Kim Kardashian: Hollywood has taken the app world by storm. The addictive game has become so massive that bloggers are chronicling their experiences spending hundreds of real life dollars on it. The Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water accidentally sent out a tweet about it. High minded writers are churning out thousand-plus word think pieces on it.
It's also currently the fourth highest grossing app in the iTunes store, and could be raking in $700,000-a-day for Kim K. and its creators.
Yesterday my curiosity got the best of me. I caved. I downloaded it. The main selling point: Miami is one of the settings for the game. Considering it may very well turn out to be Miami's most important appearances in a video game since Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, I had to see what it was all about.
In retrospect I think it would have been more fun to play as a female, and yet instinctively I picked the male player. I quickly modeled the character to look vaguely like me, and yet no matter what options you chose, your avatar will end up being impossibly gorgeous. I suspect this is part of the attraction for some users, and yet it kind of bummed me out immediately. Here is this little 2-D cartoon doll version of "me" that is better looking than I ever have or ever hope to be. He looks so good in a tank top it literally hurt. Granted, what else was I supposed to expect from a Kim Kardashian video game? I decided not to to fight it, and gave myself razor sharp cheek bones.
My character then had a random encounter with Kim herself. She laid out the basic aim of the game. Your character starts out on the "E-list" and then tries to become famous by doing not much more than dating other "celebrities," going out to clubs, feuding with your arch nemesis, posing for photographs, and doing a few occasional stints at a day job to apparently help support this lifestyle. The exact mechanics of the game are best explained elsewhere, because I just want to get to the Miami party.
And yet, I was kind of disappointed I couldn't immediately head over to Miami. I texted an experienced player friend about this, and she told me not to worry. Miami is the first location outside of Los Angeles County you can unlock. You don't even need to get to the D-list level to reach it.
There is a bit of subtle shade in all this. It implies that in Miami even E-listers qualify as VIP, which, well, actually is true.
So I did some "work" in LA, helped by my publicist Maria -- and I love Maria! In my real-life job as a journalist, I'm not even supposed to particularly like real life publicists, yet I wanted to be best friends with Maria. The dialogue in the game can be pretty witty at times, and Maria is the most fully realized character I met so far, much more than Kim herself. Anyway, Maria suggested I head to Miami to work at "Kardash." Yes, oddly the game does not use "Dash," the name of the Kardashian's real life store in Miami in the game, but Kardash.
Now, if you know Maria like I know Maria, you get the sense that she wanted to tell you they have good coke in Miami, but she's under court order to keep it professional. Though, the Cuban coffee line already tells me that the game developers have a better handle on real Miami than some others who have featured the city in their game. Anyway, I get on a bus and head to LAX, check in on my flight, and then something strange happened: next thing I knew I was on what I presumed is supposed to be South Beach.
I was kind of grateful that the game does not feature a digital version of Miami International Airport. Having to deal with it occasionally in real life is enough.
And, honestly, we suspect this is how a lot of Los Angelinos fly to Miami. They check in for their flight at LAX, down some pill cocktail with a mixture of vodka, and have no memory of anything else until their cab drops them off in South Beach. Maybe that's why Hollywood seems to have no understanding that there's other parts of Miami aside from the Beach. They don't even remember the taxi ride over the bridge.
Let's also note how in Los Angeles the player can use a "bus system," but in Miami there is no public transport system to speak of.
Sadly, the Miami level only features three locations.
First there's LIF. Clearly it's meant to represent the very real club LIV, and yet the laziness of the pretend name is hilarious. You'll notice right away that there's no attempt to reproduce Miami Beach's signature Art Deco architecture. Exposed brick exterior on Miami Beach? No such thing. Though, they do get style points for the neon sign. We'll actually get inside LIF later, but first there's more sightseeing and eventual work to do.
There's Kardash, obviously.
Then there's this mansion. Because it's on the main strip it immediately made me think its supposed to represent the Versace Mansion, but the Mediterranean architecture makes us think its more Star Island or Coral Gables. Either way, it ends up being available for purchase later in the game.
If the game was a bit more au courant, the property you'd be able to buy in Miami would be in a downtown luxury skyscraper. Hopefully they'll change that when they release the Brazilian version.
And that was it! Sort of disappointed, I headed in to do my shift at Kardash, and this is where the game got a little too real.
Kim supervised me as I worked a shift around the store, doing menial things like folding clothes and organizing purses. The thing is, back in college, I used to actually work a menial part-time job at a Miami clothing store. Here I was, avoiding doing work at my big-boy job for a few minutes in order to play a game where I am basically replicating doing work at a job I hated back in college. (At least Kim didn't make me great every customer who walked in with false cheeriness.)
It was kind of surreal. I had downloaded the game telling myself I wouldn't get shamefully addicted like so many before me, but it was at this moment that I realized that no, I really wouldn't.
Still, I decided to prevail at least until I could get into LIF. I mean, c'mon guys, you're basically a nobody if you can't get into LIF.
Eventually Kim promoted me to buyer for the store. If you've seen some of the stuff they carry at the real life DASH store, it doesn't seem too unrealistic that Kim would promote someone she met on the street just hours before to the position.
So I do a business deal with a designer back in LA. Her husband just so happens to be the VP of marketing for "Immaculat Vodka," and the brand just so happens to be sponsoring the opening of LIF. Maria tells me I absolutely have to figure out a way to get in, and, you know, at this point I trust Maria with my life so I do. My manager Simon is also pretty insistent. I respect Simon and all, but to be honest I never really clicked with him. It's probably best not to completely trust someone who is handling your money.
I spend a couple of "stars" (the game gives you some for free, but if I wanted more I would have had to shell out real money) to charm my way in despite the fact I'm still an E-lister.
Then it hits me again. I've been at the real life LIV before. I've had a few good times, and think it is absolutely gorgeous (much moreso that the game's version), but ultimately it's not the kind of place I'd hang out regularly. I've got an alt-weekly salary, and an alt-weekly taste in music, you know.
So here I am again in a weird digital version doing something I've already done in my real life I don't particularly enjoy. It was, well, just odd. After I finished up, it appeared to be all I was required to do in Miami for the time being.
Interestingly, while posing for photo shoots is a big part of the game back in Los Angeles, it doesn't appear there's any modeling opportunity in Miami. Which is again oddly accurate, as Miami's status as a model (and we don't mean "model") hotspot isn't exactly LA-level. I was once asked online back in college to do some "modeling" ...in the back of a van ...though I believe they were calling it a bus. (I declined.) Yeah, so maybe it's best there aren't any Miami photoshoots (even if it would mesh with Kim Kardashian's real life career trajectory.)
In fact, in the game all that Miami appears to be good for is shopping for expensive clothes, buying expensive real estate, and getting drunk at fancy nightclubs. That's pretty much is all that visitors do here anyway. Yet another uncanny way in which the game did sort capture a slightly-off but not completely inaccurate version of this town.
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It sort of ruined the fantasy aspect of the game for me. Not in a "Oh, my real life is so much better than this" way (I mean, I have three versions of Angry Birds on my phone).
We just doubt World of Warcraft would be quite so popular if players' level 9 elves were forced to "march upstairs right now, young man, finish your homework and be in bed before 10."
So, I probably won't be returning to that weird virtual Miami, or anywhere in the Kim Kardashian universe. I'll just miss Maria ...and how good I looked in that tank top.