The papers are buzzing with the news that Miss Bimbo, a site devoted to pandering to a 'bimbo' has now hit 200,000 members in the UK and counting. The game challenges players aged nine to 16 to keep a bimbo in fine fettle with boob jobs and "waif thin" with diet pills, earning the right to dress her up in flimsy underwear, take her clubbing and generally make her "the coolest, richest and most famous bimbo in the world".
The game's designer, Nicholas Jacquart, says it's all harmless fun. Somewhat predictably, both charities working with children suffering from eating disorders and parents' groups are outraged.
There's no doubt Jacquart has his tongue firmly in his cheek while raking in the cash as players top up their virtual funds with real money. He says:
"The game is structured in such a way that it simply mirrors real life in a tongue-in-cheek way. It is not a bad influence for young children. They learn to take care of their bimbos. The missions and goals for the bimbos are morally sound and teach children about the real world.
"If they eat too much chocolate in the game, it is bad for their bimbos' bodies and their happiness levels compared to if they eat fruit and vegetables, which reinforces positive healthy eating messages.
"The breast operations are just one part of the game and we are not encouraging young girls to have them."
Uh-huh. It's an educational game! How did I fail to notice that?
I have no problem with irony, and if this game had been a tad more clever about it, I'd have been cheering it on. I'm not interested in ripping into women who choose to lead a life I wouldn't, but I think making fun of an obsession with looks, money and fame is totally fair game.
Unfortunately, the average age of a player on Miss Bimbo is nine to twelve. In fact, it's aimed at impressionable young women. Girls are already under extra pressure to be aware of appearances and other superficial nonsense, and there's obviously an argument for restricting the age of those who can play Miss Bimbo to those who have a solid grasp of irony. In addition, I really I don't think it's doing men and boys any good to think it's acceptable to create and control a woman, making a person a plaything.
Irony is funny; objectification is not. From Jacquart's comments it's clear that he's aiming for one but almost certainly achieves the other. Even the use of the word 'bimbo'... honestly, insert your rant of choice here. At least it's not an aspirational term, I guess. Barbie this ain't.
I'm not going to rave and scream and hurl abuse at Jacquart and Miss Bimbo, but this does say something worrying about how little parents are controlling access to the Internet at home.
I don't think a child that's on an even keel with a good support network is likely to suddenly develop bulimia because of a stupid game and I would think that the fashion and film industries have a far more dangerous effect on children close to the edge. I would just urge parents to monitor Internet use in their households and, rather than making a big fuss and making Miss Bimbo seem like forbidden fruit, teach their kids something about what's acceptable and what isn't.
What do you think? Are we getting overly PC and serious about a silly bit of fun? Or are games like this encouraging young children to suffer from eating disorders and accept misogyny as normal?
Alexandra Roumbas is Deputy Editor of Shiny Shiny. She thinks Nicholas Jacquart is a sad, strange little man and suggests that anyone affected directly or indirectly by an eating disorder contacts Beat.