The Boyfriend Trainer

While browsing through AddictingGames.com, I found myself looking over the list of categories that the site files all games under. The categories include things like “action”, “strategy”, “puzzle”, and “funny”. What caught my eye, though, was the last of these categories–“girl”. Confused as to what gives a game a gender, I clicked ahead to see what the subsection had to offer. I was suddenly presented with a list of games that were just about all about fashion, horses, and/or kissing Justin Bieber. I decided to try out a game called The Boyfriend Trainer.

The Boyfriend Trainer has the player taking on the role of a girl who is attempting to use operant conditioning techniques to improve her boyfriend’s behavior. You play through a series of levels, each of which have a different behavior and setting for which your boyfriend must be reprimanded. The controls of the game are very simple, it involves just clicking the mouse on the boyfriend character whenever he does something wrong. Some examples include slapping him when he checks out other women (pictured below), Tasing him when he makes a mess, hitting him with a tennis racket for changing the channel on the TV, and choking him with a collar when he drives too fast. There is also a time limit on each of these levels, by which time the player is required to have “corrected” a sufficient number of missteps.

The narrative and gameplay of The Boyfriend Trainer blatantly suggest that relationships are a type of power struggle–the female character is trying to maintain her control and dominance over the male. When the player doesn’t score enough in the prescribed time period,  the game ends with an image showing the boyfriend leaving the girl, with the words “Escaped! You didn’t do it right.” (pictured below). Thus, the game conveys the message that a girl can’t keep a guy unless she controls his behavior.

I know that this game isn’t meant to be taken seriously, and that its designers’ intent was most likely to be humorous, but I honestly didn’t find it funny at all. In fact, it was ridiculously problematic in its portrayal of both men and women. I feel like it does encourage women to be maniacal in their obsession over their partner’s every action. Although women obviously aren’t going to start being abusive to the extent that the character in the game is, it could have an effect on people’s attitudes about relationships in general.

I might be taking this game too seriously, and in all honesty I’m hoping that it is meant to be satirical. Do you think that games like The Boyfriend Trainer can have any effect at all on their audience?

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2 comments
  1. MrWesley said:

    I agree that this game’s portrayal of both men and women is detrimental. Not only does it suggest that women should attempt to be controlling in a relationship, but it also implies that men are incapable of being good partners and of being respectful towards women. Though this may simply be for humor, the naggy woman and the uncommitted man are a stereotype that I have been seeing very often in the media recently. This AT&T commercial comes to mind.

    Though it is not nearly as blatant or extreme, it is just another example of how this stereotype is permeating not only the genre of video games but other forms of media as well.

  2. springsteen1 said:

    This is another fascinating post, as you have tackled what the game means in a larger narrative of community and society – something I think other posts (both on this blog, but across the Web in general) have failed to do. This isn’t just said for gaming, but television, film, music, the arts, many commenting sources ,including major media sources, and off-record blogs, have failed to note larger contexts – and you have done just that.

    That said, I’d like to see more ties to other games, or a correlation or corollary on how some games do this, while others do not.

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