Shine On

Boyfriend Trainer: iPhone game lets you slap, whip and electrocute your boyfriend

The Boyfriend Trainer iPhone game has caused a mini media stir. (itunes.apple.com)The Boyfriend Trainer iPhone game has caused a mini media stir. (itunes.apple.com)Do you have a badly behaving boyfriend that might fall in line if you slapped him in the face a few times? Well, now there’s an app for that!

A new game called Boyfriend Trainer encourages players to slap, whip, taze and mace the game's boyfriend character into shape. His offensive actions include looking at other animated female characters and dropping clothes on the floor. It's available at the Apple App Store and for free online.

Some instructions from level one: “Boyfriend’s got a roving eye? Control it. Click on him to hit him when he checks out the girls. Fill up the Perfection Meter to get through the level.” Sometimes the girlfriend character leads her troublesome boyfriend around on a leash.

“It is important to make parents aware that there is an entire industry of unrated games, many of which make a virtue off being offensive, that exists largely under the adult radar,” says Matthew Johnson, the director of education at media literacy group MediaSmarts.

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“When you look at the content of many of these sites, you'll find that this content is more or less par for the course, except for the gender of the target,” says Johnson. "Sites such as eBaumsWorld, Addicting Games and NewGrounds are all very popular with teens."

But before you start screaming “Double Standard! Domestic abuse!” about the Boyfriend Trainer game, know that you have a chorus of news media behind you.

Wired describes the game as one that “lets you beat strangle and electrocute your partner”, while the Globe and Mail simply asks, “Double standard, anyone?”

Richard Lachman is an assistant professor of digital media at Ryerson University and he sees the media attention these games get as part of the problem.

“It's not the only potentially offensive game, video or digital content out there, but its important to notice that these games rarely have many people downloading or playing them until media-outrage makes them popular,” says Lachman. 

“The small audience that would have noticed a game like this is now a huge audience wringing their hands about something that, in all likelihood, would have just vanished into the net in a few days.”

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Lachman says that the barriers that used to exist in getting your content seen no longer exist. Almost anyone can create a product that looks somewhat professional and then put it on the web, and so quality control takes a beating.

"As a society we are just starting to figure out how we respond to this content through social conventions, behaviours, expectations and perhaps, eventually legal practice,” says Lachman.

Many are expressing outrage that Apple, who has a strict no-nudity policy in their App Store, would allow this game amongst their wares.

“It is somewhat surprising, but I suspect it’s more due to oversight than any conscious double standard,” says Johnson. “My guess is that this will be removed from the Apple app store within a day or two.”

Lachman has similar predictions.

“Often, once there is enough of a media storm of attention, Apple removes the content without much comment.”

Let's hope Apple gets around to dropping Boyfriend Trainer sooner rather than later, lest some impressionable youth get the idea that tazing is an acceptable method of communication.

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