All you lady-gamers gird your dexterous button-depressing fingers because there's a new game about to hit the streets and it's going to pander to your feminine sensibilities even harder than Mitt Romney panders to Spanish-speakers. "Fashion Hazard," a game that asks players to jostle fellow models and avoid cobras as they strut down runways in New York, Milan, Paris and London (literally not a single country in which cobras are an indigenous species), is the latest attempt to create a videogame that caters to the burgeoning class of young, female gamers who have only a shallow pool of "masculine viewpoint" games to choose from.
According to the Wall Street Journal, "Fashion Hazard," which was developed by the Interactive Product Group unit of Condé Nast, is modeled on of a popular, Indiana Jones-esque game called "Temple Run." Juliana Stock, the unit's senior director of product and business development, explained that the "Temple Run" chase-format — which forces players to, in a very colonialist turn, steal some artifact from a temple and sprint back to the safety of a tenured faculty position at some greedy Ivy League university — reminded her of a fashion runway because, you know, temple-running and runway-stomping both require decisive movement. Players who pick up the 99-cent app for their various mobile devices can expect to unlock a whole narrative surrounding their model avatar, all the while avoiding being tripped, snake-bitten or burned by hurled lattes during their runway promenades.
Stock said that the impetus behind a game such as "Fashion Hazard" was to create a game that catered to what popular culture would most likely think of as girl's interests, which apparently precludes adventuring in exotic ruins. "A lot of [popular] games have a male aesthetic. You're a juvenile delinquent, you're Indiana Jones," adding that a lot of games directed at girls require players to bake cakes and do other boring shit in a virtual kitchen. "I felt that's a weird message for girls." According to the Entertainment Software Association, girls and women make up the fastest-growing gaming demographic, partly because they're newer to the gaming scene than men. Women, however, constitute a mere 11 percent of game developers, meaning that most of the highest-profile games are being created through an exclusively male perspective.
Female gamers expect a little narrative structure in their games, which is why something like "Fashion Hazard" is so intent on developing an avatar model's backstory. Sheri Graner Ray, studio design director for Schell Games in Austin, Texas, and author of the 2003 book, Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding The Market, explains that women appreciate pretty much the same gameplay experience as men (which often includes graphic violence) so long as a game meets two preconditions: it doesn't overdo the sexualized imagery and there's a narrative reason for killing pixelated foes. Other than that, women don't need to be pandered to, and though "Fashion Hazard" seems to be sort of well-meaning, it only deepens the gender ravine separating the blue bluff where boys can play with their toy soldiers from the pink bluff where girls can arrange a domestic tableau in their dollhouses.