Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ubisoft makes games for girls that I want to KILL WITH FIRE

[Edited to fix some minor formatting issues.]

The other day I stumbled across a link to the sort of game that makes me cringe - Imagine Fashion Party. According to Amazon, the key features are:

  • Express your individual creativity in workshops including hair, makeup, clothing and accessories
  • Use the Wii remote and nunchuck as scissors, hair brushes, makeup applicator and more
  • Make your models perform the right moves to show off your designs in front of fierce judges
  • Design in Creation mode, compete in the Reality Show, and challenge friends in mini-games
  • Roll out your collection in a photo shoot and catwalk show, and share it with your friends via wi-fi


But then I noticed that this trainwreck of a "game" was by Ubisoft! I was curious about what other "girl's games" they might have in their lineup, so I did a little poking around and discovered that Imagine is actually its own line of video games with at least thirty-seven titles for the DS and Wii. (I think there may be a few that aren't showing up on Amazon.)

Even with the duplicates, that's still a pretty impressive number of titles. Most, though not all, games revolve around an occupation. Admittedly, a few of the titles are duplicates; there are three fashion designer titles, two rock star titles, two teacher titles, and two vet titles. But there's still a pretty impressive list of careers represented, including things like... Fashion Designer. And Fashion Stylist. And Makeup Artist. And Salon Stylist. In fact, a large portion of the careers represented by Imagine titles are stereotypically feminine roles. And even the ones that aren't are ridiculously infantalized or feminized.

For instance, instead of "Imagine Veterinarian", there are two "Imagine Animal Doctor" titles. Do they think that girls are too stupid to understand words longer than 2 syllables? And what about "Resort Owner" and "Boutique Owner"? Are these the only types of businesses that little girls should aspire to own? Even the sports titles are for sports that are traditionally "acceptable" female sports like cheerleading, ice skating, and gymnastics.

Just for shits and giggles, I made a tally of represented careers counted by job categories that were totally made up by me. Duplicate careers are counted - which means that all three "Fashion Designer" titles were counted under Fashion, etc. I also color-coded the resulting chart to help illustrate my point. ("Medicine" is orange because it is a bit of a stereotype, but the titles are for doctors, not nurses - which is a more traditional stereotype.)

Look at that! Nine titles just for fashion! NINE! Almost a quarter of all of their titles are devoted to telling girls that they should find fashion fun and important! ARG! Out of all of the careers that might make interesting games that exist out there, Ubisoft couldn't find careers that didn't involve either being pretty or making things look pretty???

Okay. So Ubisoft wants to market to girls who like girly things, you might be saying. And that might be reasonable. But then how does one explain the Imagine Babyz series of titles - Imagine Babyz, Imagine Party Babyz, and Imagine Babyz Fashion? That just takes the patronizing tone to a whole new level. "Not only are we going to try to sell you games about babies, but we're also going to give it a cutesy misspelling since you girls should be worrying more about babies and looking pretty than spelling!"


Even then - EVEN THEN - I might have been able to forgive them if I hadn't gone looking for screen captures of Imagine games:

LEFT: Sweet 16 - a game about trying to become popular through throwing THE BEST PARTIES EVAR OMG! RIGHT: Makeup Artist - a screen capture from the Wii minigame in which you have to color inside the lip-shaped lines. Yawn.

This is from one of the many fashion design titles. I forget which.

From Champion Rider. Because all girls love horses, amirite?

Oh god. So. Many. Pastels. So. Much. Inane. Cuteness.

And all of this is just one series of "girls games" by just one company! There are dozens, if not hundreds of these shitty stereotype-ridden, steaming piles of failure out there - all marketed as "games for girls". And judging by the comments and reviews on Amazon, there seem to be a fair amount of mothers who play these games with their daughters. Way to teach your daughters about female empowerment, ladies.

The thing that makes it all so ridiculous for me is that Ubisoft is pretty famous for its hyper-violent adult titles like Splinter Cell, Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia, to name a few:

So all of this "games for girls" bullshit is just another way in which the gaming establishment (read:men) is telling gaming women that "YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE". And now I seriously want to buy as many copies as I can find of these horrendous games and set them on fire like the trash that they are.