This morning I woke up to a push notification on my phone. Are you ready for your photoshoot with Kim Kardashian? I was.
I downloaded Kim Kardashian: Hollywood last night. The game launched yesterday on the App Store and Google Play through Glu Mobile, and I had to know how the hell they made a game about someone famous for being good at playing the media. As it turns out, they made a game about gaming the Hollywood system. Players rise through the ranks of the L.A. social scene (whatever that means) with the help of Kardashian's digital likeness. The end goal: becoming as famous and infamous as Kardashian. I got to level six before deciding I'd risen far enough.
You know how at the beginning of some character-based video games there are scenes where dialog boxes pop up and characters talk to each other, and you hit a few buttons to get on with it? That is all this "game" is. Like Kardashian's manufactured reality empire, there are only the flimsiest of stakes and everything is smooth and meaningless.
The whole aesthetic is cutesy and garish, like a Bratz Doll. I was into it.
You get to customize your own Kardashian-world avatar, which reminded me of picking out a Wii Mii. I had fun trying to make a Kardashian Kartoon in my own image, although Kim K. does not give you the option to wear digital glasses.
Around level five, your character has to deal with a very thinly veiled version of Paris Hilton called Willow Pape. During the game she subtweets you (this may be the first mobile game to include subtweeting, and for that I salute it) and she hashtags #Illuminati and #Obamacare. That was the best part of the game.
When you open the screen, the tag line says "Dating famous people will get you more fans too." That is a gross thing to think, let alone make a tag line in a game.
That's not the game's bigget flaw, though. The biggest flaw is that it's hella boring.
For someone frequently accused of gaining undeserved fame, Kim Kardashian's resume has a lot of hyphens: (formerly) small business owner-model- spokesperson-reality television personality-Kanye wrangler. She has hustle, and she certainly knows how to maneuver herself forward socially. Kardashian's actual life story would make for a fascinating and lurid game. That's not what's going on here, though. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood gives us a placid Kim serving as a sort of digital Mephistopheles, blandly encouraging players to network their way from a retail job to the "glitzy" life of a paparazzi magnet, but the DRAMA introduced doesn't get better than the aforementioned Paris Hilton clone.
It's a game about social climbing, so the fact that it's baldly materialistic and hyper-capitalistic isn't shocking. But it's really unsubtle about it. At one point your character gets the following tip: "Getting new clothing, cars, and homes can increase your star power for love and work." Cool advice.
Whenever you complete one of the tasks (which never requires anything more than a perfunctory swipe or tap) money stacks spill to the floor and the player picks them up. I wouldn't really care if the game had a bad message if it was any fun, but the utter lack of challenges makes it a pretty banal experience.
Then again, it's kind of perfect that Kardashian made what is possibly the most banal gaming app of all time. The tasks primarily include schlepping between downtown L.A. and Hollywood (by bus!) for meetings. At one point you're encouraged to wait AN HOUR until the manager ("Simon") receives a call about a special gig.
This game is frustrating to play because:
- There aren't any meaningful choices users get to make. You basically just tap tap tap and slowly follow this boring-ass narrative. You get to unlock extra crop tops and go to Calabasas, but the hero's journey from junior stylist to junior famewhore is already laid out for you.
- The levels don't increase in difficulty. It starts at zero and stays at zero.
- Because there is no choice or challenge, it feels pointless.
MAYBE this is a sly statement on the artifice and emptiness of a lifestyle devoted to keeping up with the Joneses and Kardashians! Maybe Kim is rebelling by presenting an essentially nihilistic underpinning to her most recent cash grab.
...Or maybe an hour and a half straight of tapping on money signs and fielding fake in-app phone calls from Hollywood agents has broken my brain, and this is just a crappy app Kardashian OK'ed because it's going to add to her fortune with an inevitable onslaught of in-app purchases. Probably the latter.
As a game, I give this a D.
As a Dadaist comment on the essentially hollow maw of fame, I give it an A.