In Defense of 'Kim Kardashian: Hollywood'

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Screenshot

Let's be frank: Kim Kardashian: Hollywood isn't that great of a game. It's repetitive, full of grinding, and contains everyone's most-hated new monetization method: microtransactions.

But the game has raised some interesting questions. The game includes same-sex relationships and diverse, randomly generated characters where many other games don't. It's constantly updated with free new features, adding locations, clothes, and new challenges on a near-monthly basis.

For a mobile game, it contains some pretty clever dialog and allows you to pursue different conversation options, allowing your character to be a snarky, fame-hungry brat or a kindhearted model/actor just trying to pursue their dreams. These are features that many people want more of in AAA games—so why do we spend so much time hating Kim Kardashian: Hollywood?

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Screenshot
While casual games like Tomodachi Life face backlash for not including same-sex relationships, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood includes the feature as an option without drawing lots of attention to it.

Hating Kim Kardashian West Is the Popular Thing to Do

Kim Kardashian West has a lot of haters. We know that. It's maybe the most important aspect of her modern sort of fame. She's a rich and powerful woman whose private life is front and center thanks to a hugely popular TV show and a husband known for his big ego. She's not known for her brains, but for her propensity toward silly remarks and hypersexual photos.

And that's the reason why, during a panel at PAX Prime 2014, the entire audience groaned allowed at Kim Kardashian West's inclusion in a list of the best female licensed characters of the year. Not because the inclusion was wrong—the game was expected to make $200 million dollars in 2014—but because of who she is. While the in-game version of Kim Kardashian West might lack characterization beyond her persona and desire to help the player become the most successful Hollywood celebrity, was any licensed character really more successful last year?

Kardashian West was even invited to the 2014 Code Mobile conference thanks to her involvement with the game. She faced an absurd amount of ire for her inclusion in the conference—not because she took a spot that probably should have gone to a woman in tech, but because of who she is. Critics claimed that Kardashian West has nothing to do with the game's development other than loaning her fact to it, while she claims otherwise.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Screenshot
Kim Kardashian: Hollywood lets you dress up your character however you want, including as a fashion disaster.

"[The developers and I] talk daily—no set time, but we have these open emails and chats. If I have an idea, I send it to them. I [also] go down to [their home base] San Francisco every other month and meet with the whole team," she told Adweek in an interview.

And Glu Mobile, the company that created the game, confirms her claims. “She’s approved every item of clothing [used in the game], we discuss features, we discuss events, updates, etc. She’s reviewed all the [production] milestones, from alpha to beta, final gold master,” CEO Niccolo De Masi told the Wall Street Journal. 

While It's Not Great, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Isn't That Bad, Either

While the fact that the game contains microtransactions isn't ideal, the microtransactions are fairly unobtrusive and not required to progress. There are alternate ways to earn the in-game currency needed to inch higher on the top celebrities list, and it's important to recognize that the game isn't competitive multiplayer—while you can play with your friends, you're mostly competing for fame alongside randomly generated computer characters. It takes significantly longer to reach the top of the celebrity charts if you aren't willing to play real money. It is possible, though there's a good chance you'll get sick of it before you make it there.

And it's fun. A little tedious and grindy at times, but it's essentially a dress-up game where you have to earn the ridiculous clothing you want to purchase. It's precisely what you expect it to be, and that's part of why it's successful; people who enjoy it play it because they like that style of gameplay. It's the kind of thing you play for maybe five minutes at a time, not something to sink several hours into at a time.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Screenshot
Multiple conversation options allow players to choose the sweet and earnest or the snarky and conniving path to stardom.

It might all be a big publicity stunt, but, unlike many modern games, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is constantly updating, adding new features, events, and locations. While it does rely on grinding and its gameplay is a less-than-interesting blend of managing your energy and tapping repeatedly on the screen, the situations you encounter are enough to keep tons of players hooked.

In short, there's a reason it's been so successful: a potent blend of capitalizing on Kim Kardashian West's infamous brand, addictive and easy gameplay, constant updates, and the simple fact that so many people hating on it generates curiosity about what has everyone so fired up. It's not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination—there are far better mobile games out there—but the continued derision of the game has more to do with the fact that it bears the face and name of a celebrity known for selfies, a reality show, and silly comments rather than someone well respected.

And it's a casual game. Casual mobile games are the black sheep of the gaming industry, as nobody likes to admit that these simple moneymakers are often more successful than their billion-dollar big siblings. Games like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood are meant to be played in small doses while waiting at the dentist, and since many players of casual games don't play other games, they're the targets of derision.

Again, it's not a great game. But it's hardly worthy of all the hatred, either; lest we forget, this is the same industry that created Duke Nukem Forever, which sold 1.96 million copies despite poor reviews and fourteen years in development hell. Consumers like what they like—maybe it's time to let the stigma against both Kim Kardashian West and casual games die.

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