The U.K.'s Channel 4 has unveiled a game called Cover Girl that invites players to examine the ethics of glamor magazines by letting them virtually manipulate photographs for fictional publications.
If there's one thing I learned during my years spent in the fashion industry, it's that nobody in magazines looks like that in real life. And where lifts, lipo and boob jobs aren't enough to do the trick, photo editors have a tool in their belts that has perfection just a mouse-click away: Photoshop. It's ethically dubious, not just for the dishonest presentation but because of the unrealistic and unattainable goals it sets for "normal" people who want to look like their idols, but it happens all the time.
And now you too can be a part of the problem thanks to Cover Girl, a Flash game that lets you shave flab, trim "bingo wings" and balloon boobs, all in the name of having physical perfection on the cover of your magazine. You begin the game as an editorial assistant working on "Phoney" magazine, assigned to make shots of three women suitable for use on the cover. It's a fairly simple process of pointing, clicking and dragging where you're told, with a three-tiered rating system that grades the speed of your work. Finish with "Phoney" and you'll move on to rags like "Poser," "Fluff" and "Faux"; there are eight in all, each a little trickier than the last.
"The images of beauty that stare out at us from glossy pages are largely an unnatural product of digital manipulation - and yet teens strive to emulate the pictures they see on magazines and in advertising campaigns," the Channel 4 website says. "Cover Girl... aims to help teenagers understand that media and images are usually airbrushed, distorted and very carefully designed, so that what they see on a page is an unrealistic aesthetic ideal."
It's easy to forget that people never look that good in the wild and that's especially true for young girls who may not be aware of just how much work actually goes into these photos. As a game, it's not great; as a starting point for a discussion on society's expectations of beauty, I think it has some real value. Give it a try at playcovergirl.com.