London-based developer Blouzar has responded to accusations made by television psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos that games such as its own Miss Bimbo have their part to play in the sexualisation of children and teenagers.
According to Papadopoulos' report 'The Sexualisation of Young People', commissioned by the Home Office and published today, the MissBimbo.com site is encouraging young people to compete based on their appearance and nothing else.
"Many websites for children are perfectly safe and have a high educational and social value," noted Papadopoulos. "However, some are undoubtedly encouraging very young girls to present themselves as adult women and to focus on their physical appearance to the exclusion of all else.
"At MissBimbo.com, girls and boys are encouraged to use plastic surgery and extreme dieting to help their virtual characters achieve the 'perfect figure' and compete with each other to create 'the coolest, richest and most famous bimbo in the world'," sates the report. "The site currently has over two million registered 'bimbos'. Maybe these games are supposed to be 'ironic' but the fact is that they normalise topics ranging from cosmetic surgery to marrying for money as appropriate subject matter for child's play.
"It is another powerful indication of how the boundaries between what is seen as appropriate for children and what is the preserve of adults is being blurred."
But according to Nicolas Jacquart, Miss Bimbo's creator and the director of Blouzar, Papadopoulos hasn't taken the time to properly test the game before making assumptions. He adds the game is intended to make fun of celebrities, and that the average age of its players is 19 years old.
Papadopoulos is "judging a book by its cover," according to Jacquart. "There's something important that they always forget to say - the average age on Miss Bimbo is over 19 years old. Miss Bimbo is a good game for everyone and is definitely better than real bimbos on TV like Paris Hilton or Page 3 girl Katie Price.
"Miss Bimbo is actually making fun of those bimbo celebrities that are on TV. Our players are not bimbos at all and that's our best defence against people who try to denigrate our community."
The online game currently boasts over two million registered users, with the highest percentage - 12 per cent - being 19 years old. However, 60 per cent of its users are aged 18 or younger, and around 8 per cent of users are aged 13.
According to the Miss Bimbo site, a Facebook version of the game is currently under development.