Nintendo's women's-fashion-shop game for the DS was called "Girls Mode" in Japan, signal enough that it's not for macho men or the gamers who want to play as one. But there are design ideas in Style Savvy any gamer should know about.
Style Savvy is a fully localized upcoming Nintendo-published DS game that's sure to thrill pre-teen girls everywhere, which is not exactly Kotaku's core readership. This is one game from Nintendo's showcase I figured I could skip last night in New York.
But I was curious.
The game involves business management and fashion show contests. It involves collecting clothes and showing off fashion designs. Stylishness is an undervalued game design element, one I haven't seen explored in many games (The World Ends With You, the Square-Enix RPG, is one rare exception). Maybe that's of interest? Maybe not.
Here's what caught my attention: the mechanic of the player's shop-owner interacting with customers is as heavily based on stereotypical female values as the core mechanics of most interaction in action games — shooting or punching the other guy — is based on stereotypically male ones.
A customer walks into your shop. She wants some new clothes. She tells you a little about herself. Note that. It involves listening or, because this is all-text, paying attention. The player then chooses what she or he thinks is the article of clothing the potential customer most wants and then either suggests they try it on or asks them to at least take a look at it. The implied values there are empathy and aesthetics. What does this other person want? What does this other person think will look good?
One can question whether the values implicit in the mechanic described above are truly feminine traits or simply human traits often attributed by society to women. But what struck me while checking out Style Savvy is how little they reminded me of mechanics from other games and how distinct they felt from the mechanics I'm used to in gaming encounters.
It may not be all that manly. That doesn't stop it from being interesting.