"Hot Guy Alarm Clock" Creators Want More Games By Women, For Women
Nix Hydra Games is an entertainment software company focused on women gamers that's run by Lina Chen and Naomi Ladizinsky. "If I see one more misguided app designed by a bunch of old dudes with a focus test spreadsheet detailing what girls like, I'm going to throw my drink."
Tell me about your newly released first (and free!) app, "Hot Guy Alarm Clock."
Lina: Hot Guy Alarm Clock is the alarm clock that we wanted but couldn't find. It consists of a variety of hot-sounding guys in different scenarios (e.g., "'Vampire Castle," "Cave Behind a Waterfall" and "Chateau in France (But You're Spies)") saying flattering, witty things to wake you up.
Naomi: Each wakeup experience is basically a tiny romance novel, and you're the main character.
I was surprised to see there were a few other attractive-people-based clock apps available too, like "Paris Girls Clock." With your app's release, I think this is now officially a THING. What other basic phone function could use the introduction of hot girls or guys, in your professional opinion?
Lina: Haha. Siri?
Naomi: I'm so bored of the monolithic, sterile and almost exalted image of mobile devices and their software tools. If the introduction of hot guys or girls can help break down the stuffy tech cultural barrier then I'm all for it. Unfortunately the introduction of hot girls tends to reinforce rather than poke fun at negative stereotypes…so that would have to be very well executed to work. That's my professional opinion. My personal opinion is that it's time for a hot dude version of Siri.
How did you decide to develop Nix Hydra Games, and what do you hope to accomplish?
Lina: We noticed that the content on new platforms for delivering entertainment wasn't up to par with the content on more traditional platforms — books, TV, film, and music — and decided to do something about it.
In the very best scenario possible, I would hope for Nix Hydra to eventually become the parent brand for a variety of awesome entertainment brands that deliver content to young women on platforms such as Web, mobile, tablets, and whatever comes after that.
What do you think girls and women are looking for in apps/gaming that makes them a unique audience?
Naomi: What I really think makes girls and women a unique audience in apps/gaming is that, even though we are half (more than half?) of the market, we're still shockingly underrepresented in the actual production process. Women like a huge variety of things, but we definitely don't like being told what we like.
Lina: When it comes down to initial product decisions, we are our target audience and make products that we both love. Then we try to learn more about our audience with the feedback on each product and use that to improve the next one.
I read in another interview that you aim to "[not] rely on stereotypes" or "patronize" your audience. I've been wondering about this a lot! Do you think it's possible to market games specifically toward women as a group (or men, for that matter) without being gender essentialist or stereotypical to a degree?
Naomi: I've been thinking a lot about this too! This could be a 50-page dissertation (and it probably is somewhere), but I guess the short answer is no. When it comes down to it, whenever you mention any group of people, everyone but the purest of heart, or maybe feral children, conjures up their own list of defining characteristics that belong to that group. Since we're already working within that cloud of preconception, the best we can do is come from an underrepresented point of view and make something we enjoy. That, I think, is the most honest way to reach an audience. As anyone with any observational skills knows, when it comes to people, there is as much variation within a group as between groups, so we can't say that what we're making will resonate with all women. We can, however, poke fun at some of the stereotypes we run into on an hourly basis.
Lina: Great question. When I had said that, I was picturing something very specific — a male game developer who is given the task of making a game for women and having to resort to fashion and makeup because those are easy targets. We might make a fashion- and/or makeup-related game one day, but it will definitely be executed differently from current offerings. Maybe it's for a different type of girl.
Do you think these goals set you apart from other makers of games for girls and women — e.g., Crowdstar Inc., creator of the massively popular and equally sexist app "Top Girl"?
Lina: Precisely. Our sensibility is the inverse of Crowdstar's.
Naomi: Not pointing any fingers, but if I see one more misguided app designed by a bunch of old dudes with a focus test spreadsheet detailing what girls like, I'm going to throw my drink.
What I like about your company is that the tongue-in-cheek nature of the Hot Guy Alarm Clock (the things the guys say are kind of weird!) and your website's stated mission ("Our mission is to bring joy and happiness to people who wish there were more butt-themed apps in the iTunes store.") indicate that you have a sense of humor about your business.
Naomi: Thanks! We're a pretty cheeky company.
Lina: What do you mean? We take our butt-themed app very seriously.
Can you give us a few clues about what Nix Hydra Games has in store next?
Naomi: Our next project is an actual game! And is more gender neutral. Coming to the app store early 2013!!! We're excited about it.
Lina: Also, once we have a few apps out, we'd like to tie them all into one narrative-based overarching game world. We're excited about that too.
Awesome! And lastly, most importantly: Which of the Alarm Clock Hot Guys is your favorite? Mine is "Tropical Paradise."
Lina: I used "Enchanted Castle" for the longest time during testing of the app (I enjoyed being called "Princess" more than I should admit), but I've actually moved on to "Pirate King." It's weird, I think the pirate one was my least favorite in the beginning, because that pirate is not sexy or charming at all. But I've started enjoying the parrot sounds and talks of the "flaming monkey attack."
Naomi: It's a toss-up between "Clumsy Boyfriend" and "Chateau in France (But You're Spies)," both written from personal experience.