This week, I’m excited to present cheeesetoastieandvideogames’ very first guest blogger post by the ever awesome and talented Simpleek! She’s written an interesting piece on the game Disney City Girl that I’d like to share with you guys and that I think you’ll enjoy. For more great articles by Simpleek, check out her blog here. She writes about a wide range of geeky things such as video games, manga and anime, as well as fashion, so chances are you’ll find something to suit your tastes! You can also follow her on Twitter for additional musings on the games industry and more entertaining tidbits, including frequently detailed discussions about pies.
We know girls game. This is hardly news, though, some would have you thinking otherwise. When we think of girl gamers, we aren’t talking about girls who play games based on Hello Kitty or Barbie. We play Halo, Gears of War, or any other “dude targeted” games you can think of. We like them. We like to think we have come a long way since the days of girl gamers having just games consisting of the cutesy and pretty variety. Imagine my surprise when I encountered Disney City Girl. Instead of attempting to break away from the usual stereotypes, we seem to play right back into them.
From Playdom, Disney City Girl is an online game, like the Sims game, but targeted for women. The basic premise of the story is you are a small town girl who is newly graduated from college. You are looking for a change. Being completely doe-eyed, fresh faced, and innocent, you plan on making your change in the big city. Which big city, you ask? Where else? New York City, the city that never sleeps and the place for dreamers and artists.
The opening sequence of the game has your character stating a very overused saying everybody knows all too well, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” For the purposes of this post, I played a little bit of the game on Facebook. Not a game I usually care to play with, not even to come back to on a casual basis, but I can’t fully write out what my reaction to this game is without trying it. Don’t call this a review of the game, but more like an analysis of what this game offers to the targeted audience.
After the opening sequence, you are immediately greeted by a perfectly coiffed, Blake Lively type of girl named Jenna who is your best friend and intro into the world of City Girl. You get to customize your avatar however you want her to look, such as hair, eyes, makeup, and race. You even get to choose your starter outfit from the default options, but to sweeten the pot a little bit, Jenna takes you on your first New York City shopping trip to add more variety to your wardrobe! Exciting stuff, huh?
You’re both tired and come back to your apartment from a long day of shopping, but Jenna points out you’re running low on cash. This means you have to be a big girl now and get a big girl job. Where do you begin? Filling out applications? Sending thousands of resumes to companies online? How about none of those! Conveniently, a connection of Jenna’s hooks you up with a job. The first two options you have to decide between are fashion designer or chef. Later on in the game, you’ll be able to unlock two other additional professions, such as book author or musician. I guess these are the only professions we have available in good old New York City, right? Right…
I chose to have my avatar become a chef in training. I am then told how I have an exciting opportunity to be under the training of a world renown female chef. If I want to become a sous chef, an important position to have in the culinary world, I have to pay my dues by doing the slog work before I can hit super prominence right next to this super amazing chef. I start off by washing dishes, mopping floors, and busking tables until I finally earn the respect I need to finally do some actual cooking.
In the course of pursuing your dream, you’re fostering your friendships with Jenna or anyone else on your Facebook who happens to play this game. Like the Sims system, you have to cater to your avatar’s basic needs, like bathing, hygiene, eating, leisure pursuits, etc. As you gain enough money, you can keep buying better clothes for your avatar and better furniture for your tiny studio apartment. I’ll be honest, I haven’t bothered to go any further with this game. I got tired after going back and forth between making my avatar climb steadily in the ranks of the culinary world and trying to foster a better relationship with Jenna, as she is the only “friend” I have.
There are some problems with this game, and it isn’t because I’m bored to tears with it. Okay, maybe that’s part of it too. What bothers me is how this game falls back into the tried and true stereotypes about women. Why is it the only careers women seem to want are a chef, fashion designer, author, or musician? I’m not saying these are bad careers. Hell, I wish I can be a best-selling author or well-known writer altogether. The point is, there are other professions, like being a teacher, doctor, lawyer, scientist, politician––whatever you can name.
Are other professions, aside from the default ones you have in the game, less glamorous? Is it because these girls cannot do any other professions unless they are wearing cute little outfits while doing them? It’s hard to say, but the preset professions they give you are incredibly hard to obtain. Your avatar is also a girl living alone in what can be described as a studio sized apartment in New York City. Seriously, don’t make me laugh. I can tell you one thing, rent is not cheap in the city, let alone in Manhattan, which I’m pretty sure is where your avatar and her friends are living in. If you are living in New York, you will need at least two or three roommates to make up a month’s rent. There is subsidized housing complexes, where rent is more affordable, but your application to qualify and to be selected is lottery based. If this were reality, I wish you luck, Miss Doe-Eyes, in your search for affordable places to live on your own.
The entire game is a fantasy where all the girls are beautiful, fashionable, and can live the glamorous city life while “struggling” in the process. Believe me, I’ve struggled post-college to land a start in my chosen career and it certainly isn’t like the one portrayed in this game. Considering this game came out in a post-recession world, I can’t see how this girl will realistically survive.
My avatar makes it insanely easy to be able to live alone in a modest apartment, has a friend who easily connects her with a job upon moving to the city, and if I finished the game, she’d probably be head chef of her own restaurant after one year of playing second fiddle to the top chef and she’ll be living in a mansion on Long Island with her drop dead gorgeous husband who is a surgeon. Who’s delusional now?
Another thing that bothers me about this game is how the only interest your avatar and your friends have is going shopping. Whether it’s shopping for cute clothes or furniture to furnish the apartment, this seems to be the only thing your avatar has going for her. You live in New York City. Do you know what you have access to? Art, culture, restaurants, bookstores, and theaters! You are honestly telling me you have no interest in taking advantage of these things? I thought you left your small town life just so you can live a more exciting life. You really disappoint me, Miss Doe-Eyes. Besides, where are you getting the money to shop for all of this? A rich daddy? Shouldn’t you be spending less time looking “dazzling” and more time on saving money for the basic necessities like food, rent, and bills?
I’ve read a few articles about the game, where supposedly the target audience for City Girl is for the twenty-somethings set. It also has been dubbed a “Sex and the City” style game, but a much cleaner version of it with the Disney stamp of approval behind it. I don’t know how many twenty-something women will be playing this game, but one article I read pointed out that this game may more than likely attract the tweens and teens set. This I can actually see happening. However, this game does not set a great example at all.
City Girl sets the bar incredibly high for girls who think it’s so easy to gain success in whatever it is you pursue. I’m not saying you can’t pursue what you want and not succeed. I’m an example of someone who has pursued what she wants to do and is finally seeing some favorable progress on the road to success. I can’t say I’m 100% there, but I’m getting there. But easy? Not even close. I’ve dealt with the blood, sweat, and tears of trying to prove myself a thousand times over. I’ve been rejected, told I wasn’t good enough, and I’ve been sidetracked for the sake of surviving and earning money.
What the game fails to show players is you will have to do more in life than just wash a couple of dishes and busk tables. Disney City Girl needs an injection of reality. Yes, the game is meant to be escapist, but it should be within reason. If teens and tweens play this game, they should be encouraged to pursue their dreams, but to be prepared to have to deal with a lot to get there. There also shouldn’t be an assumption that every girl likes shopping and every girl wants to be a fashion designer. If girls rather spend time reading books than shopping, then show her going to the library to improve her mind. Is she a theater geek? Show her spending some time catching that Off-Broadway show she read about in the paper. There are other perfectly fine professions and interests out there, and they can be pursued with as much dazzle and style this game seems to try to project onto its players.
Image Source: https://www.playdom.com/games/citygirl