Trig­ger Happy

Shoot first, ask ques­tions later

EDGE - - SECTIONS - STEVEN POOLE Steven Poole’s Trig­ger Happy 2.o is now avail­able from Ama­zon. Visit him on­line at www.steven­poole.net

Steven Poole chases fame in Kim Kar­dashian: Hol­ly­wood

Asked to draw some­thing un­der the rubric “FEAR”, I sketch a fanged dragon’s head. For “WEALTH”, I draw a sack with a dol­lar sign on the side. When it comes to “AF­TER­LIFE”, for some rea­son, I pen a smi­ley face with a neu­rot­i­cally toothy grin. This process is the open­ing of David OReilly’s art­house provo­ca­tion Moun­tain rather than that of the re­mark­able mo­bile game Kim Kar­dashian: Hol­ly­wood, but it suits the lat­ter just as well. Af­ter all, that game is pred­i­cated on fear (of not be­ing no­ticed) and the pur­suit of wealth at all costs, and its at­ti­tude to cos­mic ex­is­ten­tial ques­tions such as the ex­is­tence of an af­ter­life is, one may sur­mise, that of a rab­bit-frozen-in­head­lights, porce­lain-ve­neers-flash­ing ric­tus of ner­vous in­com­pre­hen­sion.

Was any videogame ever so thor­oughly both a semi-satir­i­cal symp­tom of and a will­ing col­lab­o­ra­tor in cul­tural de­cline as Kim

Kar­dashian: Hol­ly­wood? Right from the ini­tial load­ing-screen tips, the game rec­om­mends to its users a psy­cho­path­i­cally in­stru­men­tal ap­proach to so­cial in­ter­ac­tion. The only rea­son to date peo­ple is to “level up”. The only rea­son to be charm­ing is to get “the best op­por­tu­ni­ties and re­wards”. The only rea­son to talk to peo­ple – at least to peo­ple you don’t want to have sex with – is for “net­work­ing”. For­get be­ing nice, the game whis­pers evilly in the player’s ear, this is how you re­ally get ahead.

The truth of th­ese rules is then demon­strated in a world of pe­cu­liarly Bo­toxed ul­tra­mod­ern de­sign, in which ev­ery­thing is shiny and clean, and green bricks of dol­lars lit­er­ally spurt out of the body of Kim Kar­dashian when you talk to her. (It is as though she is ac­tu­ally able to defe­cate cash, as well as me­tal­lic sil­ver stars, from ev­ery pore, let alone ev­ery ori­fice.)

The sce­nario is hi­lar­i­ously il­log­i­cal, mainly in the way that the life of re­al­ity TV stars is it­self hi­lar­i­ously il­log­i­cal. At the be­gin­ning of the game, I have a job fold­ing clothes in a boutique and I travel around the

For­get be­ing nice, the game whis­pers evilly in the player’s ear, this is how you re­ally get ahead

city by bus, but I some­how man­age to live in a build­ing that’s called “deLUXE life­style Apart­ments”. (My pad is the sort of apart­ment where you would leave Moun­tain run­ning on a spare iPad as a kind of dy­namic in­stal­la­tion piece.)

Luck­ily, Kim Kar­dashian hap­pens by, and in­vites me to a party to save me from this life­style. It is a ter­ri­ble party, be­cause the only peo­ple there are Kim Kar­dashian, the bar­man, and a woman with whom I can choose to flirt or net­work. (Reader, I did the ob­vi­ous.) Even so, it is not long be­fore I have ac­quired a man­ager and pub­li­cist. Why? What is it ex­actly that I do? Don’t be silly. What I do is try to be fa­mous.

This game is, of course, too clever to be to­tally straight-faced, and many char­ac­ters are given snarky lines that ap­pear to be un­der­min­ing the celebrity ethos of the whole. (My pub­li­cist makes a sur­pris­ingly dark im­plicit ad­mis­sion: “Who needs ther­apy when blast­ing some­one on­line makes me feel bet­ter than all the CBT and SSRIs in the world could?”) The game, then, may be try­ing to work for two au­di­ences at once. Just as great chil­dren’s movies always con­tain jokes that pass over the kids’ heads but amuse the adults, per­haps Kim Kar­dashian: Hol­ly­wood is mak­ing a pitch to ap­peal to hip­ster scep­tics as well as true, ador­ing Kar­dashian fans.

If so, it’s an au­da­cious gam­bit. And it’s true that Kim Kar­dashian: Hol­ly­wood may be seen char­i­ta­bly, in one light, as a Machi­avel­lian/Dar­winian self-help sur­vival guide for nav­i­gat­ing a deca­dent so­ci­ety in which all other ac­tors are com­pet­ing ruth­lessly for cash and at­ten­tion. Yet it also can­not help but en­dorse the val­ues it is por­tray­ing, de­spite al­low­ing some char­ac­ters to ver­bally un­der­cut them – never more so than on the ex­ces­sively fre­quent oc­ca­sions when it at­tempts to trick you into ad­ver­tis­ing the game for it on Twit­ter or Face­book, or begs you to spend your own real money on in-app cur­rency so that you can buy a new hair­style or shirt. It works, of course – at the time of writ­ing, Kim

Kar­dashian: Hol­ly­wood is fore­cast to gross $200 mil­lion by the end of the year – but it also shows you where the game’s fun­da­men­tal sym­pa­thies re­ally lie. In the end, then, Kim Kar­dashian:

Hol­ly­wood is a pow­er­ful demon­stra­tion that, some­times, you can’t have it both ways. But what if there were a ver­sion scripted by the au­thor of Amer­i­can Psy­cho and Glam­orama?

Bret Eas­ton El­lis: Hol­ly­wood – now that re­ally

would be some­thing.

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