December 10th, 2008

As mentioned yesterday, I played the Southpeak DS game My Baby Girl for an About.com review last week. It was, to say the least, atrocious. The writing was convoluted, the tasks were annoying, the instructions between goals were nonexistent. The representation of gender however — of course, that’s what I was really interested in — wasn’t too bad. Players can choose to be either “mom” or “dad.” Baby has to be female, but that’s because Southpeak sells a separate version of the game called My Baby Boy.

Though this game is marketed to young, girl gamers, I can’t say I see too much sinister about it. Sure, there’s something creepy about creating what boils down to a baby version of Nintendogs, but Southpeak is hardly the first to do that. Besides, there’s no real way to abuse your baby, so the sadistic fun of messing with puppies doesn’t quite apply. From what I can tell, My Baby Girl is the equivalent of handing a little girl a baby doll — something that seems to endlessly fascinate them, for creepy reasons Kristeva and I agree on — except that baby doll has gone virtual.

That leaves me wondering though, how does a virtual baby doll differ from a real one? Will young girls get something different out of one vs. the other? My Baby Girl gives players the chance to feed their funny-looking new child, to give her affection, to dress her up in frilly little outfits. Still, I can’t help but think there’s some visceral appeal to a real-life baby doll, something about cuddling it and dragging it around by its little plastic hand, that a sim just can’t replicate. Anyone a psychologist trained in early childhood development?

Tags: female characters, gender, new games

8 Responses to “‘My Baby Girl’ and virtual baby dolls”

  1. Duoae Says:

    From the other article on Babyz:

    Have you ever watched a toddler pretend to coddle a plastic doll? To tell the truth, it’s kind of creepy. Why would a child that small want to be a mom? Kristeva says (yes, I’m breaking out the psychoanalysis) it’s because the female child wants to be closer to her father. Subconsciously, she believes the father of her new baby is her own father. She replaces her mother as an object of affection by becoming a mother herself.

    Not sure i agree with this (though granted i’m not a student of psychology or sociology). I always thought that children playing with dolls and action figures was more of a way for the child to engender their own independence and responsibility – which all children crave despite being so dependent on their parents and other older people.

    I myself (according to my mum) played with a doll when i was young – even to the extent of pushing it round in a pram/pushchair and, being male, it probably wasn’t about being a mother but more about being the one in control and learning to mimic and understand the reasons why our existence at that point in life is so restricted by playing it out.

    I think there are many coping mechanisms and techniques that have you ‘act out’ or ‘think through’ the actions of other people we hate or have difficulties dealing with so we can better relate to those people and as to why they may have made the choices they did that affected us in some way. I don’t see this as any different.

    But, like i said, that’s just my uninformed observation so it’s only a thought – not even a theory :)

  2. Linda Kimura (The Babies Can't Wait Lady) Says:

    Children can’t touch and cuddle a virtual doll. That’s the difference.
    It’s not just toddler girls who play with dolls – toddler boys do too. They are learning the basics of empathy- caring for others. This is critical even if they never have children of their own in the future. No empathy in the world would mean a world in chaos.

    Virtual dolls can be fun for older children – the learning that happens with virtual play is just a different type of learning – it’s more about fine motor skills and problem-solving skills.

    But all children need to be supported in the development of empathy – which seems to start at about 18 months.
    Warmly, Linda
    The Babies Can’t Wait Lady
    http://www.blog.babiescantwait.com

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