Videogame teaches teen girls to slither up social ladder
By Misty Harris
November 22, 2007
A controversial new video game for girls implies that
stealing, sexual dalliances, drug use and gossiping pave
the path to teenage empowerment, with the express
objective being to "lie, bitch and flirt your way to the
top of the high school ladder."
Coolest Girl in School is billed as the young woman's
answer to Grand Theft Auto, the hugely popular series in
which players steal cars, kill police officers, and
indulge criminal impulses. The girl-centric role-playing
game puts a magnifying glass to the darker side of
school life, with participants encouraged to experiment
with fashion, drugs, sexuality, cutting class and
spreading rumours in an effort to win.
According to the game developer, "teachers exist to be
manipulated," a looming parent signals potential "social
death," new clothes are procured by stealing from the
mall, and bribery is an exit strategy for sticky
Although Coolest Girl in School won't be widely
available until January 2008, its ongoing testing in
Adelaide, Australia, has at least one organization
sounding the alarm over content it deems "toxic" and
"The activities in the game have been shown through vast
amounts of research to cause significant, long-term
problems for young people," a spokeswoman for the
Australian Family Association told the Daily Telegraph
But Holly Owen, creative director of Champagne for the
Ladies - the studio behind Coolest Girl in School -
believes her game is being unfairly demonized.
"We have had a lot of press and, unfortunately the game
has been misrepresented in some articles," says Owen.
"It is ... a very tongue-in-cheek look at the perils of
the quest for cool in high school. Key word: irony!"
Owen notes that although activities such as smoking or
using drugs "might seem obviously cool," they can work
against a girl in the game because she could be sent to
virtual rehab or have foul-smelling breath when a love
interest approaches her.
Christine Daviault, an expert on female gaming at
Montreal's Concordia University, isn't sure the target
audience will detect the game's intended tone.
"I just don't think most people will see it as
tongue-in-cheek," says Daviault. "(Youth players) are at
a crossroads in the formation of their personalities and
a game like this basically fosters a warped idea of what
constitutes success and how to get it."
Although Coolest Girl might prove initially popular
because of the controversy and comparisons to Grand
Theft Auto, Daviault believes players will quickly tire
of the concept.
"The tween and teen girls who don't already engage in
this type of behaviour may think it's an interesting
fantasy for a short period of time, but I don't think
it'll keep their attention for very long," she says.
"For a fantasy to be successful, it needs to make you
feel good. And I think this game is too corrosive to
have that effect."
Anastasia Goodstein, a noted youth media consultant,
believes the game's premise might hit too close to home
"Coolest Girl In School sounds a lot like high school,"
Goodstein writes on her marketing blog YPulse.com. "Do
girls need to play a game to remind them of high
school's depressing social hierarchy?"
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