I’m a wage slave, working soul-crushing hours in a downtown LA retail clothing store. My apartment is literally steps from my work, and there’s not much to my sad, unfamous life.
Then, one day, after work, she appears, like a Greek deity who has descended from the heavens to elevate a mere mortal above the rabble . . . Her name and domain . . .
Developed by Glu Games and released on iPhone and Android about a week ago, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is a mobile game where, after a chance meeting with the titular famous-for-being famous celeb, you build a career as model, actor and fashion icon, flitting about LA and other glitzy cities, raking in dough and hob-knobbing with the rich and affluent.
Now, full disclosure, I know about as much about Kardashian as black hole thermodynamics — which is to say, very little. I have very few reference points for her life and work. I think she had a “reality show”? I believe she lives in the west end of a city called Kanye? I assume she has blood and viscera and wakes up and does things, as so many people do? However, for our purposes, this game could have been Gwyneth Paltrow: Hollywood or Cosmic Horror from the Void: Hollywood; the character of Kardashian is a stand-in, a composite celebrity. She plays the role of the encouraging BFF, impetus for the player’s avatar to seek out a life of fame and fortune.
One of the bigger surprises of the game is that it’s actually quite fun and funny. KKH is borderline satire; the game seems aware of how vapid a world it’s presenting, where characters don’t deign to talk to you until you’ve met certain levels of fame, where “KARDASHIAN” takes the place of the iconic Hollywood sign on Mount Lee. Your business manager is a stodgy old guy who makes disparaging comments about the way young people talk and behave. At one point you’re speaking to your emotionally unstable publicist about dating, and she quips, “A date shouldn’t be hard to find: this city is filled with lonely, if not desperate, people.”
In a lot of ways the game reminds me of Grand Theft Auto V, maybe spliced with a Barbie game and significantly less violent. The characters are vapid, ridiculous, oft parodic, but take their world very seriously. With that edge of satire, though, a game that could have been nauseating to play becomes pretty fun.
That’s not the end of Kim Kardashian’s surprises, though. Early on in the game you meet a woman in a bar and can either flirt or network with her. A little later our omniscient deity, Kim Kardashian, notices your choice. In my case, I didn’t flirt with her, and Kim, of course, loves to play celebrity matchmaker:
With little fanfare, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood became one of the more progressive games out there. Not only do you get to build your avatar, but there is choice in the romance mechanics. The game doesn’t force you down the path of default heterosexuality, which is a pretty interesting choice on the part of the developers.
Of course, dating in this world isn’t very romantic; really, it’s only for getting more fans. The game itself is fun in an obsessively clicking around the screen to make things happen kind of way, and there’s that creepy pay-to-play that is ever-present in mobile games. Of course, KKH is built around the idolization of empty celebrity culture and thoughtless consumerism, but hey, it’s slightly less heterosexist, less violent, less boring and more creative and funny than a lot of the games out there. Even after a few hours of playing it, I keep picking it up again for a few minutes of thoughtless clicking as my cute little avatar becomes more and more of a digital, Kardashian-worshipping celebrity, and that’s saying something . . .
Probably something really weird.