DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power is an upcoming Nintendo Switch game that’s getting a whole lot of attention, but from all the wrong crowds. Its latest trailer released this week and was immediately inundated with dislikes, to the point where they represent nearly 60% of engagement with the video. The original trailer fared even worse, racking up 5,500 dislikes and just 3,700 likes.
Comments from the original video indicated viewers wanted to “flay [themselves] while drowning in an acid pool” before playing. Another remarked “I feel like this game breaks all of my bones.” Comments for the latest trailer have been turned off.
While DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power looks like a fun little adventure with a mix of action beat-em-up gameplay and school simulation, it’s been targeted with hate and vitriol — and it’s unclear why.
The gameplay looks fun and colourful. The school segments seems to pleasantly resemble Rockstar’s award-winning Bully. There’s a camera mechanic that looks like a heap of fun to play around with. There’s nothing overt that would lead people to turn against the game — but there are some assumptions we can make.
Teen Power is a game aimed at the fans of DC Super Hero Girls, a spin-off franchise designed to appeal to young teenage and pre-teen girls. It’s a franchise watched and enjoyed by kids of all genders, spotlighting DC’s most powerful women with a message of love and empowerment. There’s nothing too groundbreaking about the show, but it’s an important and wholesome part of DC’s TV lineup.
It’s also one of very few spin-offs designed for girls. Games created with young girl gamers in mind are incredibly rare, despite the enormous potential and success those games can have.
Growing up in the early 2000s, for example, meant games made “for me” consisted of Barbie: Race & Ride (a janky horse simulator that lasted an hour), Diva Starz on PC (a hair salon and shopping simulator) and Bratz on Game Boy Advance (a mix-and-match puzzle game).
They were fun and enjoyable — but these games were often ridiculed for being simple, one-note affairs. In many cases, they were. Games made for girls were frequently seen as gimmicks, or treated like they didn’t matter.
Most games I played were, at the time, considered “boys games”. Not by nature — most were colourful, fun platformers — but because strong, aggressively male-focused marketing was designed to turn young girls away from particular games.
Early advertisements for Crash Bandicoot claimed the game would allow you to gain a very “manly” bodybuilder physique. Ads for the Sega Mega Drive focused on phallic imagery and “getting hard”. Countless games, even games made for kids, had partially nude women feature in advertisements.
It was marketing that screamed “this isn’t for you” and it’s part of what made gaming so hostile towards gamers who weren’t men.
Over the last two decades, the situation’s gotten much better. Games are far more inviting, advertising is less gendered and there’s a greater level of diversity. But multi-layered, AAA games designed with young teen girls, particularly mainstream games, are still few and far between.
DC Super Hero Girls is a game I wished I’d had growing up when marketing and advertising convinced me I shouldn’t have been playing games like MediEvil and Spyro. In a time when I believed I was the “only” girl reading comic books, a game like this would’ve been a godsend.
With its hybrid action-platforming and exploration mechanics, DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power looks like a game that young girls will love, and it could be the thing that gets them into gaming in the first place. It’s also an important game that shares the empowerment message of the cartoon series.
It’s not just a mix-and-match puzzle game, or one that features simple “fashion” style gameplay. Early trailers show off an action-heavy platforming, exploration, puzzling and fashion all in an intriguing-looking 3D world. It looks and feels exciting, featuring a brilliant cast of funny, well-designed women.
We need more games that encourage young girls to play and enjoy gaming, and more games that allow kids to see themselves represented and understood.
I can’t say for certain what caused the backlash against DC Super Hero Girls, but it’s disheartening. Not every video game is for everyone, and games should cater to a wide variety of audiences, young girls included.
We should celebrate that gaming can be shared with everyone. DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power looks like an absolute blast, and if it gets younger players into gaming or introduces them to a new favourite comic book character, then it’ll have achieved something great.