It was over tomato-flavoured Crinkle Cut chips and a can of coke that my 13 year old self learnt about capitalism. You see, I was one of those very loyal fans of The Sims. One who would sit munching away on MSG and lots of sugar while playing the role of a fatalistic virtual reality god deciding on everything from the colour of my character’s hair to his or her career.
Harmless fun I used to think. I never gave much thought to why every one of my characters had to have a house filled with books or why I made those poor virtual reality blobs (as let’s face it that’s what they are) read so much. To me it was all part of the game. But in a lot of ways The Sims was a microcosm of the real world.
If you wanted the double-storey house with the impressive pool, aka success, you had to work for it. It was as simple as that. So one of my first lessons in getting ahead was from playing The Sims where I learnt that studying meant a good job to fund that all important retail therapy spree ( can you hear the excitement in my voice?).
Okay, so let’s just say I’ve ignored that lesson. That I love books and learning from them because … well I do and not because of the money they may bring me. The point is that this game was part of my subtle initiation into a capitalistic society which values money above all else.
It is worrying if you consider the latest virtual reality games for teenagers and what they are teaching them about society. Particularly when you consider what earning this virtual money means.
Miss Bimbo, which targets teenage girls between the ages of 9 and 16, is very popular at the moment. This virtual reality fashion game is about becoming “the most famous, beautiful, talented, independent and charming bimbo across the globe”. And you do this by making your virtual character diet, binge eat, have breast implants and, most importantly, encouraging her to marry a rich boyfriend. So much for women’s lib. This game has provoked outrage as some have argued that it promotes an appearance-obsessed anorexic youth.
What makes this an effective and potentially harmful game is how it uses virtual money to drive home messages about women in society. Virtual money is used in the game to buy the necessary diet pills and have the surgery needed to maintain the ideal body. The creators of the game claim that this is an accurate reflection of how women in society are spending their money. Really? They must know something I don’t.
You get a limited amount of virtual money when you sign up for this game. But it’s easy enough to get more. This can be done by sending a $3 text message; finding a job in-game or finding you a virtual-reality sugar daddy. The game revolves around earning virtual money so as to ensure your character remains emaciated. The site says :
Bimbo dollars is ‘the cabbage,’ ‘bread,’ the ‘mula’ you’ll need to buy nice things and to get by in bimbo world. To earn some bimbo cash you will have to (gasp) work or find a boyfriend to be your sugar daddy and hook you up with a phat expense account!
And how do you earn bimbo bucks ? It’s quite simple really :
- You can complete an in-game bimbo task. These include things like having plastic surgery or maintaining your character’s target weight with diet pills
- You could marry your rich charming boyfriend
- You could send an sms or use PayPal—-
This game may be training a new generation of consumers who may earn real money only to spend most of it on diet products. After all, how can we be certain of the effects of such virtual earning?