, wherein the survival-horror heroine wears little more than a very short, bloodstained tee and vulnerable-looking bare feet.

2. “Pop Sensation” – Ashley Graham, Resident Evil 4
Leon!! Help me, Leon! Help her shut up, maybe. While many gamers would like to put Ashley in her other costume—a full suit of knight armor—and slam the visor shut, it’s fun to see blond Ashley in a skin-tight white pantsuit à la Britney Spears. The major cleavage makes that part where you have to have her crawl under tables a lot more bearable. Probably won’t help her get Leon’s attention, though. And speaking of Leon-- while I’m limiting this top five to typical exploitation of sexy chicks, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that he looks pretty sexy slingin’ the Chicago Typewriter in his alternate “mafia” costume, too.

-1. “Princess Heart” – Heather Morris, Silent Hill 3
Complete with glittering, over-the-top and spot-on mahou-shojo “henshin scene”, this space-age Sailor Moon riff is equal parts funny, sexy and totally ridiculous—and speaks for itself. It’s amazing how much less scary Silent Hill 3’s Insane Cancers are when you’re wearing this, whacking them with a magical girl power wand—and true-to-form attack animation.

So go get those costumes! If you can, twirl the character models around in Gallery mode and see if you can peek up this or down that. Don’t worry. Everybody's done it. It’s the gamer’s goodbye, our way of saying, “well, it’s been fun, Babe. Now let me see some tail.”

(Thanks to Zone of the Gamers and Costume GET!, both of which were resources for this column.)

[Leigh Alexander is a blogger at her Sexy Videogameland site and reviewer for outlets including Paste Magazine. She can be reached at leigh_alexander1 AT yahoo DOT com.]