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A video game playable character has quite a few sprites (2D) / skins and models (3D) to deal with, which makes it hard to justify changing that valuable art for something as fickle as equipment. Drawing a 2D hero in the starting armor and the most powerful armor alone would double the sprite count for every frame of the hero doing everything in almost every direction; this only gets worse with combinations of different types of equipment. Some 2D titles ameliorate this by superimposing sprites on top of each other, or relying on {{Palette Swap}}ping. Three-dimensional models make this far easier to avoid, since you can simply change textures/skins, or bolt extra models onto the same skeleton, while reusing animations.

As a result, the hero you see on the game screen usually doesn't represent the hero you see on the equipment screen. It's become so ridiculous that some games will just skip giving the heroes any body armor at all, which is okay because they're heroes and heroes are MadeOfIron. Still, by the end of the game, it can be hard to excuse your hero bumbling around in civilian clothes while going up against the 10-story BonusBoss.

This trope seems to be fading as 3D graphics become more common, space becomes cheaper, and game engine-rendered realtime {{cutscene}}s become more prevalent. 3D models are completely free of the exponential increase in artwork that plagued games with single-sprite 2D models, as each additional piece of equipment can be simply added rather than having to re-create every permutation of animation; on the other hand, weaponry and equipment not currently in use are often ignored in third-person games so player characters doesn't look ridiculous having four full-size rifles dangling off various parts of their body. In addition, armor is often intentionally left Informed Equipment to maintain a [[IconicOutfit recognizable image associated with a character]] and avoid hiding their face.

Compare NoCutsceneInventoryInertia, where occurrences of this trope are limited to cutscenes, and the more general LimitedWardrobe.

Contrast VirtualPaperDoll, RainbowPimpGear (all gear is visible, and the game lets you mix and match as you like).

!!Straight Examples:

[[folder:Action Adventure]]
* ''VideoGame/DustAnElysianTail'' limited passive items to things that logically wouldn't show up on the player character's sprite (pendants worn under his cloak, rings worn under his gloves, and sharpening items for his one and only sword) for exactly this reason; the sprite is hand-drawn and uses frame-by-frame animation.

[[folder:Adventure Games]]
* The first four games in the ''VideoGame/QuestForGlory'' series did this: your character's sprite was always shown wearing a leather jerkin, despite the fact that the Fighter class was supposed to sell the jerkin in the very first game in exchange for a chainmail vest. In the fifth and final game, which was the only one to use 3D models, the hero's in-game appearance changes every time he puts on a new piece of armor.

[[folder:Fighting Games]]
* ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'' has an even more exaggerated version. The characters can equip completely different weapon types (the [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyI Warrior of Light]], for example, can equip axes as well as swords), but no matter what they'll always use their default weapon in combat, bar alternate costumes that still don't reflect their equipment.
* ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros for 3DS/[=WiiU=]'' has equipment that fighters can equip. They match up with what the fighter wears (for example, overalls can be worn by Mario, Luigi, and Wario), but it doesn't change their appearance.

[[folder:First Person Shooter]]
* Infamously present in many early shooters: The marine in ''VideoGame/{{Doom}}'' netgames was always shown carrying the same rifle normal zombies used, making it impossible for other players to tell what they were up against.
** There are some people working on combating this, for some ''Doom'' source-ports, and some mods (like ''VideoGame/BrutalDoom'') have gone out of their way to give the player unique sprites for each individual weapon.
** A variation on this is the inability to tell what items a multiplayer opponent is carrying in reserve, allowing someone to romp around seemingly helpless with a pistol only to whip out a three foot long {{BFG}} at the last moment. A lot of games starting from when ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}'' and ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare'' came out have fixed this to an extent by showing carried weapons (although not grenades and reserve ammo), and the latter also has the odd issue of ''pistols'' being stowed on a character's back rather than in a holster. Attachments on the weapons are still a frequent victim of this, where at best you can expect the dropped model of a weapon to show that it has a GrenadeLauncher; otherwise your only recourse to see what a gun's previous owner had on it is walking over it to get the "press