Sara’s Cooking Class: Spil Games Knows Tween Girls (Part 1)

Cooking and Recipes Family Games GeekMom Video Games

Food is very important to me. Wait, that sounds dumb, doesn’t it? Because really, whether you eat to live or live to eat; food is important to all living creatures. But I love to cook, I love to bake, I love to eat out, I love to eat in other people’s homes. If you tell me you’ve gone to a particular restaurant, I will ask you what you ordered off the menu there, and, as my husband pointed out, will actively listen to your answer and even ask pointed questions.

“You’re not just being pleasant,” he said to me, early on in our relationship. “You really want to know!”

When I go to another country, one of my favorite things to do is find the local supermarket and browse the shelves.  I know I get this from my mother and her identical twin sister. My father’s half-sister came to visit us once, and upon returning from a “quick trip” to the supermarket, she said to me, “My God, we were there for ages! And then I looked at them, and I realized, they’re window shopping in the local supermarket chain!”

In my experience, when you pop into the local supermarket, you will find chocolates, candy, and cookies that are interesting and unique to the culture – and you can buy them as souvenirs and gifts for friends back home. They will be much cheaper than the same product being sold in tourist areas. And it’s not just international. Oh no. Honey, I once killed a pleasant three hours in a Winn-Dixie outside of New Orleans while I waited for Delta to fly my luggage to the right city. Supermarkets say a lot about where you are visiting. And New Orleans had a plethora of indigenous products to gander at.

I cook a lot, and I involve my daughter as much as I can. We have a Learning Tower in our kitchen, and Vivi spends a lot of time up there at counter level, helping me make our meals, or treats. I want her to grow up knowing how food gets to her table, and understand what goes into the food she eats. At the beginning of Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential, he explains why food in restaurants tastes so much better than the food you make at home: monte au buerre. I think it’s important to know things like this, so you have an understanding of the work that goes into making a meal. When we cook something together and eat it, I always say that it tastes better because we are proud to have made it.

So I was intrigued when Spil games contacted me and invited me to Amsterdam to discuss, and be a part of the launch of their wildly popular game Sara’s Cooking Class on mobile devices. (In the interest of full disclosure, they invited fellow GeekMom Melissa Wiley, who had to decline due to previous commitments. She, weepingly, but graciously recommended me for the trip instead, and was rewarded handsomely with Stroopwafel.)

The first thing I did when they contacted me with this amazing invitation, was look up Spil to see what they were all about.  The last thing I wanted was for someone to fly me to another country, only to have me look at their game and go, “Meh’ – or worse, “Uh oh, this product sucks.” I hadn’t heard of them or their gaming property before, so I did some due diligence before I accepted the invitation.

My first impression of GGG? “Oh s***, this is awfully pink and sparkly.” I’m not a girly girl and the color assignments to gender really annoy me. (A great article to read about gender and color assignment is here in Smithsonian magazine.)

But I like cooking, and I like browser based games. I played Sara’s Cooking Class, and I enjoyed it!

It turns out that Spil, and especially girlsgogames, have their fingers firmly on the pulse of the Tween gaming market. The site has over 50 million unique global users per month, with Sara’s Cooking Class being the most popular of the games. It’s pink and sparkly because they’ve done a lot of research into the mind of the tween girl, and surprise! Most of them like pink, sparkly, and cluttered.

What I thought was going to be a nice little jaunt to Amsterdam (I was there for less than 48 hours), a chance to eat stroopwafel, and a demo of the new mobile version of Sara’s Cooking Class, turned into an incredibly interesting afternoon talking with reps from Spil, and representatives from members of the global media about girls who play games, and their families. Specifically, the development stages of girls, getting into the nitty gritty of tween girls in particular, how Spil designs games for tween girls and their mothers, and eventually talking about the relationships women have with their daughters and food.

Speaking of food. You guys know about Stroopwafel, right? If you don’t, it’s a waffle sandwich cookie with a caramel syrup filling. You place it over your warm coffee or tea mug, and wait for it to soften up. (Or, you are like me, and you can’t wait that long, and just eat it.) If you ever go to the Netherlands, make sure you have fresh Stroopwafel.

Much as I don’t like to admit it, Spil has done extensive research into the mind of the tween girl, as well as the mothers of tween girls. I say I don’t like to admit it, because of one detail in particular on a chart they showed us. The age range listed was roughly around 8 to 9 years old, and it basically said that at this age, young girls are dreaming about their “first kiss.” In my head, I had a knee-jerk reaction of NO WAY TOO YOUNG ARE YOU KIDDING. And the next thing they said was that their studies showed that the mothers of tween girls HATE this fact.

Busted. And I am not even the mother of a tween girl. My daughter is three!

I found their presentation fascinating, and there was a lively discussion that afternoon. Basically, research found that tween girls want to “feel older and have control,” “are eager to emulate the people they see and look up to in real life,” and “often look for role models.” In general, they want to be older and they want to explore the world.

Meanwhile, their parents want “to bond with their daughters” and “encourage exploration,” but they want them to be safe in this kind of exploration. Gaming helps them feel “connected to the family,” and gives them a “safe way … to explore.” As for myself, I think it’s important to play games with your children. Video or analog. Console, iPad, or desktop.

Sara’s Cooking Class is designed to be a bonding experience between mother and daughter. (Though, frankly, a dad could have a good time making sushi too!) Sara is a “hip” New Yorker – living on her own in the big city, and she’s a whiz cook. As much as little girls may want to be Princess Leia, Princess Diana or Ozma of Oz, (I  may be talking about just me at this point…) they also see their mothers or their fathers, or both, cooking in the kitchen, preparing meals, and they want to emulate these adult activities.  Hey, I may not be from the Isle of Themiscyra, but I can make a jam tart from scratch!

Those of you with tween girls – weigh in! Do you game with your girls? What are you playing? Do you play board games, video games, browser based games?

Next: Sara’s Cooking Class: My review.

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