“With thousands of games made every year, it’s astounding that none of them address the continuing societal challenges and pressures that young girls face every day, especially in regards to their bodies.” (Anat Shperling, CEO of Toya)
Dove, the American beauty and personal care brand established in 1965 aims to further address past criticism of its controversial advertising campaign “Campaign for Real Beauty” that had previously used ‘white-washed’ images of beauty in its campaigns. Today Dove claims to be the world’s largest provider of self-esteem education.
With its metaverse game expansion of its “Dove Self-Esteem Project” on the Roblox platform, it hopes to increase the representation of girls and women in gaming and the metaverse.
“We created the experience to encourage reflection and spark conversations that we hope helps the next generation avoid the struggles that women face today and instead accept themselves as they are, beautiful, in so many ways.” (Anat Shperling, CEO of Toya)
1.3 billion women and girls play games globally today, with 60% of girls already playing video games before the age of 10, and with their new game “Super U Story”, a collaboration with the female-led games studio Toya and the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR), Dove aims to “address unrealistic beauty ideals, especially on social media”.
“Girls aren’t growing up with the female representation in video games that they need – and it’s negatively impacting their self-esteem.” (Dove)
The game is is targeted primarily at 9-16 year olds and with an emphasis on diversity, players can control characters representing a wide-range of skin tones, abilities and other characteristics. Gameplay and in-game messages are designed to encourage players to positively reflect on their own body confidence and consequently those of others.
“Super U Story is the world’s first video game specifically designed to equip young girls with the tools they need to help combat negative self-esteem.” (Dove)
“In reality, we all come in different shapes, sizes, colors, abilities and that should be reflected and celebrated in the digital content and worlds that are consumed every day, which was a driving force for why we created Super U Story.” (Anat Shperling, CEO of Toya)
Players will find themselves part of “The Academy” for teens with superpowers such as water, fire, speed and flight. These powers can be used to fight “the negativity” being spread by “rogue students” who have put The Academy under siege and protect the other Super U students.
Kids won’t be able to spend money in the game due to a deliberate lack of in-game purchases, while the game will be rated ‘All Ages’ in an attempt to reassure parents and encourage engagement.
“Gaming has become a way to explore connections, build communities and express your true self… Together, we can transform gaming into a positive space for girls.” (Dove)
With annual revenue of $572 billion, Walmart is a true retail mega-corporation. Now, citing changing shopping habits and evolving customer engagement behaviours on social media, apps and gaming websites due largely to the pandemic, Walmart aims to use the Roblox platform as a testing ground for its initial metaverse expansion plans.
“We’re showing up in a big way – creating community, content, entertainment and games through the launch of Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play” (William White, CMO of Walmart)
The two immersive free-to-play metaverse experiences, “Walmart Land” and “Walmart’s Universe of Play” will offer interactive content and entertainment that will bring Walmart’s shopping isles to life in the virtual world on the Roblox platform.
“We’re focusing on creating new and innovative experiences that excite them, something we’re already doing in the communities where they live, and now, the virtual worlds where they play.” (William White, CMO of Walmart)
Walmart Land will initially offer three different experiences designed to showcase “best fashion, style, beauty and entertainment items” focusing on Gen-Z brands such as Bubble and Free Assembly.
“Electric Island” aims to bring a musical experience including a DJ booth where players can practise their DJ skills, an interactive piano, a trivia game featuring Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp and a dance challenge game. The island aims to be inspired by the “world’s greatest musical festivals”.
“House of Style” is a virtual store for avatar merchandise, something Walmart is calling “verch”. Players will be able to try on verch from different brands in a virtual dressing room and enter the “Strike-a-Pose” challenge. A roller-skating rink and obstacle course themed around oversized cosmetics adding gaming activities to the space.
In October the space will host a motion-capture concert named “Electric Fest” featuring artists YUNGBLUD, Kane Brown and Madison Beer. Rounding out the activities are a virtual ferris wheel amongst games and competitions allowing players unlock prizes.
Walmart’s Universe of Play aims to be the “ultimate virtual toy destination” and allows players to play games to earn coins that can be used for virtual goods that can be displayed in their personal trophy case. Currently, five games are being offered based on popular children’s titles Paw Patrol, LOL Surprise, Jurassic World, Magic Mixies and Razor Scooters. Engagement will be incentivized by random ‘airdrops’ of verch from the Walmart blimp.
The timing of the launches aims to increase demand for these items by having children add them to their holiday wish lists.
“How are we driving relevance in cultural conversation? How are we developing community and engagement? How are we moving the needle from a brand favorability [standpoint] with younger audiences? That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.“ (William White, CMO of Walmart)
The British Imperial War Museum (IWM) has launched the UK’s first exploration of the depiction of conflict as seen in video games and virtual worlds titled “War Games: Real Conflicts / Virtual Worlds / Extreme Entertainment”. War events from the First World War to today are explored, challenging visitors to re-interpret and critique conflict as depicted through digital mediums and their effect on real-life war events.
“War Games: Real Conflicts | Virtual Worlds | Extreme Entertainment delves into one of today’s most popular storytelling mediums and seeks to challenge perceptions of how video games interpret stories about war and conflict through a series of titles which, over the last forty years, have reflected events from the First World War to the present.” (IWM)
Using immersive installations to showcase popular war-game titles ranging from first-person shooters to real-time strategy genres such as Call of Duty, Sniper Elite and Worms as well as a military training simulator, the free exhibit aims to “reveal contemporary societal attitudes” about how war is portrayed.
Modern games are often based on real-life events and use thorough research including interviews with combat veterans who were involved to depict war scenes in their own distinctive styles.
A poignant example is the Six Days in Fallujah installation, which includes testimonies from civilians and combatants in the Second Battle of Fallujah, a real-life military operation during the Iraq War.
Meanwhile, titles such as Worms, where players control an army of cartoon worms, are explored for their dehumanising of conflict and the trauma it inflicts.
“War Games invites visitors to interrogate the tension that exists between the thrill and tragedy of warfare in a game and its repercussions in the real world.” (IWM)
Amongst the items on display are examples of facial prosthetics that were developed to disguise combat injuries, as well as case studies on the civilian and refugee experience. These are juxtaposed next to modern and retro gaming titles to “challenge visitors’ expectations of traditional war games by going beyond heroic depictions of conflict”.
“Interrogating the blurring of the virtual and the real, the exhibition explores how video game technology can be used, and is used, to help shape real wars” (IWM)
The gamification of war is presented via such items as an Xbox 360 controller that was used to control unmanned aerial vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a gaming zone where visitors can play a selection of titles including Top Gun and Medal of Honour.
“The drama and tragedy of war has fascinated us for millennia. Paintings, books, plays, films and tv shows have all told gripping stories about conflict. Video games have continued this tradition in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, becoming today’s largest and fastest growing entertainment industry. We hope this exhibition prompts visitors to consider the influence this media might have on our perceptions and understanding of war and conflict” (Chris Cooper and Ian Kikuchi, IWM)
Review written by Quoc Nguyen