While confronted with a few plane trips and long delays at the airport a couple of weeks ago, I browsed the App Store and downloaded a game for my iPad. Wind-up Knight is an “endless runner” style iOS game with really high quality 3D side-scrolling graphics in which the player controls a little armored knight through a series of challenging-yet-not-frustrating levels. I can’t deny the fact that the gameplay is fantastic — it’s intuitive, looks beautiful, runs smoothly, and kept me entertained long enough to make me forget that I was freezing and bored in the airport. However, I ran into a bit of a conundrum.
The game’s loading screens are “Pretty Princess Primers” – tips intended for would-be princesses to groom themselves into the perfect princesses. Now, before I continue, keep in mind that I’m not actually sure if these are intended to be a joke or not. While I was busy getting offended and being flabbergasted, my fiance was asking me if I was sure the game wasn’t being intentionally misogynistic in an effort to tell a message. The thing is, I’m not sure it matters. The way they are presented is matter-of-fact; white text on black screen with no other context. If there was some kind of subversion of sexist norms going on, it kind of went right over my head. But some of them were so ridiculous that they have to be a joke, right?
For someone who is well-read and knowledgable about concepts like this, I could kind of see the shallow humor in it. But I’m going to make a huge assumption about people — I don’t think the majority of people understand the complicated elements of rape culture, and I don’t think this loading screen is doing any education. It kind of looks like something you’d see in a late night Twitter hashtag about #thingswomenshoulddo. Here is a sample of some other loading screens from the game:
These screens made me feel uncomfortable. I’m not sure what exactly the message is here, other than life as a princess seems like it would surely suck. But the sad thing is, there are analogous serious “tips” in trashy magazines with real-life, non-princess women as the target audience. “16 sexy tips for being desirable late in life” sounds like a headline from a Cosmo. For some women, this stuff isn’t a joke. I’m just not sure what the intention was and it all but ruined what was one of the better iPad games I have played. Thoughts, Border House readers?