Dollmakers, a short-short overview
Internet access has brought many different cultures in our homes. Through different sites we see differences as well as the common ground. Take pixeldolls for instance. When The Palace started out with simple pixel dolls in limited colours, they took their appearance from western cartoon figures. When the Asian world introduced avatar chat sites, they came up with detailed and colourful little dolls in perfect pixel style. And from there, the dollmaker and dress up scene evolved even further.
For me dolling is interwoven with dollmakers. The first I saw dolls, the early preps and then uniques, were all offered in dollmaker. The creator of the parts gave you the chance to create your own doll. Or someone went to The Palace Chat rooms and collected free ”props” to make their dollmakers. Credit was not often given to the right person. But we were young and free, it was like the 60s of the dolling era… People just enjoyed what they could do with it.
Dolls are borderless
But as the internet widened and got faster, it was easier to get in contact with non-western sites. In Asia, the internet was used to chat as wel as play games. Many sites used games and chat to attract members, mostly with the intention to sell them something. Sites such as Candybar, Sayclub and Lemonball all had their ways of making money through what they offered on their sites: games and avatars, in addition to mini-homepages and clubs.
The Korean Avatar site Candybar is one of the oldest still running pixel doll avatar sites in Korea. When I was first introduced to the site in 2001, the site was only in Korean and many of my younger doller friends did not know how to get to the pretty dress up games. All they saw was a site that had dolls they could dress up, much the same as the sites that had prep dollmakers and unique dollmakers. The fact that you don”t have to be a member to play with the dress up features was a great draw. Soon candybar dollmakers appeared, just as there were prepdollmakers. Very often a credit back to candybar was ”forgotten”.
In the early days many dollers thought this was the work of one or a group of dollers. It did not seem like a commercial site, and yet at the same time it seemed perfectly okay to make dolls there and show them off without crediting the original site. Then there were also dollers who thought candybar ripped off other images, or traced them, without permission. And as far as I know, sites like candybar, Sayclub and Bugs did get permission or even paid image licensing to use images from for instance Disney, and other artists.
Flash Dress Up Games
Not long after the boom in pixel avatar chatsites, and the demise of a few such as Sayclub, a new type of dollmaker was introduced. I first found them on Chinese sites. They were not pixel dolls, but flash-driven applications with dolls that look more like regular drawings than pixeled. Smooth edges and transparent clothing, all in a neat packages of a multi-functional dressup game. Soon after that we saw sites like Stardoll rise up, with dolls bases on celebrities and their outfits.
Dollers’ Attitude to Dollmaker Dress Up Games
How do those who are Dollers look at these dress up games? Some dislike them because they are not art, or hand drawn. They say it is not creative to just drag around images someone else has made. Some see the dollmakers as pure entertainment and love playing with them. Some even get inspired by them. Whatever you think of them, the dollmakers and dress up games are here and I believe that the young kids playing with them now, may one day be the topdollers of their time.
To round off, I like dollmakers. I always have. I wish more dollers would have at least one original dollmaker on their site. For many would-be dollers it could be the push to make their own dolls, from scratch. And if nothing else, it is just fun to play with. Even for experienced handdrawn dollers.
This article first appeared in PxT Magazine in March 2010
Drag and drop dollmakers were among the first to offer an easy way to create a doll without having to draw. Though it is great fun, dolls made in a dollmaker are not on the same level as handdrawn digital dolls. Dolls made in someone else”s dollmaker should always be linked back to the original maker.
Drag and drop dollmakers came about around the same time as Kisekae Set System (KiSS). Recently flash based dress up games with larger doll-figures have been appearing online. Most of these are based on celebrities and attract a large group of young girls.
To make your own dollmaker you can go to Ninique”s site and get her dollmaker code. You will need a website to show your own dollmaker on, and you will need to draw all parts of the dollmaker yourself.
See also: What’s the deal with pixel art