Friday, February 6, 2009

Horses for courses

Paris regularly hosts at least one salon du cheval (horse show) and I keep meaning to attend one of them one of these days, but money and time constraints get in the way. I'm not a big fan of horses but I'm curious about many things and I'd be interested in seeing what it is about horses that creates fans.

Anyway, for what seems like quite a long time now, I've been seeing advertisements for a new video game, called Horse Life, which is unusual in that it actually seems to target girls. Most video games are created by teenage boys for other teenage boys, and thus never have much to them beyond what teenage boys like, and teenage boys don't have many interests beyond intense, repetitive action and violence. In practice, this means that the video game market is plagued by a permanent epidemic of first-person shooters, and very little with any intellectual content. So it's nice to see something targeting a different market. This title is unusual in that it seems to have been given quite an advertising budget. I've seen advertisements throughout the Métro and on sidewalk displays.

As I've said, I didn't go to the most recent Salon du Cheval, but informed sources tell me that this game had a booth and that there was quite a crowd of young girls playing with the game on display. So much the better. I'm so sick and tired of first-person shooters. Even games that claim not to be FPS typically really are. And that pretty much completely locks girls out of the picture, since few of them are interested in blowing up monsters for hours at a time.

In my own case, I tend to prefer simulation games, such as Flight Simulator, or The Sims 2, or Second Life. I did play Doom for a while long ago, although it gave me motion sickness and I soon exhausted the novelty of the game. Modern games are essentially the same thing with more eye candy.

Anyway, I think Horse Life (now in version 2, only months after the first version was released) comes from Germany or somewhere. The heavy advertising makes it exceptional. I visited the Web site and the trailers and screenshots looked okay, although apparently players are constrained to a single avatar that looks a lot like Ellen Whitaker, the celebrity endorser for the product. And little pink hearts (but no green clovers, thank goodness!) bubble out of your horse when you treat it well.

In contrast to this, I got Grand Theft Auto IV not long ago, at a discount price, and I almost installed it—until I discovered that Sony has its hands in the product and that it installs a rootkit. I don't like rootkits, so I skipped it. Too bad … it has a reputation so fabulous that I was willing to try it even though I don't like the angry-young-male style of FPS games.

What does all this have to do with Paris? Well, the ads for Horse Life are all over the town, or at least they were a few weeks ago, so I figured I'd comment on it.

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