I was chatting to my cousins at my grandmother's house the other day, which is always a world of fun, intrigue, and words I don't know. The girls are thirteen, eleven and nine respectively, and on this particular day, they had only one thing on their minds -- Top Girl. According to those in the know, Top Girl is a totally awesome app for totally awesome people. Only the eldest actually has an iPhone, but the other two have pretty fancy-looking iPods, and that's apparently enough to be granted entry into the world of Top Girl.
This, on the other hand, is my iPod. Sometimes it forgets to have songs on it.
As I understand it, Top Girl is basically one of those games where you get to buy outfits and go to clubs. I call this real life, because I'm 24, but in tween-land, Top Girl is everything they think they're missing out on. Out of curiosity and the incredible, incurable boredom that comes with a racing-heavy long weekend, I decided to download Top Girl and play it for myself.
Before I install the app, my phone asks me if I really want to. That should've been the first warning. Apparently if I install Top Girl, it can edit, receive and most worryingly, read my texts. That's bizarre. Why could this be? Am I actually going to become the Top Girl in real life? Because that's a lot of responsibility. Oh, and it wants to listen in on my phone calls. I decide to press on for the sake of research, hoping nary a text nor phone call actually hits my phone in the next few days. At least this darn app didn't give my phone a virus, although who knows? Maybe Top Girl's gotten into my antivirus software too. IS NOTHING SACRED, TOP GIRL?
Stage 1: Customising My Top Girl.
This is where I get to choose how my Top Girl looks. The good news is that no matter what hair or skin colour I pick, my Top Girl is always model hot. The game is called Top Girl, not Moderately Attractive Girl. There is no room in this poorly-animated world for mediocrity. Don't hate on me; I didn't ask to look like this. I really didn't. No one consulted me on which facial features I'd be given, which I guess is a lot like life, if everyone in life won the genetic lottery.
I decide to go for a look I've wanted to try since Pretty In Pink but know in my heart I'd never pull off -- the Molly Ringwald. I have the enviable long, blonde hair our Western culture so admires, but as we've learned from every movie ever, what we've been gifted is never enough for us. For me, Molly's look is too cool for school. Even 80s James Spader thought so, and he knew a thing or two about life.
Right off the bat, I find that my Molly avatar is...lacking. The thing is, Molly Ringwald had a certain quirkiness to her. As Samantha Baker, it made her weird; as Claire Standish, popular. But it was always there. My Molly looks generic, and I already hate her. This isn't the beginning for which I'd hoped, but maybe when my Molly and I have adventures together, that's when we'll really connect. Also, I can't really make her hair red. There's a 'copper' option, but it's closer to brown. Apparently the Top Girl can never be a ginger.
Stage 2: Wardrobe.
The first thing I notice is that I have no pants. I have dresses, I have skirts, but I'm completely lacking in pants. I can't even wear jeans on Fridays! The clothes are divided into two options -- Work Hot and Club Hot. It's possible to get clothes that are suited to both, but they all require Top Girl Cash, and this is one of those games where you mostly have to buy the Top Girl Cash with actual cash. I'm so not doing that. Work Hot it is.
Pictured: Work Hot.
Stage 3: Work.
I think I'd really enjoy being corporate bigwig, but I'm not sure I'm going to get a lot of respect in that skirt. It would be pretty disappointing to find out that I slept my way to the top. That's not the me I created.
Turns out I have no choice in profession. I'm a model. And not a very good one at that. I don't even get to take any photos; I just press a 'DO JOB' button and get coins. Not even Top Girl Cash. I get paid in loose change. It'd be nice to say that at least I can feed the meter on my way out, but I'm not sure I live in a world where they let women drive.
Stage 4: Social Life.
I'm told to head to a place called Club Zen so I can chat up a guy, but when I get there, I'm met with a nasty surprise.
