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Shop or Die: Toronto Illustrator's Workshop Game Gets An iMakeover
Kyra Kendall turned her Dames Making Games flash creation into an iPad and iPhone game

If there’s an Angry Birds for the fashion savvy, it’s Shop or Die. The new potentially addictive game follows a shopper as she shops the globe on a private jet and defeats bad guys that come in the form of everyone from Toronto’s own Maple Leafs (generic players, no one in specific) to perverted Dallas cowboys that want to take you home to mom. The game is available on the Apple store today and is unique because it was born out of a feminist game movement.

“Making games feels like making magic,” says game creator Kyra Kendall. The Toronto-based illustrator always had an interest in making games and finally decided to register for a workshop with Dames Making Games, a pro-fem volunteer run organization designed to get more women into game design.  

“Dames Making Games made it happen. It’s these women getting together to talk about what they like most about games and what they want to do differently. A lot of women play games, but not a lot of women make them. It was such an inspiring experience. They got me to make my version, my prototype, and if I hadn’t have done that I wouldn’t have got to make the final game.”

Kendall made her original game on Stencyl, a platform that lets you create iOS and Flash games. She sent it to her clients for fun when one of them responded. Kendall had been drawing mermaids and ponies for LA-based game developers Appsent Minded when they saw it, loved it and wanted to bring it to life. They told her to go crazy creatively and that they’d worry about the coding.

Drawing the i-versions of Shop or Die involved more intricate animation than she expected, as she spent months crafting modified versions of each individual layer. It was created for the iPad, but many details such as speech bubbles and city signs had to be customized to work on the iPhone as well. The game takes the player through various cities including Toronto, LA and New York. Kendall consulted fashion bloggers from each city to make sure she nailed their individual styles.

“I love shopping but I hate the games that exist for shopping — they’re so materialistic and dumb. They’re all about getting a boyfriend,” Kendall says. “As a girl I always enjoyed that component of a game when there are hidden things. I tried to make a game about style and shopping, but also there are all these mini-games within it, two in every level.”

They’re somewhat superficial, but fun. One is called Purse Pong and it’s all about tossing an aspirin around in a purse with two tubes of lipstick. There’s another called Manic Manicure, a memory game in which the player has to remember the order of the various colours an esthetician paints on each nail. They’re kind of like Pokemon mini-games, if you ever played those for N64 as a kid slash teen slash sometimes adult like I did, but with a saucy “hey girlfriend” attitude. Obstacles such as cliché polar bears, greedy fashion buys and evil ex-boyfriends will cause your player to die.

The experience has been so life changing for Kendall that she wants to make it her new career. She talks to everyone about gaming and tries to encourage more women to take workshops and learn about the tools that are out there.

“I want this game to do well enough that I could do this forever,” she says.

The app is available at the Apple Store for free, but customizations such as different fashion choices, the private jet and new levels run 99 cents to two dollars each. The entire bundle can be purchased for $2.99.


Sheena Lyonnais is Toronto Standard’s Tech and Business Editor. You can follow her on Twitter at @SheenaLyonnais.

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