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katamari damacy

2009 April 12
by Hannah Mueller
katamari damacy

katamari damacy

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?

5 Responses
  1. Kalyn Schofield permalink
    April 12, 2009

    Don’t worry the psp version titled “Me & My Katamari” lets you play a wide range of characters including a girl. You find these people in the levels and roll them up. Once they’ve been “rolled” on the katamari you can switch out Prince for them. The people are also respective aunts, uncles, and cousins of prince’s family. So you really can be a princess. Also if you really like Katamari this might make you chuckle.

  2. Alex M. permalink
    April 13, 2009

    Seconded. You have to find the other “cousins” in order to play them. And in this game, the characters are so exceedingly weird that it is hard for me to think of them as gendered, aside from the Prince. The boys and the girls are all over the color spectrum and all of them prance in the field when you make them.

    Also, I loved Spyro the Dragon when I was a kid, but for some reason someone at my then 5-year-old sister’s school had her thinking that all video games were for boys (no idea how that happened). I sat her down with a controller in front of Spyro, which she hated, and then Battle Arena Toshinden, which she could not put down. Video games might be angled toward one gender, but are definitely bought based on the kind of person you are. That is probably supposed to say more about the players than the game though.

    In any case, I am not a huge fan of gendering video games even based on marketing strategies because they are all based on the “flashing lights, shiny colors” principle. Who wouldn’t be attracted to that?

  3. Hannah Mueller permalink
    April 13, 2009

    It’s so funny how complex this game can get when the entire point of it is just roll things up in a ball. I love it. Looking forward to getting to the princess level when I’m home again.

    Very true: you don’t even have to be human to be attracted to shiny objects. While I think that definitely boys and girls can be attracted to certain games regardless of their own gender, it’s still revealing to look at how they’re marketed or intended for certain genders. It tells us about how people are “supposed” to perform their gender and thus what gender IS–but of course people often go against what their ideal gender would do. And it’s especially telling to look at the kinds of games young children are meant to want, because the marketing (I would argue) is a major tool in shaping the concept of gender in their minds.

  4. Solomon Lutze permalink
    April 13, 2009

    I think Katamari Damacy was made for people who like fun at its most distilled level. That, like sugar, sunsets, or warm naps in the sun, defies gender.

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