This article first appeared on Kiwi Commons, and was written by Deborah Chantson on January 30, 2012. It is re-published here with full permission. It has been slightly altered in appearance only to fit with our format.
Ah … prepare yourself for entertainment … at my expense.
I’m hooked on Social Girl for the iPhone. Why? Because it’s pretty. Why did I download it in the first place? It ranked popularly as a Top Free game in the App Store. In its first week, it was downloaded over a million times. And right now, it has over 737 ratings, with an average of four stars. I was curious. And I can totally see the appeal.
It’s a bad relationship. It’s a bad virtual world. It sets terrible examples for girls, and yet all I want to do is buy beautifully designed outfits, unlock new ones, mix and match clothing, and see where my “boyfriend” will take me for dates, which range from yachting and hang gliding to picnics and the Taco Hut.
I also want to know what happens when I unlock “skin colour” when it comes to changing him, supposedly for the better, since you can change his name, hair colour, hair style, clothing and face. It’s like watching a terrible, terrible movie, just to see what happens in the end.
Made by CrowdStar, a social gaming company based in California, the point of the game is to develop a relationship with your crush by going on dates.
Before going on dates, you have to dress “properly”, which means assembling outfits with items that have certain values assigned to them. Each date requires a certain combination total from a genre of clothes, be it Sporty, Hipster, Preppy, Rocker or Girly.
To get ready for these dates, you can choose different items from your closet. When you’re short on your “properly dressed” total, you can go shopping for items to make up the balance.
How do you get coins? By hanging out with various cliques and making friends. While each clique has six friends, you need to make friends with them in order of coolness. And the game will actually tell you when you’re not cool enough.
To “complete a friendship”, it’s a combination of hanging out and gossiping with the friend in order to unlock clothes of that category (or using real currency to skip some of this). You need energy to do that, and one energy unit takes five minutes to replenish so that your bar (which starts at 18 units) is full.
Yup…I’ve been a slave to that energy bar, waiting to accumulate enough coins so I can buy the pretty top for four more points that will let me go on my date with my crush, who I’ve now renamed from my husband’s actual first name to Dud, for the purposes of making screenshots for you, the lovely public. (My husband is in no way a dud but it also became confusing when exclaiming, “Look! We’re going to a cooking class!”)
It’s ridiculous. I’m quite aware of that.
But little girls aren’t.
So how about making a really popular game for them, that teaches them something … good? Or even great?
Here’s my open call to CrowdStar and all game developers, especially in Canada where you can get funding to help you develop and market such a game. If you’re with me, I will draft the first revision of the Game Design Document in full.
Let’s make a game for our daughters to play.
At the start of the game, you choose a career path, whether it be solely for your career or a combination of career and family.
Instead of your energy bar being used for gossiping and hanging out, how about this game focuses on making good choices?
I propose three energy bars which can sometimes work in tandem, for example, exercising boosts “Health” but drains “Energy.” Enough exercising increases the Energy and Self capacities.
You can build up this bar by:
- Spending (quality) time with your friends, who instead of saying flaky things like “My parents have the coolest sailboat”, “Everyone wants to be me” and “Preppy girls are way better than girly girls”, they say things like, “I’m proud of you!”, “Good for you for standing up for yourself!”, “Thanks for lending me that great novel.”
- Cleaning your apartment by doing various differently-valued activities.
- Taking classes like learning a language, swimming, rock climbing, woodworking, car mechanics, cooking, motorcycle driving. Different classes unlock quests.
Determined by food choices (like the Eat This, Not That! game) where healthier options give you a boost to Energy, Health, and Self.
This bar relates to the user’s overall stamina, career path, and goals achieved. Karma points can also boost this bar with activities like donating blood, volunteering, taking care of a sick friend, donating clothes, food or coins.
There will always be critics, but how about making a game that gives girls more choices, and sets up rewards in a different fashion than gaining favour of the hottest guy and getting into the “best” cliques? Who’s with me?
Image source: Venture Beat