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In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (KKH), social media is an integral part of the game. In a game all about climbing the social ladder in pursuit of fame and commodities, it’s not surprising that the developers attempted to create a way to monetize the out-of-game social media of players. The game features it’s own in-game “social media” system; after the player completes modeling gigs or attends red carpet events, little alerts flash in the bottom corner of the page from fans…
In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (KKH), social media is an integral part of the game. In a game all about climbing the social ladder in pursuit of fame and commodities, it’s not surprising that the developers attempted to create a way to monetize the out-of-game social media of players.
The game features it’s own in-game “social media” system; after the player completes modeling gigs or attends red carpet events, little alerts flash in the bottom corner of the page from fans and other famous in-game characters about whatever event. It’s a little jolt of validation for each of the jobs completed and also serves as a benchmark for measuring progress — if the player didn’t talk to the “it-people” at the party, network effectively, or wear a cute new outfit, it will be reflected in the fake Twitter feed.
While other gaming platforms (notably Xbox, Playstation, and Steam) have made it possible to live chat in-game between active players, KKH did not take this approach. Instead, the intra-player social aspect is pushed to players out-of-game social media: the game prompts you every time you open it to connect to your Facebook and Twitter. As you progress through the game, unlock new items and complete jobs, the game will prompt you to share it on your real Twitter or Facebook — even offering KStars and money to sweeten the deal.
However, when examining how many people on Facebook are “talking about” #kimkardashiangame, it clocks in at about 80k. According to HashtagTracker, #kimkardashianhollywood has about 110k timeline deliveries. According to OpenForum, there were about 2.4 million active users in 2015; this means that of all the users, roughly 4.5% are tweeting and posting to Facebook. Likely, this percentage is even smaller because of the likelihood that people who do tweet or post are more likely to do it multiple times (eg. not every post represents a separate person).
I think the reason why in-game chat is so popular in established platform games is because it adds to the gaming experience and connects players in-game. It makes the experience feel more “translucent.” But since KKH is effectively “off-shoring” a social aspect of the game to “real” life, it failed. It breaks the “magic circle” of the game to tweet it out to followers that you know outside of the game and who are likely not players within the game.
Kim Kardashian: Hollywood was released in 2014 to much fanfare, where it shot to #1 on the Apple App Store chart and grabbed #4 for top-grossing apps. The game developer, Glu Mobile, reported that it raked in $1.6 million in its first five days on the market. The Kardashians are a brand and a lifestyle that is largely consumed in a passive way — we watch Kim on TV and in photoshoots and on red carpets. Our pursuit of her content…
Kim Kardashian: Hollywood was released in 2014 to much fanfare, where it shot to #1 on the Apple App Store chart and grabbed #4 for top-grossing apps. The game developer, Glu Mobile, reported that it raked in $1.6 million in its first five days on the market.
The Kardashians are a brand and a lifestyle that is largely consumed in a passive way — we watch Kim on TV and in photoshoots and on red carpets. Our pursuit of her content across Instagram and Snapchat could be construed as slightly more active consumption. But the basis of Kim’s fame is visual: we want to see what her life is like. This is likely why on Twitter she has 48 million followers but on Instagram 85 million.
So how does the Kardashian experience translate into a game? In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, players customize their avatars in either gender. The avatar works at a clothing boutique and immediately has a chance-encounter with Kim herself! You are destined for fame. Kim invites you to a party, gets you a modeling gig, and is a guiding hand through your ascent from the D-list to the A-list celebrity totem pole. This is the core goal of the game: attain fame, as much as you possibly can.
Megan Garber at the Atlantic described the landscape of KK: Hollywood as “ambient commercialism“: the more modeling jobs and event appearances you do, the more money, energy, and K-stars you get. Money can be used to buy new clothing, hair, accessories, make-up, pets, mansions, Range Rovers and more that get unlocked with each level up. Energy allows you do to more jobs but also extract more money out of each job (and better impress your fans). K-stars are the rarest and most valuable currency within the game — they translate to charm, as in, if you have enough K-stars you can literally charm your way through doors and climb that social ladder double time. Every action and reaction within the game is geared toward selling yourself so you can buy more things for yourself so that you can then better sell yourself, ad infinitum. (actually only until level 45).
The story-line of the game mimics Kim’s own early rise to fame; in-game, So Chic clothing boutique is a dupe for DASH, the clothing boutique operated by Kim and her sisters. In-game, you start with small modeling gigs, reminiscent of some of the shockingly small (and bad) modeling gigs Kris Jenner was booking Kim for on the first season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Miami becomes an unlocked destination where you can make club appearances to earn more K-stars, which is exactly what Kim did in her spin-off reality show set in Miami.
In “How to do Things With Video Games,” Ian Bogot dedicates a chapter to branding. Modern iconography in games adds a layer of “contemporary social values” in games. He gives the example of a re-skinned Monopoly game where the player tokens are updated to represent 21st century brands: a Toyota Prius, Mcdonald’s french fries, New Balance sneakers, and Starbucks coffee. (53). In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, players experience a re-skinning of Kim’s own ascent to fame, layered with the “contemporary social values” the game points to: fame, materialism, social climbing, looks, travel…If the game lacked the contemporary context the Kardashian presence affords it, I don’t think it would have been nearly as popular.
I’m only on level 10 so it remains to be seen whether I’ll make it to that mythical A-list or not.