What I learned playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood for a month…

I need more stars. What if I don’t have enough energy to go out with my boyfriend nay fiancee Jayden and tend to my goldfish and leopard cat I adopted off the street on a whim? More importantly, why am I wondering any of this…

Let’s flash back to several weeks ago when I began playing Kim Kardashian’s mobile game. Testing it out part driven by intrigue in how users continue to purchase virtual items or that it is still ranked number 48 in the free apps section despite being in the ecosystem since it’s launch in the summer of 2014. In fact Glu Mobile, the company behind the app recently launched sisters’ Kylie and Kendall own app with an accompanying Snapchat filter…the app has predictably shot to number one in the app store. With anticipating for yet another possible hit by Glu Mobile with Taylor Swift’s upcoming game, I had to know for myself why users were spending the equivalent of 35,000 years in the game since it’s launch. (yes, their engagement according to Game Stop amounts to about 3.29 billion session) For context there were about 42 million downloads and there’s roughly 318 million people in the United States. If you work out the rough math that’s about 7% of the US population just downloading away.

The snapchat filter for reference, I’m not sure why my eyes are huge. Don’t ask…

Anyways, to the observation board!

A guide: lighting bolts represent energy, you use a certain number to complete each task. Stars with a K and cash are virtual currencies (not crypto currencies ha as they are regulated and you can purchase all of these with real life money)

I had to figure out quickly what my character wanted and this is what conclusively I’m motivated by:

  • A boyfriend that will ultimately become a fiancee. I also need to have some well rated dates or I risk the possibility of getting dumped. Perhaps I just picked a moody boyfriend though so this is a definite variable. That being said the app is inclusive, you can pick a boyfriend, girlfriend — whichever. I also have the power to dump him and find someone else whenever I want up until a certain point but this seems like a waste of energy, er, lighting bolts.
  • I need to become famous which means I need to fulfill a lot of club appearances and open a store for an insured virtual revenue stream. Also I think my character is highly motivated to be a model as I don’t come equipped with any discernible skills otherwise right off the bat.
  • It is necessary for me to have multiple apartments and host parties in them. It is also conveniently a home for the cat I wasted all my stars on, to live.
  • I need to rise from a non list to an A-list star. Both my individual and couple rankings hover on the side of the screen.
  • My nemesis is someone named Willow Pape, she hated me the instant she met me. I feel highly motivated to make her take it back.
This is me modeling and that is the cat I spent all of my savings on. (My friend saw this when I told her I was writing up a medium post and let me know it was ugly.)

At this point I should disclose that the plethora of clothes, accessories and make up options are all probably what at the base makes people want to play this game but I arbitrarily decided I only wanted to play until I could adopt a random animated stray cat and halfway through the game I accidentally spent all my virtual money on this.

I will also say that despite initial publicity this still would probably addictive as a standalone in that these simulation role playing games where your characters have free will is very addictive. The addition of my nemesis provides a sort of randomness to the experience that is very addictive — to the point where I can understand someone justifying a real life dollar to win. Based on some internet research here are a few things I’ve noticed make it addictive on it’s own and why they’ve managed to suck me in despite having no emotionally attachment to Kim Kardashian.

  • The game isn’t TOO exciting. You don’t have to be glued to it in order to succeed, the virtual money system is such that you can focus for short moments at a time and still succeed as you need to allow time to accrue more money. Because of this you don’t burn out right away. Here’s a great take from a The Next Web piece from a while back with a psychologist’s take….
“We like to be in control. We also like to choose what, when and how we control things. Our need of control combined with the freedom to choose is one of the main drivers of the popularity of computerized role-playing games (especially open world “sandbox” games) and various simulation games like The Sims and even the old Tamagotchi devices from the 90s.
Our mind works in such a way that we feel some satisfaction when interacting with a game that gives us a measure of self-expression and control over different aspects of the experience — be it the hair color of the character we choose to represent ourselves or the types of vegetables we grow on our virtual farm.
Loss aversion is a psychological effect that encourages repeated use and addiction by making us believe we can re-gain what we’ve lost if we keep investing more.”
  • Customization is key — getting to spend all your money on your hair…or a cat is all about what keeps you in the game and a part of the story.
  • A to-do list. Let’s be honest, it feels good to knock things off your list because you can’t always in the real world and the game falls at a pace in which you still get some downtime to celebrate crossing all your items off before dropping another one in right before you’re about to quite the game.
  • The surprise reward! Once in college I spoke to a local paper who had been running a unbelievably successful game that had hooked the whole town back into what at the time was already being called a dying medium. The trick? Rewarding users for no reason. Users will keep playing the game either trying to figure out why they were inexplicably rewarded or in order be inexplicably rewarded by accident again.

Overall I’d have to say I get it. While I am testing too many apps to continue on with my avatar who I stubbornly named “pumpkins” (which made me laugh every time the other characters said my name) I still understand why this and other games in these ranks are addictive and popular especially among a demographic that has short pockets of time, say between class periods, to aggressively collect something they like which in today’s younger generation like many before is social currency. It also doesn’t help they have an overwhelming fan base to kick things off.

Like what you read? Give Deborah Findling a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.