Gold Gun Skins Are Gaming’s Most Pervasive Aesthetic Plague

Photo: Blizzard

In 1974, Roger Moore starred in The Man with the Golden Gun, a James Bond film that puts 007 against an assassin who uses a custom golden pistol that shoots golden bullets.

In 1997, the famed Golden Gun made its way into Goldeneye 007 on Nintendo 64, appearing in the Egyptian mission, and then becoming unlockable as a cheat. The one-hit-kill weapon actually became its own game mode, with “Golden Gun” signifying that it would only take one bullet to kill anyone, and the term is still used today to describe instant-kill modes in games.

Today, golden guns are everywhere in gaming, but they usually don’t kill people in one shot. Rather, golden guns, or gold-plated guns, or guns with gold skins, have become one of the most pervasive rewards and bonuses in gaming.

And it’s the worst.

This is no longer a James Bond reference, but something that draws instead more from the types of drug cartel leaders and African warlords who coat pistols or AK-47s in gold as some sort of ostentatious, murderous flair. But games have taken the idea and run with it, and now, it’s hard to find a single shooter than doesn’t offer gold skins for its guns in some form or another.

I don’t really know what inspired this rant. Maybe it was the fact that in doing research for my Gears of War 4 piece, that I found that golden guns were yet again being offered as a pre-order bonus. Maybe it was that Destiny just rolled out a ton of new weapon “ornaments” that do really interesting things with weapon skins (though there are at least two golden skins in the bunch as well). Maybe it was the fact that I’m currently playing ranked mode inOverwatch, saving up points for a golden weapon that will look ugly as sin on every single character.

Photo: MassiveThe core issue I have with gold gun skins is that as a reward or pre-order bonus or what have you, there’s really no lazier offering in gaming. Slap gold on anything, and suddenly it’s supposed to be coveted. But instead, almost always, these skins just look terrible, and I wouldn’t be sad if I never saw another one make an appearance in a shooter again.

My gripe with gold skins is almost purely aesthetic, and the fact that they’re used so prevalently across every single game out there. The Division has a number of truly terrible weapon skins, for instance, but it’s the fact that almost a half dozen of its “named” weapons (Pakhan, Midas, etc.) are simply gold-plated as a way of making them “special” which I find most upsetting.

Gold weapons look terrible.

They look terrible when you’re using them in an FPS, as a giant shiny blob of yellow in your field of vision at all times is more distracting than anything, and can actually be a detriment to play. In third person shooters, or games where you can at least zoom out to see your character, they completely destroy the aesthetics of pretty much anyone who isn’t also wearing solid gold armor. There’s nothing weirder to me than seeing a gritty, dirt-covered Gears of War soldier sporting a golden lancer, or the black-clad Reaper in Overwatchsuddenly sporting twin golden sawed-off shotguns. It’s not a cool aesthetic prize, it’s a quick and easy way to make your character look like absolute garbage.

Photo: EA

Photo: EA

I am not against the concept of weapon skins. Some look great, and yes, others besides gold can look terrible, but it’s just that gold is sowidespread at this point, despite being bad, that it’s almost lost all meaning, and exists only to create an easy-to-implement reward tier that also looks terrible.

I was very disappointed when Overwatch, a brilliant shooter with exceptionally creative character design and beautiful aesthetics, decided to make gold guns a reward for ranked play (and a few gold swords and hammers as well). In a game known for crafting gorgeous character models and excellent skins, sticking a glowing gold weapon in the hands of these heroes completely ruins the aesthetic, and it’s supposed to be the most coveted reward in the game.

This is an issue that I realize matters to almost zero people, and many will wonder why I bothered talking about this at all, but I’ve reached a limit when it comes to developers thinking that the best way to reward players for in-game achievements or the simple act or pre-ordering is to slap some gold textures on a weapon and call it a day. Truly great weapon skins require craftsmanship. If there was one positive thing that came out of the CS:GO weapon skin gambling drama, it’s that it was a showcase for a ton of truly excellent skins both official and fan-made, that showed just how creative the concept can be.

Photo: The Coalition

Photo: The Coalition

Developers can do better. Some already are doing a good job, but so many are reliant on the golden gun archetype that they can’t seem to muster up the energy to do anything truly innovative with rewards. Every. Single. Shooter does not need a golden gun tier of rewards. It was maybe unique for a while (even if it’s always looked bad), but now? It’s a plague upon the land, and I’d like to see it wiped out entirely.

Thanks for joining me on this entirely useless tirade, and remember, just say no to gold.