There are some things that happen around midnight nowadays that I’m not particularly proud of. Since I left Tucson for Portland two months ago, and I am still waiting for my husband to transfer back up here, there is loneliness. There is worry. There is anxiety. I turn in early because I feel exhausted, but my mind keeps going. I am still not used to the usual placid pageantry that ushered in sleep at home: the cats settling into our bed for the night, taking up more space than a small creature should physically be able to, saying good night, getting annoyed that my husband is snoring. Now as it becomes later and later, I flick my phone on to maybe watch a last episode or Tweet a final parting thought.
But sometimes John Oliver is on vacation, and 140 characters cannot contain catharsis. These are the nights I can end up in dark places. Which is exactly where I ended up last Wednesday, when I downloaded the Kim Kardashian Hollywood app.
We can sit here and debate how this happened. Was it my recent completion of Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist” and the idea of contradictions and complications in our feminist personalities? Was I sick of Scrabble and in the market for something sexier? Am I simply, as the kids would say, basic?
I may never know for sure, but I prefer to blame Jezebel, which ran a story on the addictive app after its July release. The fact that the smart, wry writer racked up almost $400 in in-app purchases during her “for-the-job-experiment” stuck with me. How could a stupid phone game starring one of the worst celebrities of our modern era be that addictive? Keeping Up with the Kardashians certainly wasn’t; after sitting through one episode, I’d never PayPal an extra dollar to see another installment. I did not click a heart on Instagram to contribute to the “most-liked photo ever” from the Kimye wedding. These are the issues that perplex me when one day slides into another.
I opened Google Play.
I clicked Accept.
For the uninitiated, Kim Kardashian Hollywood is an animated phone game with a goal of rising from an E-list celebrity (I guess a Top 20 American Idol contestant from 2006) to A-list. Your journey begins when Kim shows up at your LA boutique to buy a dress, and your avatar character hands over the goods for free. She takes an immediate shining to you (because that’s what celebutantes do, scout for talent in the service industry) and sets you up with a manager, a publicist, a photographer… pretty soon life snowballs and suddenly you’re making paid club appearances for vodka brands.
The gameplay reminded me of the Flash games I used to play on the family PC in the early 00’s, in the days of Homestar Runner and constant crashes. It’s also reminiscent of The Sims, minus the ability to drown yourself in a swimming pool, or construct a doorless room around Kim and watch her pee herself and starve.
Getting fake Tweeted by a Ryan Seacrest smarm is a demented kind of wish fulfillment, especially for a writerly type who’s in a much less flashy hustler game. Who among us has not kept the email evidence that SUSAN ORLEAN HAS JUST FAVORITED YOUR TWEET! If you do well enough, Kim’s voice booms from the speaker to tell you how awesome you are. And there are perfect hairdos and new shoes to earn, and when you do a great job, stars and hearts rain from the heavens. You want to do a great job. You want Kim to love you. Why?
I DON’T EVEN KNOW!
Because maybe we all want to believe we’re have a destiny, whether it be the blood of wizards and a ticket to Hogwarts or that special “something” that makes a pop culture princess pluck us from the racks of our shit day job. It’s kind of neat to think that some ridiculously famous person would want to attend our birthday party. Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood is a fantasy I didn’t realize I had. Tap, tap, tap. Hearts and stars and stars and hearts.
Three hours later, I had authorized my Google Wallet twice, depositing $14.99 directly in to Kardashian Koffers. I was out of energy, a limited resource depleted in a blink while attempting to complete any tasks and move ahead. Plus I needed something new to wear to the Vegas club. The payment showed up as KARDASHIAN on my bank account. I wish I could wave a magic wand and turn it into a transaction for something less shameful, like porn.
For the first couple of days, this investment was enough. I was setting the world on fire with my modeling campaigns. My new girlfriend was falling for me, hard. Kim showed up to my birthday party in Australia. I swiped the screen constantly, in restaurants and out on breaks and deadlocked in traffic.
By Sunday night, I’d failed to secure a watchmaker’s modeling contract because my outfit wasn’t cool enough. The landlord wanted rent. My New York fashion show was a flop—I didn’t have enough “energy credits” and refused to buy any more. I started literally feeling bad about myself. I’m so poor, I’m so ugly. I’ll never get off the E list. That’s when I realized, through the Tinsel Town haze, that Kim Kardashian was not my friend. She would keep pushing and pushing, with no reward around the corner except the chance to dump more money into pixels. Why this took me five days and fifteen dollars to accept, I shudder to think. Four weeks away from turning thirty, I should be very much over what a simulated Kardashian thinks of me. But I am only mortal.
Kim Kardashian Hollywood is less a superficial, addictive game and more Mary Kay pink-soaked pyramid scheme from hell. Essentially, once you get past the first few stages of fame, it’s impossible to keep playing without forking over Kash. You need to get noticed, and to get noticed, you need to make more wardrobe changes than Lady Gaga. Each new outfit, hairstyle, pair of shoes and piece of fugly jewelry costs a fuckton of game credits, which are dispensed with all of the generosity of a Vegas strip slot machine. Sure, you can score a couple of extra credits by downloading more apps onto your phone or signing up for spam emails (both of which I swallowed my pride and grown-up good sense to do), but eventually you’ll have to pay or fail.
This morning before work, I held my thumb down on the app’s come-hither stare, and swept it up to the trash can. Are you sure you want to permanently delete Kim Kardashian Hollywood?
I squeezed my eyes shut, blocking out my twitching heart-bursting figure, my lust for the A-list, how adorable my plump-lipped projection looks in the rocker tank I spent $1,000 fake dollars on. Yes, I said. There are still five more seasons of 30 Rock to watch on my Netflix at midnight, after all. And Liz Lemon never asks me to verify my PIN.