Video game with plus-size model
We admittedly know little about modern video games. In the 1980s, some of our colleagues enjoyed a brief addiction to an arcade staple of the Asteroids/Space Invaders variety, called Red Baron, which allowed them to live out their fantasies of becoming the legendary Prussian fighter ace, Manfred von Richthofen.
But video games have come a long way since then. Today, they exhibit CGI animation of near-Pixar quality, and allow users to construct diverse plot scenarios, based on their own gaming decisions--rather like Choose Your Own Adventure books. Some industry watchers even predict that video games will soon outstrip movies in popularity, especially among teen and twentysomething audiences.
With that in mind, it is truly exciting to discover a game that delivers an unequivocal message of size celebration, especially considering this medium's potential to influence young girls during their most impressionable years.
A reader of this forum recently directed our attention to a new video game titled Nancy Drew: Danger by Design. As the name implies, this game is the latest entry in a series starring young detective Nancy Drew (the female counterpart to the Hardy Boys). Each installment depicts the amateur sleuth unravelling mysteries in exotic locales, all over the globe.
The decision to orient the game around a couturier who favours the full-figured body type was a stroke of genius, on the authors' part. Every young girl who plays Danger by Design will not only learn about the world of fashion, but will also discover that specifically plus-size fashion design offers them a burgeoning new field in which they can specialize.
In experiencing Danger by Design, innumerable young girls will be aesthetically inoculated against outmoded, 20th-century myths such as "Clothes look 'better' on underweight frames," and will instead realize that well-fed curves--their own, or those of other young women--provide far more attractive design opportunities than do bone-thin frames.
Throughout the game, the player completes tasks which nurture her nascent fashion skills, including assembling an outfit for one of the designer's clients (a shapely, plus-size client).
When we first meet the model, she is happily performing her favourite activity--the explicitly unwaiflike act of baking cookies. The sunlight streaming in through the open window bathes her in a celestial light, enshrining her as a modern-day equivalent of that enchanting Victorian ideal, the "angel in the house."
And the player's response is scripted to be an enthusiastic, "I love chocolate chip cookies!"
The model's statements also directly tie in her healthy appetite with the designer's aesthetic preference for plus-size beauty:
Could there possibly be a more affirmative message of size celebration than this? The player encounters a pretty model who delights in baking and eating cookies, both for professional needs, and for the sheer pleasure of it--and even directly invites the player to indulge right along with her.
"I walked across the courtyard toward the attractive house, and when I had gone up the steps and through a doorway, I came upon the most charming sight imaginable . . . a very pretty girl of medium height. She had on a simple white dress with pale pink bows on the sleeves and at her breast, and she was holding a loaf of black bread and cutting a slice . . ."
(This scene also endows the "Menu" button, which appears at the foot of this and every screen in the game, with a whole new meaning.)
Later in the game, the player receives a few investigative hints by telephone from a pair of Nancy's American friends, and the scripted lines reaffirm her positive appraisal of her famous roommate. This, in turn, inspires an envious reaction from one of her friends (a reaction that exposes one of the reasons why the fashion industry has suppressed timeless beauty for so long):
Later in the game, the player telephones another pair of Nancy's American friends--her famous sleuthing peers, the Hardy Boys. Joe's starstruck reaction to discovering that Nancy is bunking with "world-famous plus-size model J.J. Ling" is typical of the ardent reactions that goddesses inspire in male admirers. It also reinforces the game's underlying, all-important premise that, as a full-figured model, Miss Ling is universally acknowledged to be gorgeous and desirable, not just by the fashion world, but also by the opposite sex.
Indeed, at one point in the game, the player discovers that one of the model's adoring fans holds a piece of information that is essential to solving the mystery, and that this fellow will only share his information if she can provide him with Miss Ling's autograph!
But best of all, one assignment requires the player to bake a batch of cookies--for J.J. Ling herself.
Although the game is filled with sunny moments, it also boasts a fine dollop of suspense, and even a smidgen of horror. For example, one episode is set in that most exciting of all Parisian "sights," the Montparnasse catacombs:
(The wording on the lintel in the above image, "C'est ici l'empire de la mort," is accurate, by the way--even if the physical arrangement of the entryway to the catacombs, which exhibits many more skulls and bones, is not.)
We simply cannot praise this game highly enough. It is as perfect an expression of size celebration as we can imagine, with no mixed messages whatsoever. And although we have no basis on which to compare it to other video games, it is also a thoroughly enjoyable diversion, full of mentally stimulating puzzles, and supported by a romantic plot. Parents can allow their daughters to enjoy this game, secure in the knowledge that it will provide them with a wholesome and fun entertainment experience--and a size-celebratory one at that.
Re: Video game with plus-size model
It's fantastic to see size-celebration appearing in new media, and it's wonderful to know that such a pro-curvy message is being given to girls at an age when they'll still be receptive to it - an age when their views of the world are still being shaped. Allowing Nancy Drew to bake cookies for the plus-size model is just too cute! It gives the user an opportunity to play Ceres to the model's Venus.
I also find it encouraging that while Nancy Drew's friend expresses envy in her reaction to the model, Nancy herself does not. Girls who are using this game will naturally identify with Nancy's reactions, since that's the role that they're playing, and this will help teach them a healthy reaction to beauty - a positive, appreciative one, rather than a resentful one. This lesson by itself makes the game beneficial, apart from its many other favorable elements.
I wonder where the game got the inspiration for its plus-size model images?
Re: Video game with plus-size model
The authors chose very well in picking out templates for the game's fashion illustrations. For the two photographs in Nancy Drew's casebook (which ostensibly show full-figured designs from the couturier's portfolio),
the game reworked a classic pair of Nordstrom images of Barbara Brickner:
The authors were wise to select Mrs. Brickner (who is, of course, a size 14, not a 12) to embody the look of an ideal plus-size model. Their specific garment choices--attractive knee-lenth dresses, rather than lower hems--were commendable as well.
If this was the inspiration, the model's top was regrettably altered to make it more conservative, out of consideration for the game's youthful audience. But Miss Ling does exhibit the shapely body type--and in particular, the curvaceous waist--that Valerie possessed at the time, which made the above photo one of the all-time greatest images of plus-size beauty.
We have discussed this game in detail to itemize all of the ways in which it successfully implements a curve-positive philosophy, avoids any mixed messages, and convincingly delivers a message of size celebration to a youthful, impressionable audience--most particularly in the form of its irresistibly self-indulgent CGI Venus:
Future game authors can reference this as an example of a project that got it right--making it the Mode of video games, so to speak.
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