Don't fret, self-esteem, I'm hot. It's just that I'm Work Hot. I need to be Club Hot. I take my corporate-chic little butt home to change into a (frankly OTT) pink ball gown which somehow constitutes Club Hot, and head to the bar to meet my potential new boyfriend. I get three people to choose from, but before I can even click on them, I noticed that the third man has a little quirk. Every three and a half seconds, without fail, a little speech bubble comes up and he tells me, "You are like a pizza -- every slice is perfect." What?
Shockingly, the pizza line does not sway me, and I meet the rest of the potential suitors. Bachelor number one is Justin, a horse trainer with a manliness score of 28. Out of what, 100? Seems a little low. Bachelor number 2 Brian fares no better -- he's shoe salesman with a manliness score of 24. Pfft, you have zero chance, Bri-Bri. But it's bachelor number 3 who takes out the prize. Quinton is -- you freakin' guessed it -- a pizza delivery boy! No wonder he's so into my slices! He somehow has a manliness score of 28, despite being a redheaded pizza boy with a very specific kind of Tourette's. You better believe I'm going to choose the hell out of Quinton.
Uh-oh. Something terrible's just happened. I exited the game before I could flirt with Quinton (dinnertime waits for no man, not even Quinton) and when I came back, there was an entirely different set of guys at the club for me to flirt with! Remarkably, Quinton the only one who remains the same, but when I click on him, I'm horrified.
Not only is Quinton's name now Clinton, but he's a shoplifter! It's somehow a step down from pizza boy! I choose him anyway, thinking I might be able to get some off-the-back-of-a-truck gifts from him. I click on the 'flirt' button and am annoyed to discover that I have to buy him a drink. I mean...I guess it's pretty progressive that the woman's shouting the guy, but fuck that. I buy Clinton a beer regardless, 'cause it's the cheapest thing on the menu, and bam! Just like that, Clinton's my BF.
I do like the juxtaposition of the words MY BOYFRIEND with DATED: 0 MINUTES. I don't really want to do any of those button-y things with him yet, so I leave the club. Clinton comes with me and tells me, "You're prettier than all the girls combined on the gossip magazines." That you steal from the supermarket, Clinton? I'm starting to think that Clinton (and subsequently Quinton) aren't from an English-speaking country.
Since Clinton being my boyfriend gives me energy refills, I decide to go do some more modelling. Oh hey, I just realised -- I'm not even a model! I'm an assistant, but as soon as I'm hot enough, I can become a Booth Babe, whatever that is. Don't they work for porn sites? Is that what I'm thinking of here?
To the mall! I buy a new work outfit, and also another club dress, because you never know when I might have to break up with Clinton. He's already getting on my nerves with his incessant chatter, and to make matters worse, he hasn't even stolen anything for me yet! Quinton was way more committed to his character trait. I do earn a free Top Girl Cash wad just for buying the club dress, so good for me.
Next I get a 'quest' from the talking notepad at the bottom of the screen.
Booyah! Stolen goods, here we come. I reluctantly kiss Clinton and am immediately accosted with this image.
I'll say we've taken our relationship to the next level! I agreed to a kiss, Clinton, so where the hell's my shirt? (I do like the necklace, though.) For some reason, I'm banned from kissing Clinton again for ninety minutes, which I guess will give him enough time to go steal me something else as a thank-you for when I inevitably round the next base. And once that's done, I have a new quest: to keep my boyfriend for at least 3 hours. Wow, Top Girl. That's commitment. I almost give up after Clinton calls me 'doll face,' but then he completely redeems himself with the next line:
That's so adorably desperate, it actually makes me want to spend more time with him. Clinton, you don't even realise how uncool a thing that is to say! I decide to chat with him, and I'm given three topics of conversation: smart, funny and sexy. I go for 'sexy,' because he's deserved it. The following conversation ensues:
I get the feeling that Clinton and I cry after sex. We just sit there and weep in each other's arms. I thought I was cooler than this. I can seriously do no wrong with Clinton, so I decide to take the boy on a date, changing into my flat shoes first, because as if Clinton's not a dine-and-dasher. My date outfit is so cute!
