“Having it all” has become the benchmark of success for the modern woman. A notion stoked by near-constant media perpetuation, many women are affected by this immense pressure to live up to an impossible ideal and embody that perfect mother, wife or caretaker. Using these tropes, Perfect Woman – a new video game for the Xbox One – moves the gender role debate into unexpected territory.
Developed by Peter Lu and Lea Schönfelder, Perfect Woman is certainly not your typical video game. Originally designed for the Xbox One Kinect (a motion sensing console), it’s a physicality-based game that sees its player contorting their body and bending over backwards (literally!) to advance to the next level.
“Inspired by the ubiquitous personality questionnaires featured in women’s magazines and the female roles they define,” Perfect Woman takes the player through all the stages of a woman’s life. Starting at birth, players must mimic various poses that appear on screen. As one Kotaku reviewer put it: “You look awkward. You feel ridiculous, but that’s the toll of contorting yourself to fit in.”
On your race to perfection, it’s likely you’ll encounter a few stumbling blocks.
But depending on the decisions you make along the way, you can graduate to become a professor at MIT, a suicide bomber or even an Oktoberfest bartender who drinks her youth away.
The game challenges the notions of feminine perfection. “If you want to be perfect all the time, you’ll get really hard poses, like standing on your head,” explains Schönfelder. In order for your character to live a long and fulfilling life, concessions have got to be made along the way. Being 100 per cent perfect simply won’t work – both in the game and in real life.
Being built for the Kinect – a device considered by many gamers to be a flawed, gimmicky device – actually adds to Perfect Woman’s message. While it features levels that can seem impossible to complete, the developers encourage players to “cheat the system.” By using chairs and other tools, or by recruiting the help of friends and family members, the levels become easier to complete, providing a charming if rather an idealistic message to players: you'll get by with a little help from your friends.
Featuring charming, almost child-like animation, Perfect Woman is an exuberant and colourful celebration of diversity. “Don’t be perfect all the time,” advises Schönfelder. “Sometimes you’re perfect and sometimes you’re not and that’s totally okay.”