Boy-swapping is on the cards with 'Pokémon for girls'

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The Independent Online

You can't snog a Pokémon. Most little girls don't dream of holding hands at the pictures with a pocket monster - so now an American company is trying to cash in on the craze for trading cards by persuading pre-teens to swap boys instead.

You can't snog a Pokémon. Most little girls don't dream of holding hands at the pictures with a pocket monster - so now an American company is trying to cash in on the craze for trading cards by persuading pre-teens to swap boys instead.

Boy Crazy! is a collection of 363 cards, each featuring a real young male aged between 12 and 22. They go on sale in the UK tomorrow, having proved popular in the States.

This is "Pokémon for girls" say the game's inventors, who admit to having their eyes on "the powerful pre-teen audience and their considerable disposable income" as demonstrated by the success of boy bands such as Westlife and Boyzone. But those acts also have a large gay following, which suggests a card collection ranging from cute pre-pubescents to hairy rap fans with nose studs will appeal to others beyond its target market.

Just like Pokémon, there is a game for collectors to play - in this case they lay out the cards and guess which one each other player fancies the most. Listed next to a head-and-shoulders photograph are the boy's vital statistics and favourite things, including what he is looking for in a girl. It is a format familiar to any reader of pop magazines such as Smash Hits and Just Seventeen. Promotors believe the big selling point is that each character is a real person, plucked from obscurity in American shopping malls. This is supposed to make him accessible, so that little Kylie from Croydon can gaze on the grinning face of Alex from Washington, with his goatee and crooked teeth, and imagine sharing a glass of his favourite drink, Kool-Aid. Her adolescent body had better be in good shape, however, because the first thing he looks for in a girl is a fine physique. She will have to be assertive, because the card says that Alex likes his dates to be in control "although secretly he would like to take a walk on the beach". Kylie's parents may be concerned that he's nearly 21, but they need not worry. There is no chance of her dreams coming true, because the makers refuse to give out any personal details. Most of the boys live in America anyway, although auditions will be held in the UK this summer.

Hobbygames, which distributes the cards here, says it "encourages young girls to develop a healthy and realistic attitude towards boys". But some American parents have worried that the game might encourage paedophiles. Boy Crazy has a website which matches a viewer's tastes with the database. By asking the matchmaker for a 12- 13-year-old, the Independent on Sunday was offered details of Mitchell, a blue-eyed blond born in 1987, whose favourite drink was lemonade. This "sensitive, smart, emotional" young man liked to rollerblade and play video games, and wanted to be rich. His favourite place was Disneyland.

One American academic has complained that the game reduces its subjects to objects of desire to be traded. Another, Robert Butterworth, the child psychologist and agony uncle, expressed concern about its effects on boys. "When they see girls flipping through these cards, it's going to give them one vast inferiority complex," he said.

Richard Smith, associate editor of Gay Times, feels Boy Crazy is far too silly and childish to attract pink pounds. "We tend to collect real men then throw them away," he jokes.

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