Sophia Finucane reminisces about the 2008 joys of her very own fashion boutique.
I will never forget the first time I saw the TV ad for Style Boutique in 2008. From that day on, I would find it in the in-store Argos catalogues while my mum was shopping, and just stare at the picture of the box, until I finally got it on that portentous day.
The excitement I would get when I had the confidence to tell a customer to ‘try on’ a garment without even ‘taking a look,’ she would love it, and rose petals would explode onto the screen, would fill my whole body with pride. A quick glance at YouTube comments have shown that it’s not only me who felt that way. You were being rewarded for your own unique creation. Unguided, you picked an outfit with your eye for choosing which brands fit each customers’ needs. It came easily to me, when the supposedly ‘logical’ aspects of navigating many games really stumps me, and I imagine some would find that unguided approach difficult. In retrospect, having a game like this, that appeals to maybe more ‘lateral thinkers,’ seems to be another great product of these creative and design-based, so called ‘girl’s games.’
The individual boutiques’ musical themes make me nostalgic for a much simpler time of hiding the DS under the pillow when I heard my mum coming. As is the case with the fake brand names that I can still probably quote reel off, ‘Sonata,’ ‘Alvardo,’ ‘Pure Cloth’… if you played the game, these names are no-doubt giving you flashbacks right now. But something definitely stuck, or was at least validated - I found myself genuinely using the methods of presenting outfits to clients when I worked in a real boutique for four years. I think this ultimately shows the impact that this game had on my real life. From a word with fellow players I spoke to before writing this, I am not the only one.
There have been multiple studies on why many girls from Primary School age become more inclined towards the domestic, creative sides of play, and I won’t go into that here as there is a much wider conversation that needs to be had than this article can provide. One thing I will say, though, is that I am now learning the value of combat and the confidence it can teach. A friend has been introducing me to the classic games like The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid and Mario, the latter intimidating me just as much as the others, because I’m so scared to mess up and die. Now, I think games can be a healthy tool for children to overcome fear of performance and I wish I’d played these games earlier. I also wish, though, that those who never played the more domestic and fashion-based games (stereotypically, but of course not always, boys) could play them too.
Of course, there is the issue in Style Boutique of the characters all being unrealistically shaped, and I don’t doubt that that can do some harm to young children, only seeing bodily representation as such when playing this game. There is also the issue of the main goal being to have commercial success with your shop. However, there is no whiff of mean competition, and all of the mini goals in the game are based around having nice outings with friends and designing window dressings and outfits that bring people aesthetic pleasure.
This game, that means nothing to most of the gaming community had, indeed, a huge impact on a certain demographic of DS owners at a certain time, and possibly even a real-world impact too.