Rochester, New York’s Video Game Hall of Fame has announced its 2023 inductees. In a field that includes the likes of Angry Birds, Call of Duty, FIFA, Quake and GoldenEye, Barbie’s fashion designer has won the race to secure her place in video game history.
There’s no denying the importance of GoldenEye 007 bringing first-person shooters to consoles, and no one’s saying Angry Birds isn’t a billion-dollar franchise, but Barbie Fashion Designer did something none of those games could: bring games to young girls. In an era when players were almost exclusively men.
By today’s standards, Barbie Fashion Designer doesn’t offer much in terms of gameplay. You dress up Barbie using clothes, colors and accessories and then make her walk through a virtual airport. There was also an option to bring your digital creations to life using an inkjet printer on specially designed fabric, compatible with the Barbie Fashion Designer CD.
The game basically mimicked what teenage girls would do with a real-life Barbie, but it worked. The Barbie fashion designer sold half a million copies in the first two months of sales, which was more than Dom and Quake. In the year It was the sixth best-selling PC game of 1996 and sold over 600,000 copies by the end of its first year of sales.
That’s not to say Barbie wasn’t without faults. You might criticize the game for perpetuating some stereotypes, but you could argue that Barbie’s fashion designer has paved the way for character customization as a mechanic — something that appeals to more than just women. You can see the fashion designer parts of Barbie in modern life simulation games like The Sims.
“Barbie’s fashion designer became a jumping off point for the women’s gaming movement and shook up the software and gaming scene,” says Video Game Hall of Fame Collections Manager Christy Hissert. “It also raises important questions and debates. What does it mean to be a game for girls? Should there even be games “for girls”? What are the implications of these games? What are the implications of gendered games?”
For 2023, other inductors include computer space, an asteroid’s primary playground; The latter of ours, which has since become a hit for HBO Max; and the 2006 blockbuster Wii Sports that changed the way we interact with video games.
Last we talked about, Warner Bros. released its first quarter 2023 financial results and confirmed that the HBO Max streaming series was a huge success, averaging 32 million viewers per episode. Our latest is also credited with making WB streaming services profitable for the first time.
Next: Barbie is not about character – Barbie is everything.