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Game Dev Barbie – Come On Barbie, Mario Party!

With the announcement of her game developer model, Barbie’s long list of careers continues to grow. Critics of the doll’s former career choices write nothing but praise for the new design, calling it an accurate representation. Personally, I don’t know why she has a Macbook instead of a PC, but I digress…

In total, Barbie has over 150 jobs that she could put down on her resume, making her the ultimate Jill-of-All trades; however, some feminists tend to find her choices lacking. In their eyes, Barbie’s choices of work and fashion place negative views on women, implying that society forces girls to act a certain way. They also believe the doll gives unrealistic expectations for women. While I can’t say I agree with all of these points, I’m not going to talk about feminism as a whole or their views on macro matters. Instead, I want to focus on why having the Game Developer Barbie matters to our society.

Come on Barbie, Let’s Go Code

Game Developer Barbie comes at a time when women are trying to make a bigger impact in the gaming world. In a study performed by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) back in 2014, only 22% of game developers identified as female. The question then becomes whether or not women are given the equal opportunity to become a developer. Unfortunately, I don’t have the solution.  No matter the answer, there is nothing wrong with teaching kids who play with dolls that they can be whatever they want to be.

Making Barbie a game developer shows that children can make the next hit video game, with hard work on their part of course. And while I say children, I really mean their main demographic, girls. Anyone can play with dolls, but that doesn’t change the fact that mostly girls play with Barbie (I’m going to be hanged for saying that). It’s just as important to teach girls that they can become a game developer as it is to teach them they can be a mother. Hopefully our growing society avoids placing one career (like doctor, dentist, motherhood) as more important than other career choices.

Can You Even Program, Barbie?

Not all of Mattel’s attempts at diversity played out as well as Game Developer Barbie potentially will. Remember back in 2010 when Mattel released Computer Engineer Barbie? Let me refresh your memory. This version sported a jacket with binary code spelling her name, pink framed (probably non-prescription) glasses, typical wavy, blond hair, and a pink smartphone. The internet found her outfit to be less than realistic, saying that no engineer would look like her. However, the biggest controversy came from the book that accompanied the doll. It was titled “I can be a Computer Engineer” and featured Barbie learning how to design a video game. That’s all fine and dandy, but Mattel goofed up because they forgot to read the book before printing. Instead of actually programming the game herself, she gets two boys to do it for her. (Of course Barbie can’t code, silly! That’s what boys are for.) To make matters worse, she somehow downloads a virus onto her sister’s computer and goes to the same two guys to fix her mistake. Feminists lost their minds.

No matter what your views on equality are, you have to admit that the book could easily be taken the wrong way. Mattel probably tried to imply that Barbie needed the help of her team to program or that even Barbie can learn how to become an engineer. Unfortunately, they made her look like a helpless girl caught in a male-dominated technological world.

Fast forward to 2016. Mattel announces their new career of the year, game developer. Looking at the doll, Game Dev. Barbie seems to fix everything that was wrong with the computer engineer model. Her outfit uses no pink, her hair is dyed in current popular fashion, her clothes do not say “PC Master Race” or something cheesy in binary, and she looks like she’s capable of actually doing her job (the Macbook still doesn’t seem realistic, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt), And with no accompanying book announced, it looks like Mattel actually listened to the fans’ complaints; however, I can’t help but see this Barbie as an apology for Computer Engineer Barbie.

Changing Values In An Ever Changing World

The importance of Barbie’s growing diverse job hunting comes down to an individual’s perception of the world. While each child is unique in how they behave and interact with the world around them, parents heavily influence how children think. As Moms and Dads change their outlook on the world, they at times transfer that outlook to their kids, whether intentional or unintentional, good or bad.

Along with personal views, social values also change constantly. How society viewed the world 40-50 years ago differs greatly from our current society. For example, Barbie first hit store shelves back in 1959, with her first career being a “Teenage Fashion Model”. She would go on to be a fashion designer, a ballerina, a nurse, and a flight attendant by the year 1961. These kind of jobs were typically viewed as feminine careers. If Mattel announced these types of jobs for Barbie nowadays, the internet would probably lose its collective mind. Our culture expects diversity in the workplace, an idea that was just starting to gain momentum in the 60’s.

People continue to evolve. The way we do things now will no doubt change. And Barbie is an accurate sign of that change in society. In that sense, Game Developer Barbie is not behind the times; rather, it is a reflection of evolution. She is a statement that anyone can dream – even if that dream means to code with a Macbook (really, Mattel?).

James Peterson
Written by
Tuesday, 28 June 2016 00:00
Published in Editorial

After spending over eight years in the land of the rising sun, James Peterson returned to his origin of birth in America. There he receives further schooling in the field of Japanese and journalism. He enjoys spending his free time exploring Hyrule field and eating sandviches. James aspires to become the best game journalist he can be. "As long as you keep pedaling, you'll be guided to where you need to go."

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