The Fashion World Plans To Take Videogames By Storm

Tim Gunn's familiar refrain "Make It Work!" is on its way to the Nintendo Wii - while carrying the sales hopes of two industries. Women's Wear Daily explains why the fashion industry is hoping for a new digital life.

The brand extension of Project Runway into the gaming world is setting tongues wagging because of all the potential. The gaming industry, excited by the mega-success of the Wii, is looking for more ways to market to untapped audiences, including young women. WWD examines video games as a new frontier for fashionistas, paying close attention to the success of Ubisoft's Imagine Line (which includes games like Fashion Designer, Figure Skater, and Doctor) and Nintendo's Style Savvy. Those of us who identify as gamers and happen to be female will chafe at the simplistic stereotypes employed by Ubisoft to explain the popularity of their Imagine line:

"Things that women and girls especially like are games that center on creativity, a little bit of customization and socialization," said Ann Hamilton, Ubisoft's senior brand manager for the Imagine and Style Lab brands. "Girls like designing and building things, and boys like blowing up things."

Sigh.

And some of the conclusions drawn in the article about girls and digital play are quite interesting:

Young women who are juniors and seniors in high school, attending college and in their early professional years represent a gap in the video game market. The reasons for their absence are difficult to pin down. People who are 18 to 26 years old "start to identify social schisms between men and women.…There is a tendency to associate video games with men as a manchild," said Leigh Alexander, news director at video game publication Gamasutra, who has explored gender and gaming issues.

Women in that age group may become sensitive to the depictions of females in many video games as hookers, babes and scantily clad eye candy. "The role or characterization of women characters in-game often reinforces the notion of women as the object of male gaze," said Walt Scacchi, director of research at University of California, Irvine's Center for Computer Games and Virtual Worlds.

It could simply be that the paucity of young women gamers is the result of a dearth of games that appeal to them. If so, intelligent games based on established fashion properties could pull them in.

This type of shift to promoting fashion games to fashion-conscious women could actually be a step in the right direction. One, it acknowledges that there are different types of people who play games, and honing in on young women as their own demographic would (hopefully) lead to better data and less stereotyping. Two, assumptions aside, it seems that the two industries have teamed up to discover a link between gameplay, the runway, and the real world that could translate into major profits:

H&M entered the video game world in 2007 with "The Sims 2: H&M Fashion Stuff," an add-on to the computer life simulation game "The Sims 2," enabling players to outfit their digital equivalents in H&M items. Nintendo's "Style Savvy" game contained digital versions of designer Charlotte Ronson's fall 2009 collection. Microsoft's Xbox hooked up with brands such as Roxy, Quiksilver, Skullcandy and tokidoki to offer virtual merchandise in an Avatar Marketplace to clothe their avatars. Clothes for Roxy and Quiksilver cost from seven to 30 Microsoft points, which ranges from 50 cents to $2 in real money.

"It was experimental, for sure," Greg Perlot, executive vice president of marketing at Quiksilver Inc., owner of the Quiksilver and Roxy brands, said of presenting merchandise starting in the fall from Quiksilver's current collection in digital form for the Avatar Marketplace. "It is a different context and a new place to reach our audience, which is the 13- to 24-year-old guy on the Quiksilver side and the same age on the Roxy side….It is a way to show off the product line more. It is also a way to get product feedback. It allows us to see what is purchased."

A major benefit in locating new audiences for games is also finding new and innovative ways people adapt their play to fit their lives. So perhaps the Project Runway game can do for fashion what the Rockband and Guitar Hero franchises did for the music industry - provide an interesting experience for players and a profitable outcome for those holding the licenses.

Geek Meets Chic: Fashion Video Games Target Female Customers [WWD, sub req'd]
Official Site [Imagine]

Related: Your First Look At Project Runway: The Video Game [Kotaku]