At the opening of the new mobile game Kendall & Kylie—released by sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner—you are a fresh-faced character deposited into the tanned, popularity-driven world of Santa Monica, California. You are in a small room with purple carpet, a shag rug, and a modernist coffee table.
If the cartoon-y design of the place and the characters feel familiar, it's because they look exactly like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a game released in August 2014 by the Jenners' stepsister. But in Kendall & Kylie, the stakes are higher—and the game is better.
Name your character, prompts the game. You probably already know that you shouldn't name your character after yourself. This is a game about fame, and you have prepare to be ruthless: Miss your job, ignore your friend, do anything to get that new selfie post for your Feed.
I named my character Grumpy Baby.
Immediately my new landlord, a bossy girl with some serious sass, asked me how I was going to make money to pay my rent. There were two options available to me, Grumpy Baby. My finger hovered past "Leave that to me…" Already my path to fame was secured.
I'm going to go viral, I clicked.
Playing these games is mindless fun. They are not supposed to make you smarter or force your brain to work in new ways. They are supposed to entertain. Both games work the same way: You are a character in a Hollywood-centric land trying to climb to the top. To do so, you have to complete a series of "events"—starting in Los Angeles and moving on to a global scale—in order to rise to prominence.
In both games, your character can earn free money by tapping on pigeons and other random objects, and the key to everything is moderating your energy level. In both, a famous Kardashian or Jenner sister functions as a kind of spiritual guide on your quest to greatness, appearing only for a moment to ask you to attend a party or tell you that your enemy is talking shit about you.
One reason Kendall & Kylie is more enjoyable to play than Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is that its default display is in portrait mode instead of landscape—it's easier to click discreetly, and easier to see what you're doing.
But what makes Kendall & Kylie truly superior to its older sister Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is the premise.
From the minute Grumpy Baby chose I'm going to go viral, her destiny was laid before her: She would become internet famous.
In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, the goal is to become regular famous: You begin as an E-list celebrity and desperately try to become an A-list celebrity—and then (I guess) stay there. I'm not sure, because once my character hit the A-list, I stopped playing the game regularly.
Fame has changed—and while Kim Kardashian landed a hit reality TV show, there are other roads mere mortals can take. Damn Daniel with his dumb Vans is famous. Dozens of Vine stars are famous. You can get famous by posting photos of beautiful food on Instagram or Tumblr. Fame is everywhere. It feels like you just have to reach out and take it.
Kendall & Kylie capitalizes on that feeling. Though Kim's game poked fun at the cult of celebrity and simplified the ascension into the spotlight, your character's path to fame mirrored Kim's own: Dates with famous men, media interviews, a nude photo shoot in level nine.
You don't have to do any of that in Kendall & Kylie. You just have to attend events and post photos of yourself on your Feed. The only way to get likes is to post a selfie in which you're doing something really great and fun, and the only way to level up is to get likes.
In Kendall & Kylie you don't win "fans," you scoop up "followers," and your "followers" "like" your "selfies." You gain approval—or the illusion of it. You get to be impactful. Or have the illusion of impact. All you have to do to feel that way is spend twenty minutes spent tapping objects around you for stars.
In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, the minute you reached A-list, you felt like you'd won. But in the Jenners' world, where followers are the currency, you never win. There's always someone who has more followers than you do, there is always another person who could see your selfie with MC Brizzy the rapper.
And that's what makes Kendall & Kylie so great. You get to pretend to be internet famous without all of the things that make being internet famous terrible: The pressure, the harassment, and the thousands of teens commenting "lb" on your photos. You get only the likes, only the praise, only the affirmation.
And you become stronger for it. You shine, Grumpy Baby. You shine.
Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.