This weekend I played Katamari Damacy, a Playstation 2 game my brother had for a while but I had never tried. It’s probably the strangest game of any kind I’ve ever seen…ever…I like it a lot, though, and it’s definitely addictive. The story is that the King of the Cosmos has accidentally knocked all the stars out of the sky, and you as the prince his son have to go to the planet Earth and roll around a katamari, picking up completely random objects into an everything-snowball. Your goal starts at 10cm, with matches and tacks and sushi, etc. etc., and becomes progressively larger, until you’re rolling up skyscrapers and whales. The katamaris then become stars in the sky. My little sister is much better at it than I am; she’s playing it right now and just got a cat, while I could only succeed in grabbing the mice with much difficulty. The interspersed story pieces are reminiscent of Monty Python or Yellow Submarine animation 🙂
Thinking about gender expectations, I’m surprised that you can only be a prince, not a princess, since the game seems more feminine than most other video games I’ve seen or played. The prince is a cute little green character, there’s no violence, and there are lots of bright colors and rainbows. But on its own, not in comparison to other games, I would say it’s marketed to a gender-neutral audience.
Maybe this is because it’s kid-friendly? Sometimes games for younger players like this are more accessible to both genders (another game I used to play, Spyro the Dragon, was not especially male or female-oriented, either), but then again some other games for kids are very much marketed towards one gender and not the other: princesses vs. trucks, for example. I think an interesting angle from which we could look at these games is, for which gender are they intended? How does marketing create gender roles?