Several news media organizations have been reporting on a plastic surgery mobile game in the last few days. And, I have to say, a plastic surgery game for kids is a bad idea. To be fair, I have not played these games personally. But based on the overall concept and the way that these mobile games are described, I’m finding a few problems.
Any Plastic Surgery Game for Kids is a Bad Idea
First and foremost, plastic surgery is a serious decision–and it’s not one without risk. Even cosmetic procedures such as Botox injections often entail a slight risk to the patient. The games seem to promote the idea that plastic surgery is as safe and easy to use as makeup, for example. And that’s just not the case.
And then there’s the entire notion of what beauty ideals actually are. I think it’s worth talking about and considering what kind of notions of beauty are being represented by these games and absorbed by the little kids playing them. Sure, making a cosmetic surgery game for kids might seem innocent and silly. But I’m convinced that this plastic surgery game for kids is a bad idea.
What Does Plastic Surgery Do?
The primary plastic surgery game that seems to be getting attention is called Beauty Clinic Plastic Surgery. It’s a mobile game that, at the beginning of this media attention, was available in the Apple, Amazon, and Android app stores (Apple, at least, has since issued a statement saying they are going to remove the app).
And it’s true that issues such as bruising and sores are depicted in the game. But the reality of plastic surgery is quite different from anything a mobile game could likely depict:
- Most plastic surgery procedures involve a recovery period. In some cases, it’s only a couple of days, but for more serious procedures it can be a couple of weeks for the initial recovery.
- Plastic surgery procedures also require a significant amount of care after the procedure has been performed. In many cases, patients will come in for several follow up appointments.
- There’s also a long process (well, usually it’s long) when it comes to deciding on the right plastic surgery procedure for you. Most plastic surgery video games depict the decision process as rather arbitrary. But patients think about what plastic surgery procedure to get for a long time (and go through a consultation process) before surgery is ever performed.
So, let’s put it this way: a plastic surgery game is not an accurate representation of a patient’s experience. Now, I fully realize that, for example Battleship (do people still play that?) is not an accurate representation of naval warfare. It’s a game. But it can be problematic when these inaccurate ideas about plastic surgery are absorbed at such a young age.
Plastic Surgery Games and Notions of Beauty
And that brings us to the second primary concerns about plastic surgery games for kids: the messages about beauty. Ideally, the message we send to any of our children should be something like: you’re beautiful just the way you are. Unfortunately, these games seem to send messages that are something closer to: if there’s something you don’t like about yourself, you can change it!
That’s a problematic idea for several reasons:
- Ideas of beauty tend to be very fluid. What’s “beautiful” one year might not have the same status the next. But plastic surgery is very permanent.
- Changing certain areas of the body are more difficult than others, and plastic surgery has its limits.
- To a certain degree, we have very little control over how close we ever become to our beauty ideals.
That’s why plastic surgery is usually considered as a way for you to feel good about yourself for yourself.
Plastic Surgery Can Be Epic, But Not for Kids
What we’re getting to is this: there’s nothing inherently wrong with plastic surgery. In fact, plastic surgery can create some incredibly epic transformations. But when you’re young, your body is still changing. The last message we want to send to our kids is “you’d be beautiful if only you could get rid of those birthmarks.”
After all, if our kids are anything like us, they won’t have much trouble discovering something to feel self-conscious about. My worry is that these plastic surgery games for kids will make those children feel self conscious too early and too potently. For now, I think a mobile plastic surgery game for kids is a bad idea.