Monday, October 15, 2007

Scary, sexy marketing to children.

This is sick stuff, people. On the advice of kids (the eldest who recommended this site was 11, his older brother at 13 said that it was "for kids" and that he likes MySpace better) I visited Gaia Online. Wow. It was eerie for me, and really pushed a lot of buttons.

The main thing that freaked me out was how the site is all about shopping to define your identity. I know that sounds like, Oh, there goes Lexicat freaking out about material culture replacing theoretical culture again, or, as one girl sighed to me years ago when we were having a long talk about religion, "This isn't going to be as complicated as your feelings about shopping, is it?" But well, anyway.

When you join Gaia, a NPC called Moira comes to greet you and show you around. Moira was pretty nice, very cute, very sexy, and totally OBSESSED with making you go shopping.

So there I go, following the beginner's quests (which were pretty much about choosing my avatar- I enjoyed that, and was happy when I was done- my avatar has spiky hair, a
blue t shirt, a black skirt and black boots), and then up pops Moira with a message. She wants me to play the Daily Chance, to see if I win something good. I'm up for it, why not? So I click on it, and win 25 gold. Sweet, right?

Then I continue trying to explore Gaia. I am trying to get a feel of the map, when Moira pops back up. She's bossy.

Moira says "Ooh, let's go spend it! Shopping spreeeee! Don't worry about throwing a little gold around, you can always get more [by playing on Gaia]"

I tried not to go shopping. I kept clicking off Moira, and trying to navigate the site. She kept coming back. Over and over and over.

Now Moira says "Have you bought anything cool yet? That money must be burning a hole in your pocket by now!" She's so perky, and cute, and my only friend in this new world. So Ok, Moira, let's go shopping.

We go to Barton Boutique, and I scope out the clothes. Wow, lots of choices. All of the free clothes you get when you start were pretty gender neutral, but I hadn't thought much of it- although I did admire Moira's cleavage, belly ring, and unfastened(?) jeans. but wow- shopping was surprising.

For a mere 2 gold, I could buy another blue T-shirt from Rufus, the cute cat who runs that shop.

Hey, it's "A warm fitted top with a super cute design." Sounds good to me, so I buy it. Then I realise, oh, hey, it said Gender: Any. Huh. Ok, I am kind of amused because IRL I do wear lots of guys' T-shirts and hoodies, but I think about being a preteen/tween whatever, and how much I would want to make it clear that I was a girl. I keep browsing.

And lo and behold, the first top that I found that wasn't Gender: Any, makes it very clear that this is a top for a womanly woman. Look at those! Also, it is 160 gold. (Remember, the gender neutral top is 2 gold.) I keep browsing.

There are some skirts- how about the Dark Mistress Skirt? The advertising copy reads "When this skirt came down, so did he." Now, I am not even sure what happened to him, or why the skirt came down, as opposed to going up, but it sounds, well, racy. Only 600 gold to be a sexy dark mistress! The Red Goth Skirt is "A crimson skirt for the emotionally disturbed." Emotional disturbance, too is 600 gold. The Leather Tube Top is 1300 gold. The advertising copy is simple and to the point. "Tease Men". (Yeah, men, not boys. Tease men.)

I am getting kind of freaked out clothes shopping (as y'all can tell, because I took a ton of screencaps) so I go furniture shopping, something I enjoy more in real life too. I don't have much money, so I click to search for the cheapest stuff there is. After lamps and wall clocks, I come to chairs. One of the cheaper choices (and I do want to say that there are many other choices) was a "Redwood Bar Chair", ad copy reading "This chair was made for drinkin', and that's just what it'll do". Really? The chair will go out drinkin'? Now, that's a fancy chair. Gives new meaning to the 'hollow leg' thing.

Anyway, the shopping saga was giving me agita. Moira was proud of me that I had bought something. "Hey, you went shopping! Isn't it fun? Watch out, you might get addicted! I'd better give you a little bit more gold so you don't go broke!" Moira gives me 25 more gold.

I went looking for the kids, the real kids who had finished their shopping, and were hanging out, connecting, bonding in their social network. (I must say that the main reason that I was at Gaia was because I am co-hosting a meeting about social networking, youth, and libraries)

Imagine, if you will, my delight when I found the forums. Here, I hoped, I might find the justification I was looking for, for why we shouldn't keep this crap out of the libraries, for why it might be valuable.

Recent topics
* All about the butt-secks
* Enter Topic Here
* Igamer64 waz here
* Come and chill :D
*Django bought this area
* if ur name is garaa come here
* Queer Land by Leland
* Enter Topic Here
Yeah. Soooo not feeling up to the "All about the butt-secks" conversation (love that "the", by the way, stylewise- the headline just wouldn't be as powerful and attention getting if it was just "All about butt-secks". Also, am horrified/amused that this phrase ( I know it from Fark forums) has become a seemingly universal way to discuss anal sex while bypassing filters that would block 'anal' or 'sex'.)
So I went fishing. I didn't catch much though, a few guppies and an old boot.
The guy at the fishing shack suggested that my chances might be better if I bought an expensive new, fancy fishing rod and some Grade A bait - my 'free' Basic rod and 'free' Grade F bait weren't doing it.
So I logged off. Damn. So doomed.

1 comment:

MakiruSama said...

Those weren't the forums :/