Monday, October 17, 2011

Simulated Womanhood

Confession: I've never really understood the male need to play video games. Not for lack of trying -- I've dated a few video-game-playing dudes and 2 of my 3 brothers are gamers. It's just always baffled me -- I get bored and/or frustrated almost immediately when I try to play. Aside from my brief obsession with F-Zero on Super Nintendo in the early 90s, I've just never been into non-board games.
This was the case, at least, until I got an iPad. Suddenly, I'm into games. Specifically, simulated reality kinds of games featuring female protagonists. My favorite is Sally, of Sally's Spa and Sally's Salon (Luxury Edition).

In Sally's Spa and Sally's Salon, you play a Sally, an enterprising young woman who operates her own business. Customers come in demanding various services (facials, massages, manicures) and you must provide those services in a timely manner. The faster and more efficiently you serve your clients, the higher tips you earn, and that money can then be put back into the business in the form of upgrading equipment or hiring employees to assist you. Take my word for it, this game is super fun and well-designed.

And then there's Top Girl.

In Top Girl, you are a model whose objective is to buy as many clothes as possible in order to be as hot as possible in order to score the hottest man possible. No joke. Each item of clothing has a hotness quotient and the game makes a distinction between daytime hot (what you wear to work) and nighttime hot (what you wear to the club where you pick up guys). If you try to go to the club in your work attire, you will be told you are not hot enough and sent back home to change.

The game also punishes you for not playing it -- i.e. if you don't play for a day or two, you can expect your boyfriend to dump you as soon as you return because he's feeling neglected. Just like real life! And boyfriends are important in the world of Top Girl, because they can buy you clothes as gifts, and the more clothes you have, the more stores you can "unlock" in the mall.

It's all very sordid. Not to mention the fact that the game tries at every turn to get you to spend your own money to enhance the experience of playing it. The game app is free, but if you're willing to buy credits on iTunes, you can fast-track and get ahead faster.

My boyfriend is so disturbed by Top Girl that he went out of his way to research another alternative for me, a less anti-feminist sim game. So now I also have Kudos 2, on my computer at home.

Kudos 2 is not bad. I find myself making decisions for my little waitress avatar (named Holly) that I wish I made in my real life. For instance, Holly loves to go jogging and clean her apartment. And she often chooses to stay home with a book instead of go to the bar with friends. I should probably be more like Holly. The problem I'm running into, though, is that my sim friends keep dumping me because I don't go out with them enough. Holly is not very popular, but boy, is she in shape and clean. And fiscally responsible -- she walks 4 miles to work every day instead of paying for the bus!

I'm not sure playing video games is a positive step in my adulthood...but it is a fascinating one. Not to worry, I still read books and stuff. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go kiss my boyfriend on Top Girl (which I can only do once every 90 minutes) so he'll get me those stilettos I've been eyeing.

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