What’s the Appeal in Celebrity Games?

Glu Mobile created a new genre of video game with its release of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood in 2014. Since then, Glu has released celebrity game with Kendall & Kylie Jenner, Katy Perry, Gordon Ramsey, Nicki Minaj, and of course Britney Spears. Glu has dozens of other mobile games but they are best known for their celebrity games. A writer from the Daily Dot calls Glu’s games “freemium mobile games.” I believe this is a fitting title, as their games are entirely free to download and everything in the game is accessible without any in app purchases. However, in app purchases do make the game a lot easier and more accessible, but they are completely playable without it.

The CEO of Glu says he believes “people are always looking for a way to get closer to the celebrities they idolize.” No doubt this is where the inspiration for their celebrity games come from. This also explains why these games have the potential to be such hits. The combination of good game mechanics with the brand power of a celebrity’s name is what brings true success.

The commercial for Kim Kardashian’s game heavily draws on our desires to know our favorite celebrities and enter their glamorous worlds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h-uvrvrg3w 

While the target audience for the game is obviously Britney fans, the glamorous world and lifestyle that American Dream offers can appeal to anyone. Purchasing nice clothes, cars, and houses and going on high profile dates don’t need a celerity brand stamp to be fun, but with it Glu goes the extra mile.

I have played Kim Kardashian Hollywood and the mechanics are extremely similar to Spears’ game. I imagine all of their celebrity games rely heavily on very similar gameplay, just with a different skin. It seems to me like 6 or 7 identical games with different celebrity faces on it couldn’t all exist and be successful, but I suppose I underestimate the fan base for all of the celebrities I mentioned earlier. When game play is so similar, I have to believe these games’ individual appeal comes from the celebrity name attached to it.

The Daily Dot asked Nicolo Di Masi (Glu CEO) what the American dream is exactly these days. His response: “I think these days the American dream is as important as ever in the world—freedom of speech and expression, democracy, capitalism, and hard work being rewarded.”

I think the American dream as part of a videogame appeals to a lot of people, and is an interesting concept. However, the version of the American dream in Spears’ game is extremely glossed over and sugarcoated. The player never has to pay characters rent, purchase food, insurance, or pay any bills. They don’t have children or other dependents, and their race, gender, or sexual orientation has no effect on gameplay or success. And, as Audra Schroeder points out in her article, the game ignores the sexism, abuse, and harassment aimed at female artists.

Its not hard to imagine why these less than pretty aspects about the American dream and climb to fame were left out of the Spears’ American Dream: they don’t at all contribute to the appeal of celebrity games.

Works Cited

Schroeder, Audra. “Britney Spears: American Dream’ is a mobile game that makes you work, b***h” The Daily Dot. dailydot.com. May 2016. http://www.dailydot.com/upstream/britney-spears-american-dream-glu-mobile/

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