I’m a connoisseur of terrible computer games targeted at girls. I’ve played a LOT – most of the early Barbie games, various pet simulations, an awful dating sim that will remain nameless. When I saw a trailer for “High School Dreams” while watching Let’s Plays on Youtube, you better believe I bought that business for $5. This super-rad game trailer should tell you everything you need to know.
A chance to live my high school dreams!? I’m so there.
For those not familiar with this game, the premise is simple: you, the player, are the new girl at Charm Springs High. In the school are six different single guys, each one embodying a different stereotype, including a rich kid who would play the villain in an ’80s movie and a goth kid straight out of a Tim Burton film. Your goal is the seduce one of these guys using a combination of bribery, misdirection, and fashion knowledge, and thereby obtain an invitation to prom.
Sounds simple enough.
What follows is a complex (depending on the guy you choose) story involving romance and betrayal that culminates in the most cutthroat prom ever seen. Since creating this blog, I decided to play through the game with each of the six guys and rate them, which I’m sure is in no way demeaning or sexist.
Let’s begin with the worst, shall we?
Stereotype: Popular rich kid
I journal about things–don’t be surprised–and I happened upon an entry where I gave each of the HSD guys a letter grade. Landon received an exceptionally low grade, followed by some really harsh language. I was having a rough year at the time, so my perspective might have been biased.
Then I replayed the game.
I have NO idea what this guy’s appeal is. Well, that’s not true: he’s rich, which is not so much attractive as it is fascinating. Landon occupies Charm Springs High’s social elite, is worth more than Mark Zuckerberg, and gives designer clothes to his girlfriends as “little gifts.”
Other than that, he has nothing to offer.
The other guys (minor spoiler alert) have at least some hidden depths. For instance, Chuck isn’t as crazy about basketball as everyone wants him to be. Faced with a rich kid who relies on his money and influence, I kept waiting for Landon to have some flaw or insecurity that would make him less of a tool. Maybe he’s lonely because people only like him for his money. Maybe he longs for his rich father’s respect. Maybe he wonders how long his popularity will last. These things are hinted at, but never explored. In the end, Landon knows how awesome he is and doesn’t much care about your feelings on the matter.
Did I mention this is supposed to be love story!?
Though I don’t feel this way, I can understand why some girls playing this game might gravitate toward Landon. He’s the unattainable guy who always overlooked them who now suddenly realizes how great they are. Only, in this game, THAT’S NOT THE CASE. Landon doesn’t say, “Wow, you’re amazing, I can’t believe I never saw it before.” You know, that speech that’s still pretty insulting but at least acknowledges former ignorance. Landon’s final speech boils down to, “You’re so great now that I’ve turned you into exactly what I want.”
THAT’S what kills me. The game’s assumption is that the main character should feel grateful that they are found worthy by someone so popular. It’s only AFTER they start dressing better–per Landon’s orders–and doing Landon favors that he considers them worthwhile. So much for self-worth. How is this a happy ending?
Recent events in my life only make Landon more repulsive to me. I realize that because this is a computer game about high school romance, I should lower my standards. However, I paid for an interesting, mutually-beneficial love story, something that the other five guys (well, for the most part) deliver. In Landon’s case, I got to participate in an all-give, no-take relationship with a guy who saw me as an accessory to his outfit. I thought computer games were supposed to be an escape from real life?
The “happy ending”–if you can call it that–was not worth slogging through a ton of backhanded compliments. Movie premieres and designer clothes aside, this guy has no redeeming qualities.