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I Lost It at the App Store: Cyberbullying, Relationships, and Cute Outfits in ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’

The Trouble With 'Kim Kardashian: Hollywood'

From the
reactions of friends and coworkers learning that I was playing “Kim Kardashian:
Hollywood,” you would have thought that I told them I had repeatedly slapped an
infant child: my boyfriend was aggravated whenever I mentioned working
part-time at “Kardash,” my friends would ignore me when I discussed flying to
Paris for a photo shoot, and one coworker even asked me, “Have you contemplated
killing yourself since you started this game?” In spite of the hostile
criticisms I faced, I continued playing because I am a masochist for punishment
and love trashy media. Don’t get me wrong, this game in no way, shape, or form
is actually good, but it’s addicting because of its own set of sadistic

You enter the Kim Kardashian world
by choosing your gender, assigning yourself a name, and designing your own
avatar (whose body is either slim, slender, or toned; there are no options for
average sized or plus sized). The game begins in So Chic, a Downtown LA fashion
boutique where your boss, Luther Alexander, has forced you to close up the shop
by yourself. While locking up the store, you meet Kim Kardashian, who trekked
all the way from Beverly Hills to buy a dress for a photo shoot. Not having any
other option than to reopen the store, Kim asks you to choose a dress for her
(either silver or red), then strong-arms you into giving her the dress for free
(the game offers you no other alternative). As a result of your forced
generosity, Kim invites you to join her at an exclusive photo shoot where you
catch the eye of the photographer. From this point on, you must slowly climb up
the celebrity food chain (you begin on the “E-List” and must eventually become
“A-List”). Kim helps you by getting you a manager, a publicist, and even a romantic
interest (thus giving you the option to choose your sexuality). Her initial
guidance lulls you into a false sense of comfort, but once Kim ventures off to
her into her own virtual life, you are left to navigate the treacherous waters
of the celebrity world.

In order to become an “A-List”
celebrity, you need to go on a series of missions that range from completing
photo shoots and walking the runway to appearing at clubs and going on dates. While
on a mission, you must tap on an infinite amount task bubbles within a given
time frame (between 1 hour and 24 hours). Each task bubble requires a certain
number of “energy” (blue thunderbolts that regenerate every five minutes,
although you can find them in the virtual streets by tapping on birds, fire
hydrants, and shrubbery). Once you use up the required amount of energy, the
task bubble bursts into blue stars (if you are working) or pink hearts (if you
are on a date). Did I mention that these missions are graded on a five-star/heart
meter, and you must collect dozens of blue stars/pink hearts in order to get a
good rating? When the mission is completed, money starts flying around the room
and you must – like a stripper – collect your wadded cash from the floor. If you
are having a difficult time following the logic of this game, just imagine how
hard it was for me to try to narrate any semblance of coherent logic.

The one thing I learned from a month
of actively playing the game is that the ancillary characters are mercilessly
rude/verbally abusive cyberbullies. For instance, if you don’t achieve a four
or five star rating on a mission, Ray Powers (the local celebrity gossiper)
will tweet about how horribly you did, thus lowering your celebrity status. You
also have an enemy named Dirk who will constantly talk trash about you in order
to lower your ranking (at one point in the game, he helped spread a rumor that
I destroyed a celebrity relationship by twerking on someone’s girlfriend; this
rumor lowered my rank from the “A-List” to the “B-List”). These characters
force you go on more photo shoots, adopt pets, go on dates, and buy more
clothes, even if you don’t have the resources to do so. Fortunately, the game
constantly boasts advertisements that you can complete missions faster if you
buy virtual money/Kim K Stars (there is no logic as to why the game has two
forms of currency) with your real money.

Your romantic interests offer you
little to no solace from the cyberbullying as they themselves have frequent
mood swings. The game gives you the option to flirt and/or network with various
other celebrities whose status is either higher or lower than yours. If you
rank at or above their level, they will gladly give you their contact
information for a future date/photo shoot. If you rank beneath them, you have
to pay them Kim K Stars in order to get their attention.

Even after I established my virtual
homosexuality, the game continued to skew toward heterosexual dating. I managed
to find seven gay men (compared to the 29 women who flirted by asking me to
indulge in their D&D/LARPing fantasies) who range from a redheaded daddy wearing
a pearl necklace to a mustachioed blond daddy wearing a tank top/scarf combo.
These characters flirt with you by commenting on your personality and/or
appearance, yet the moment you ask them out on a date, they criticize you for
your outfits (“I’m guessing it’s laundry day and you couldn’t find anything
better to wear…,” “I thought we were both going to dress up for our date. I
guess I was wrong,” “Wow, you’re not even trying to impress me, are you?”). If
you have a high enough rating by the end of the date, your romantic interest
will be more interested in pursuing a relationship…but there is still a catch.
In order to maintain a relationship, you must go on a date once a day, every
single day. Missing a day results in your love interest calling you with an
ultimatum: breakup or pay him 5-17 Kim K Stars to continue the relationship. So
far, 6 men have broken up with me (there is the option for reconciliation after
the breakup, but it costs 5-17 Kim K Stars).

problem with the game (which is, ironically, the reason why I am so addicted to
it) is the lack of any coherent logic. The game exists in delusional bubble
where the only semblance of reality lies in its representations of
cyberbullying, its emphasis on consumerist culture, and its depictions of unhealthy
relationships. Apparently I’m not the only one to be sucked into the game’s
emotionally manipulative design as the Los Angeles Times reported that the game
is estimated to gross nearly $200 million in revenue by next summer (I’m sure
Kim Kardashian will get her “fair share” of the earnings). For as much
(deserved) criticism Kim Kardashian receives for her morals and actions, you
have to hand it to her for choosing (or having her mom-ager choose) the right
investment opportunities. She latched herself onto a game that encrypted
cyberbullying rhetoric into its design, thus ensuring that tons of players will
get frustrated and pay real money in order to go on a virtual date or walk down
a virtual runway. Fortunately I resisted spending a single penny on the game
because I learned to be patient with (and often times find humor in) the game’s
cyberbullying (mainly due to the hostility I received for playing the game in
the first place). My motto is this: If I don’t have to pay 5-17 Kim K Stars to
hear my friends and coworkers talk about how I’m wasting my life on this hot
mess of a game, why am I going to pay my hard earned money just to hear virtual
celebrities criticize me for how I’m wasting my life by not buying new clothes?
I guess that’s what helped get me to #1 on the A-List.

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