This faux attract mode screen was created to emulate the console technology of 1984 when the book was released. Aesthetically the image is reminiscent of the design of bell hooks second and at that time, most major work of critical theory. However, the screen resolution of 256 by 240 is consistent with that of the first generation NES/Famicon system and the color as is the limited color palette. By porting a work of literature into the visual language of games that were its contemporary, I hope to ask viewers what an alternative history of games would be like if it had been able to synthesize other kinds of media (like theory) and how that might have affected their audience and reach both then and now.
This game was intended to satirize the popular family guessing game “HedBanz” by turing it into an activity that would reveal a players lack of awareness of privacy issues with popular websites and social media services, rather than showcasing their ability to identify a fun character or pop culture icon as they would in the original game. While I played around with a variety of themes that would take the HedBanz mechanic and break it for demonstrative purposes (ie. turning all the character cards into great female authors or filmmakers to reveal how little is commonly known about women in these two spheres, for example) but ultimately I decided to go with Internet privacy issues and the major tech companies that frequently step all over them. Given the recent revelations by Snowden and others about the extent of government surveillance and the complicity of said companies, I thought this game could be a thought provoking re-imagining of a popular game.
I’ve always been fascinated by media representations of “Mom” and the way the identity of being a mother is constructed in popular culture where its traded both for laughs and sentiment. Although this 90’s ad campaign for Robitussin is a clearly dated example of playing the recognizable “Mom” trope, its interesting to look at in now and note the ways that stereotypes about the division of domestic labor and the feminization of parenting and reproductive labor still persist in contemporary media. While these ads are styled with a winking tongue-in-cheek tone, its unclear where exactly the laugh is supposed to land. Who were these ads thought to appeal to when field tested by advertising execs? Were women or “Moms” (often spoken of as the ones with the most household purchasing power) the target demographic? Were they meant to laugh in recognition at the domestic comedy of being the sole care provider for sick children and slapstick husbands?
The unsettling subtext to these ads is the way that these women are in fact NOT doctors, precisely because they ARE “Moms.” They are not professionals, managing their family’s wellness with the help of over the counter products after a long day of being lawyers, bank clerks, nurses or actual doctors. They are portrayed only as “Moms,” existing in the home and cheered for their ability to synthesize the advice of medical doctors into their domestic sphere.
A two-part intervention, I both created the Twitter account (username Doctor Mom and the handle @DoctorMomIsIn) and physical calling cards in the form of miniature Robitussin boxes. Laser-cut and assembled into 2.5 inch high replica’s of the standard Robitussin package, the boxes contained an image and message inviting the public to tweet at Doctor Mom for a “personalized remedy”.
In a moment of recently re-awakened debates on working mothers (the so-called “Mommy Wars) and on women in professional spheres more generally (Lean-In, et all) I decided to try resuscitating this transparently sexist (but still fondly remembered) mascot for Robitussin on twitter. I conjured up the voice of “Doctor Mom” as an amalgam of all the long-suffering, suburban, white, domestic-comediennes I remember from advertising and pop culture and I tried to channel that voice into an advice-giving Twitter persona.