Girl in the Machine
Friday, August 10, 2007
Ubi Says: "Them's Woman's Work!"

A new line of games created by Ubisoft is sending the blogosphere into a tizzy: the Imagine™ series on the Nintendo DS focuses on a market that Ubisoft believes to be "relatively overlooked," according to their press release. But before I get into that, let's take a look at these games: the first of them to be released in October 2007 include Imagine™ Fashion Designer, Imagine™ Animal Doctor, Imagine Babyz®, and Imagine™ Master Chef. What does Ubi say about them?

Imagine™ Fashion Designer
Imagine™ Fashion Designer invites players to become hip Manhattan designers handling all aspects of the fashion business, from creating their own line of clothing to directing photo shoots. Online gameplay allows players to share their designs and ideas with friends and fellow aspiring young fashionistas.

Okay, a fashion designer game. Calabar and I like making clothes, so maybe we could find something we like in it. There seem to be a lot of features than just designing a clothing line, so it could be good.

Imagine™ Animal Doctor
Imagine™ Animal Doctor puts young players in the role of a veterinarian, not only by treating and curing all types of animals, but also by creating new facilities to expand the veterinary hospital.

Well, there hasn't been any vet games for the DS (the closes being Nintendogs and its knock-offs), so it's something new [Edited to note: Turns out there has been at least one vet game for the DS--my bad. Thanks, Darius!]. It's also interesting that you can add onto the hospital too.

Imagine Babyz®
Imagine™ Babyz® is the first simulation game focused on caring for babies. Players take on the challenges of raising a baby throughout all stages of development and will also be able to take photos and exchange tips and clothing through a unique online component.

Um, "Babyz®?" Oookay. Anyway, I guess it would be like Nintendogs, but with babies. Or babyz. Or whatever.

Imagine™ Master Chef
Imagine™ Master Chef allows players to create recipes from all over the world using the stylus to prepare, stir and cook ingredients. Players can customize their kitchens with utensils and appliances. Fun mini-games include cooking quizzes and kitchen challenges.

It sounds a little familiar, but hey, cooking is fun. Maybe Ubi added a little something new.

These all sound like pretty harmless games, so why has there been such an outcry about them? Maybe taking a peek at the box art will shed a little light on this conundrum:

And if there was any doubt of the target audience for the Imagine
™ franchise, Ubi states in their press release that these games are for "girls ages 6 to 14 years old." And this is where they hit a snag with a few feminist bloggers.

Now, some are claiming that these games seemed to have been designed to put girls in their place while they're young. While it is suspicious that this line includes cooking and taking care of "babyz," that's not my beef. What I am unhappy about is that these games are marketed exclusively to girls. The fluffy design with a preteen girl emblazoned upon every cover may as well have been branded with a "No Boyz Allowed" (to continue with the "grrlz" theme). My main question is: why exclude one gender in favor of another?

While far from equality, feminine, domestic, and/or nurturing men are slowly becoming more acceptable in society today. Male fashion designers are a common sighting, and the patriarchy is finally beginning to see that men can take care of babies as well. However, while this is becoming acceptable behavior for men, it is still very taboo for young boys to express interest in these ventures. Just take a look in any toy store: children's toys are still severely gendered, and these games aren't helping the bias. Looking at the game descriptions themselves, they seem fairly gender-neutral, and yet Ubisoft feels the need to exclude young boys. If these games were designed around young girls' "favorite interests and hobbies" as Ubi claims, wouldn't the subject matter alone draw their target audience in? Of course, the answer is no young boy would be interested in learning to take care of babyz and animals, to cook, or design clothes.

After all, as Ubi seems to think: them's woman's work. Why would a boy ever be interested in that?

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 10:26 AM + Link to this post

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