Emotional labor, the Kardashian way


The concept of emotional labor, especially where women are concerned, has been a big topic in my social media networks lately. We've had a hunch that games about "women's work" offer us complicated, even positive spaces to think about labor and reward—Laura found games about communication, care and service like Diner Dash and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood to be subversive, even soothing.

A new article at The New Inquiry by Bea Malsky also examines the complex emotional labor ecosystem of these women-focused games:

Quietly and perhaps unintentionally subversive, Diner Dash and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood approximate a first step toward naming and honoring the processes by which affective labor is extracted from workers. Even in their simplicity and mundanity the games operate as instruction manuals, teaching and training their players how to relate to the emotionally demanding work in their lives. By blurring the boundary between work and play, including the literal quantification of affect in hearts and happiness meters, Kim and Flo teach their players to value immaterial forms of labor alongside the production of objects, feminist work akin to the manifestos and pamphlets that the International Wages for Housework Campaign was spearheading in 1970s Italy.

You can read the full article here; it's part of TNI's "Fun" issue. (You might also like the piece I did for TNI in 2013 about how 'fun' is a constraining and overused value for games.)