Or, more precisely, everyone seems to feel the need to talk about Kim.
Kardashian, that is.
A few weeks ago, Glu Games released the official Kim Kardashian mobile game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, and humanity imploded. A whole bunch of people downloaded it, played it, and had opinions about it.
Opinions ranged from widely positive to widely negative, with a lot of bemusement that it was actually a thing in the first place completing the spectrum. Generally, “non-core” gamers appreciated the accessibility of the game, while hardcore gamers either looked at the actually surprisingly solid RPG mechanics and then went out of their way to praise it on a scale reserved for casual mobile games, or loathed that this petty cash-in was brainwashing the money out of the pockets of punters.
Generally though, a whole bunch of people really liked it. It held a perfect five star rating on the iTunes app store as well as the Google Play store – for a little while, at least. Kim Kardashian fans and celebriphiles revelled in its entertainment value. At the very least, brand-loyal consumers – and Kim Kardashian has a lot – appreciated it. And, considering the game is projected to make a whopping $200 million this year, Kim K and Glu are probably appreciating it a whole lot too.
Ignoring the typical free-to-play-with-time-saving-microtransactions ick, most people with a knowledge of game mechanics who are looking at it with a shred of intellectual analysis recognise that Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is at the very least a good RPG. Maybe not perfect, but definitely not bad. It’s clear a lot of quality design work has gone into making the game, and it shows.
But on to my real point.
Let’s get this out of the way first. I personally dislike the idea of Kim Kardashian as a fame brand. She is seemingly famous for being famous, and I think that, culturally, that type of fame is unsustainable. But I respect Kim Kardashian as a person, because she has clearly worked unbelievably hard to create and manage her juggernaut of a brand, and she is obviously an intimidatingly savvy businesswoman.
But why do I need to have that opinion in the first place?
I don’t buy Kim Kardashian branded products. I don’t buy products marketed by Kim Kardashian. I’m not her target demographic. So why do I sneer at this seemingly vacuous, self-serving branding ouroborus? What gives me the right to be so self-righteous about Kim Kardashian?
The honest answer – nothing.
I have zero right to feel morally superior to this cultural phenomenon.
I don’t understand it, I don’t like it, and that’s okay – it’s not for me. But I have no moral authority to pass judgement on those who feel differently to me.
So when I saw so many people having such strong opinions on this damn Kim Kardashian game, it made me think – why do I deserve to have a reaction to this?
The honest answer – I don’t.
I don’t own culture. I don’t own celebrity. I don’t own fame. And I don’t own video games. If someone wants to make a video game about something I’m not interested in, I have no right to say no. And I have no right to look down on those who enjoy it, even if I don’t personally appreciate the product.
This extends to a lot of things. If you don’t like the idea of something, or aren’t part of the target market for a particular game, why go out of your way to have an opinion? You already know you’re going to hate it, since you already have that preconceived opinion, so what’s the point of downloading, playing, and then loudly proclaiming its shortcomings?
Why not just accept you’re not its intended audience and just, you know, ignore it?
I think we’re so caught up in brand ownership in a lot of ways. In a highly-marketed society (which we are – just look at all the advertising and branding surrounding you) we begin to get so immersed in brand culture that we claim ownership. We take brand identities, internalise them, and make them our own. We feel like we own a stake in Kim Kardashian™®© because we all interact with her brand in some way. And gamers feel like they own gaming as a brand because it is marketed to us in a specific way. And when a brand we don’t like (although we’re immersed in it anyway) intersects with a brand we love, conflicts happen.
And they shouldn’t, because brands rarely affect each other.
So what if Kim Kardashian makes a gazillion dollars? It’s the consumer’s choice to spend that money, and they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t want to – discounting any exploitative microtransaction practices, of course. So what if other celebrities or brands make mobile games? So what if they’re fantastic? So what if they’re terrible? So what if they’re cynical money-makers?
If you don’t like it, you don’t have to participate. There will still be plenty of games you do like to go around. Nobody will stop making AAA shooters, or story-rich RPGs, or hardcore platformers, or indie feels-generators.
Video games are a massive entertainment space, and there’s a whole lot of room – and buyers – to sustain it for a while yet. Why care about Kim Kardashian: Hollywood if you don’t like Kim Kardashian?
It’s pointless, detrimental, selfish, and you’ll just give yourself an ulcer. So relax and let other people enjoy their thing.