Oh, doggone it. Not only do I have to pay for dinner, but I also have to look Club Hot. Since Clinton's happiness meter is full, I decide that the date can wait. The thing is, though, there's not a whole lot else to do in Top Girl World. My boyfriend's apparently not allowed into the club anymore, because when I go there, I just get three more boys wanting to be my boyfriend.
Hilariously, two of them are doing exactly the same moves at the same time. I like to think they choreographed this at home. The dude in the middle keeps saying, "CLICK CLICK," in those block letters, so he's either a photographer or a robot.
Eh. I was hoping for robot. I go to the lounge and instead have my choice of a TV show host, a VIP Club host, and, no joke, a moocher. As much as I want to be treated like a celebrity by the VIP host with the Jewfro, I decide to add to my collection of deadbeats and flirt with Nicholas the Moocher. Truth be told, I'm pretty happy with my current boyfriend, but I really just want to see what dear old Clinton does if I flirt with another man. Will he fight for me?
Oh my God! How embarrassing! I did try to buy the guy a cheap beer in my butt-ugly outfit; it's no wonder he's rejected me! I go back outside, where Clinton greets me with the absolute perfect thing he could possibly say at that moment: "You make your nice clothes look even better." Thank you Clinton! My clothes are nice and I look good in them. Suck on that, Nicholas, you stupid moocher. Then he tells me I'm a strong, confident woman, and dear God, I think I'm starting to like this Clinton.
Since I've been pretty terrible to Clinton, I decide to buy the dude a present -- his very own cordless drill. But dilemma -- the Drill costs 19 Top Girl Cash wads! I only have 18. Do I spend virtually all my incredibly-hard-to-earn wads on a freakin' drill, even though me going into a club and unsuccessfully flirting with a moocher didn't even put a dent in his happiness bar and I really don't have to?
Nope. Not going to do it. I do buy him a videogame for 6 Top Girl Cash wads, though, so I'm not the worst girlfriend ever. His love meter apparently increases after that, even though it was at 100% already. Never mind. I did it for actual love, not meter love.
Clinton rewards my gift-giving by telling me, "I don't wanna work today." You're a frickin' shoplifter, Clinton! That's your actual job, you weirdo! In fact, there are a lot of things Clinton say that are more than a little weird.
On the top right-hand corner of my screen is a countdown clock. I've never noticed it before, but now that I have, it's all I can look at. What is it counting down? The numbers aren't red, so I know it's not a bomb. I've watched enough TV to know how bombs work -- on a bomb, the numbers are always red. So what is this damn clock? I decide to find out. I play chicken with it. I stand on the street, posing for absolutely no reason while my stupid boyfriend spouts phrases I swear are a joke.
After standing around for what seemed like forever, the game SHUT DOWN MY PHONE. Seriously. The screen did a weird analogue-TV-snowy thing, went blank. and then my phone restarted as though rejecting this putrid piece of awful. I get that hint, phone. I get it.
So what have we learned? I've learned that a game for tweens can absolutely shatter a grown woman's confidence. Seriously. A dude in a bar tells me that I'm too ugly for him, and I'm poor, so what's the first thing I do? I run to my boyfriend for validation...AND IT WORKS. I had zero interest in Clinton before I was brutally rebuffed, but the second he greets me with a well-timed compliment about how my cute clothes look cute on my cute body, I suddenly love the stupid fucker so much that I almost buy him a power drill.
I reiterate: almost.
Epilogue: It's around about this time that I start to feel ill. I don't want to say specifically that playing Top Girl for a single day gave me the flu, but YES. It most certainly did. I don't play again until two weeks later, when I realised that something awful's happened. Clinton is unhappy. He will only be my boyfriend if I buy him a gift -- WORTH 40 FREAKING TOP GIRL CASH WADS. This game is ransoming my fake relationship right now. I can't keep Clinton unless I literally pay them literal money. From my real-life bank account. FUCK YOU TOP GIRL. FUCK YOU SO DAMN HARD. Sincle Clinton's and my blossoming romance was the only real drawcard to this ridiculous game, I'm officially out for good.
...unless Nicholas calls, of course.
I'm waiting, baby.