In the first in this new celebrity-endorsed-and-branded mobile game series, Sam Brooks plays the upsettingly addictive Demi Lovato: Path to Fame.
Some disclaimers before we start:
I haven’t played a mobile game since the ubiquitous Snake. The entire phenomenon has skipped me, mostly because I’d rather spend my valuable battery power on making nonsense tweets, and a little bit because I am relentlessly old-fashioned and think that videogames should be played while you’re sitting on the couch looking at the TV.
I am a lukewarm fan of Demi Lovato. She’s that one Disney star who can really, genuinely sing and she seems like a pretty cool person. I think ‘Cool for the Summer’ is one of the most underrated pop songs of the past few years, and I think ‘Give Your Heart a Break’ and ‘Heart Attack’ are similarly underrated. She gave the world Fifth Harmony. One of my favourite comedians Justin Sayre has a joke where he says ‘Demi Lovato’ sounds like something a doctor would cry out for in an episode of E.R: “Get me a Demi Lovato stat!”
I also have an addictive personality. I’m the boy who went to the school fair at age 16 and had a gambling spiral when playing the wheel of fortune and spent maybe a hundred and fifty dollars without winning anything. I have a distinct, chilling, memory of asking friends if I could borrow money to play on the wheel of the fortune. Dark times, friends. Dark times.
So when I was given the assignment to play Demi Lovato: Path to Fame, I was a bit sceptical, for all these reasons. But I took it on, because I’m a serious journalist who can put aside his biases and hang-ups in the pursuit of truth.
Demi Lovato: Path to Fame is one in a long line of mobile games in which a celebrity brand is a thin veil over the actual gameplay. See also: that Kim Kardashian game, the Spice World game from like 20 years ago, any licensed movie game. It’s the kind of game that’s designed to hook superfans in and get them to spend their hard-earned cash on easy in-app purchases.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was shocked and stunned to find that Demi Lovato: Path to Fame has an actual plot! In it, you create a character, and kudos to this mobile game for having an incredibly diverse range of options to create your character, even if the skin colours are labelled: Cocoa, Mocha, Toffee, Olive, Peach, Cream, which is… diplomatic, let’s say. This character is a superfan of Demi Lovato, and is also a wannabe singer who wants to be famous.
The first few episodes are distractingly well-written and engaging for this kind of game. You can choose who your romantic love interest is (and even the gender, which is cool and chill) and who your best friend is (I chose to name mine Kate Bush, which turned the game into some kind of strange fanfiction). The dialogue is zippy and is vaguely similar to what people sound like. For a moment I was like, “God, this is better than Mass Effect: Andromeda! My choices actually matter!”
I blitzed through about ten episodes in an afternoon without even noticing. The plot moves at a fairly glacial pace, but it’s equal parts engrossing and banal: You go from wanting to get tickets to a Demi Lovato concert to winning a contest to be taken onstage to winning a contest to be her backup singer to going on tour with Demi Lovato. There’s also an episode that revolves around your character filming a promo video. An entire (15 minute long, albeit) episode. Towards the start of the season, each episode starts and closes with Demi Lovato praising and condemning your choices, like some kind of omniscient guardian angel, considering she is also a character in this low-heat soap opera.
Then, dear reader, the gaps begin to show. The game has all the trappings of a branching plot, allowing you to prioritise your fans, your friends or your love life. I prioritised my fans, because it’s called Demi Lovato: Path to Fame, not Demi Lovato: Path to People Thinking You’re a Good Person. But eventually I realised that no matter how much I prioritised my fans, and however much I ignored my annoying sister, my hanger-on best friend and both my douchey ex-boyfriend and current semi-famous squeeze, the game would continue to plod along to the same resolution. But eventually I got tired of hearing the same tinny backing track to ‘Cool for the Summer’ or ‘Skyscraper’, I got tired of the repetitive animations and tired of being judged by a fake Demi Lovato.
But goddamn, that same teenager who spent all his money on a school fair version of wheel of fortune was present here. I was never tempted to pay for any of the microtransactions (because oh this game has microtransactions!) but I had to finish the season. I had to get enough fans to unlock some of the nicer clothes! I had to know if my character would end up with thinly veiled circa-2011 Justin Bieber! I had to know if my single ‘Katy Perry is Problematic’ would win me a Glammy! (Spoiler: It does! No matter what you do, I assume.)
There are three seasons of Demi Lovato: Path to Fame. I can’t imagine what drama my character, the imaginatively named ‘Sam Brooks’, gets into in season two, but it will have to happen without me.
Amount of game played: 26 episodes, which took me about six hours. I’m not proud of this. There are three seasons of this game, and I am not going to play any more. You know what the game is by now, you’ve got your pound of flesh.
Amount of [insert name of celebrity] in [insert name of celebrity game]: Demi Lovato is a prominent character in the plot of her own video game, often serving as a deus ex machina to an episode or providing generic encouragement. Almost every scene is scored to a tinny backing track of one of her songs, and everybody in the game is obsessed with Demi Lovato. You can tell the exact point when Demi Lovato the real person stopped caring about the game because her voiceovers drop off pretty damn quickly.
Amount of $$$ spent on microtransactions: $7.50, but only to get more passes to play through the season. You can spend a huge amount on gems, which allow you to buy outfits, which allow you to win the game. Evidently, the path to fame is spending a lot of money, which is a depressingly real and honest way to look at how to get famous! Thanks, Demi Lovato.
Amount of shameless promo for [name of celebrity]: Very little! I imagine it would make you want to buy some of the songs if you didn’t already have them/have a Spotify subscription. There are sponsor ads in between each episode, but you can take out your headphones and do something else during this.
Should you play this: No? Probably not? It’s really hard to justify it to your friends, and even harder to justify it to yourself. There’s a limited amount of time on this planet, and there are definitely more wholesome ways to get your satisfaction that aren’t playing a Demi Lovato mobile game.
Next game in this celebrity-branded series: The incredibly current Tom Daley Dive 2012.
Made with the help of the benevolent superhumans at Bigpipe Broadband, the best ISP in all possible universes.
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.