Youthful white male industry seeks “fun”-loving middle-aged women for video games—no strings attached

Authored by: Shira Chess

The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415527699
eBook ISBN: 9780203066911
Adobe ISBN: 9781135076955


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Corporate synergies can make strange bedfellows. No one would have ever expected Martha Stewart, the queen of feminine crafts and entertaining, to find a home in a video game. But in March 2012, Zynga, the most prolific of the Facebook game companies, began an unexpected synergistic collaboration: Martha Stewart became a featured character and launched a series of quests in Zynga’s role-playing game Castleville (2011). Previous to Martha Stewart’s entry, Castleville was a typical Zynga Facebook game: it involved using friends and acquaintances to do small quests of farming, trading and purchasing virtual goods, and crafting small items. In recent years, it has been noted, this gaming style has primarily been used to attract more women audiences to video games. In 2011, Zynga even declared that the 40-year-old woman is the “new hardcore gamer” (Crossley 2011). After Stewart joined Castleville, her “kingdom” was filled with rows and rows of perfectly manicured crops and artfully placed buildings. But, while Stewart’s quests were not necessarily different from other quests in Castleville, many members of the game audience quickly grew angry over her addition to the game. They posted remarks on Facebook such as: “Castleville just crossed the line with this Martha Stewart crap. Created a snack in the gazebo for the spring points and it redirected the browser to a freakin’ Martha Stewart website!” (Walkenford 2012). Another said: “Whoever told Zynga it would be a good idea to team up with Martha Stewart for the newest Castleville quests should be summarily beaten” (SteelCladDragon 2012). Her quests are stereotypically feminine: decorating eggs and similar crafts for an immaculately manicured “kingdom” reflecting both her ethos and her public sense of style. And, of course, products in the game link back to real Martha Stewart products. Even more amusingly, Stewart is depicted in the game in a cartoonish way, and looking 40 years younger than she does in reality.

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