The Character Design of Kat

After recent article on the BD aesthetics of Gravity Rush, here are some notes on game’s titular character, Kat. With the recent controversy around the response to the Feminist Frequency video, it’s the perfect timing to look at a female protagonist in a current game. This may contain mild spoilers, but I encourage you to read on. There is no twist ending in the game and I’ll do my best to be vague about the details.


Not sure if I’m cool with Kat’s costume. It certainly doesn’t look very practical.

Kat is a female protagonist. This is rare. We don’t have many of those in games. Of the few there are, many are depicted in an exploitative fashion.

Kat doesn’t wear much. This is not rare at all and quite unfortunate as it follows the sexy female protagonist cliché. She wears a black leotard with golden decorations that extend over her thighs. On a positive side, the leotard is not skin-tight as in other super heroine costumes. Rather, the fabric seems to be a bit lose as it gathers folds around Kat’s hips. The tiara is also cut very wide at the bottom so it covers up her butt cheeks. It is even somewhat plausible thematically, as Kat performs some quite acrobatic stunts when using her gravity shifting powers. Additonally Kat also wears a long neckerchief, which looks like a cape at times and makes her appear more dressed than she actually is. Personally, I would feel more comfortable if she was wearing more. On the other hand, if the developers wanted to exploit the character, they could have done worse. To be honest, I think they actually did. Raven – Kat’s antagonist at the beginning of the game – seems like a sexier version of Kat.

Kat Concepts

The design team apparently went though multiple iterations of Kat’s design. Personally, I think the red one second from the right feels more comfortable. Source: Joystiq

Kat wears high heel sandals. I don’t feel the high heels at all. Kat frequently falls from great heights and runs over precarious surfaces. High heels would be her last choice for footwear. It is established early on that Kat’s superpowers prevent her from hurting herself when falling down. Still, the choice feels very dissonant with her life style and confirms the sexy cliché. I think a good counter-example in this regard are Chell’s Long Fall Boots from Portal 2. They introduce the idea of high heels but mix it with the aesthetic of ski boots, Powerskips and carbon fibre artificial limbs. The result is very memorable especially because it seems so plausible. It confirms a lot of what we learn about Chell in the game.

Kat's shoes vs. Long Fall Boots

Kat’s high heels (left) seem to be at odds with her superhero lifestyle. Conversely, Chell’s Long Fall Boots (right) support Chell’s lifestyle while retaining the idea of somewhat feminine footwear.

Kat is not overly sexy. Kat doesn’t have huge breasts. Kat doesn’t have a big butt. This may partly be because Kat is supposed to be a youthful and slightly inexperienced character. In any case, the game doesn’t seem to have too much of a Male Gaze issue – the camera never really focuses on Kat in a sexual way.

Gravity Rush Sexy Fanart

Ass cheeks and broken spines – Unofficial Kat fanart shows her in a way the actual game never does. Artwork by simosi and Rak

Kat is never being rescued by anybody. In this game, Kat is doing all the rescuing. In fact, the game begins with Kat rescuing a young boy and later a police man. The final mission has Kat being captured and rescued by her friends. But that mission has all characters working together anyway.

Kat is not shy to kick butt. She is doing a lot of fighting. She is shown standing up for her beliefs and for others. She is valiant and courageous.

Kat seems to be very concerned with how other think of her. There are multiple instances where Kat seems to have very keen interest in her public opinion. There are examples where this is tied to Kat’s looks. In one case, a woman from the “pleasure district” comments on how she “doesn’t have much of a body”, which Kat seems to be upset by. In another mission, Kat seems to be pleased by a newspaper photo of her, pointing out that it was showing “her good side”. Like with her costume, this is an ambiguous character trait. On the one hand, it could be seen as a reiteration of female body shame – it suggest a female character is only worthy if she looks good. On the other hand, a preoccupation with public opinion is a very common theme among all super hero characters – Spiderman for instance. It’s a tricky subject. Again, Portal 2 solved this issue much better. In that game, body shame is used by Glados, the villain to mock Chell. It comes off as petty, ridiculously misplaced and laughably ineffective.

Kat never has to seduce anybody. That’s not what Kat’s power is.

Kat Catwoman

Sadly, it’s difficult to maintain goodwill for the intentions of Kat’s character designers when they are throwing away their creation by bringing out a slutty Catwoman costume DLC. But it’s a good example how a sexist character design can “infect” other franchises.

Kat never falls in love with anybody. There is no prince charming to “rescue” Kat from her life as a single woman. Kat’s purpose in life is not tied to a romantic relationship. But Kat is not blind to romantic encounters. In one mission, Kat is swooned by a local heartbreaker into helping her. The mission culminates in a romantic night (sky-)walk. However, at the end of the mission Kat hooks up the heartbreaker with his former girlfriend and walks away.

Kat never looks up to a male. There are multiple male characters in the game, whom she receives missions from. But they are always depicted as being weaker and asking her for help, rather then having authority and giving her orders.

Kat is bit of an anime cliché. She is extrovert, cheerful, naive and clumsy. Also, she has amnesia.

Kat Closeup

Half Pollyanna, half Genki Girl, full Amnesia – Kat sometimes comes off a bit too stereotypical and shallow.

Kat is not annoying. She is naive but not stupid. Some characters may deceive her, but she always figures it out eventually and fixes her mistakes. She is cheerful but not submissive. She has her values and stands her ground – most notably in her rejection of joining the military.

Kat has some clever theming going on. Her name is “Kat” and she has a cat as a pet. The game contains multiple word-plays on the word “cat”. For example, the highest level of reputation is called “Top Kat”. There is even a Catwoman DLC for her. A cat fits well to a character, who moves about by falling. After all, cats always land on their feet. The cat may be also considered a nod to Sailor Moon. Kat indeed exhibits some Magical Girl characteristics. However she doesn’t fully belong in that genre. And she clearly avoids the Cat Girl stereotype.

Kat is not an exception. She is no Smurfette. By the end of the game, she is one of 3 very different female super-heroines who unite to save the day – Kat, Raven and Yunika. This is perhaps the one thing Gravity Rush does better than any other game featuring female heroines. Jade and Chell may be stronger female characters, but they are lone outliers even within their own worlds.

Gravity Rush Girls

Girl Power: Kat is not the only female heroine in the game.

I like Kat even though her design is far from perfect. It still taps into a lot of stereotypes, especially when her costume. That being said, I do appreciate the things that went right when designing her. I’m especially glad to see that that she never has to seduce anybody and that she never has to be rescued by anybody. Kat is a strong, independent protagonist operating in a world, where female heroines are not uncommon. She is perhaps not quite up there with Jade. But if I had a daughter (or a son for that matter), I would feel comfortable with her playing Gravity Rush.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

3 responses to “The Character Design of Kat”

  1. DOWNLOADABLE OBJECT « games, unbuttoned.

    [...] an extended analysis of Kat’s default costume, as well as the costumes of her peers, see this post by Krystian Mejewski at Game Design [...]

  2. Evilagram

    Wow, I never noticed that Kat was actually in the title of Katvity Rushkat. I guess she is a titular, meaning her name appears in the title, character after all.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Sulking over the FemFreq article? Man, this really got to you, din’t it?


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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