RIYADH – More and more tweens are taking to the internet to talk with friends, shop and play games. In recent years, the most popular girls’ games have been dress up and fashion games which allows visitors to dress and customize virtual dolls, go shopping and complete challenges. The newest of these sites has sprung up from an unlikely place, Saudi Arabia.
“Jasmine-Club.com offers middle-eastern tween girls an opportunity to play dress-up games and interact with others in a culturally acceptable atmosphere. The site isn’t exclusive, it’s a fusion of two very different cultures that happens to work exceptionally well.” stated founder April Tosch.
“I’m a mother of 4 daughters who are half American, half Saudi. I noticed that the gaming sites they visited were all from the west. So, I decided to create something that they and their friends could enjoy and feel connected to. Jasmine-Club.com’s theme is Arabesque/Art Nouveau. I didn’t want it to be too Arabic looking or too Western looking; I wanted a good mix of the two. In addition, the text and site navigation is both in Arabic and English. This makes it easy for girls who do not speak English to enjoy the site.” Tosch explained.
Among other activities, Jasmine-Club.com allows head to toe customization of virtual dolls. Each visitor gets her own personal page with a modifiable dressing room. She can choose from many facial features, hair, make-up and clothes, (both western and Islamic) to create a unique doll that is used as her identity. In addition, her personal page allows her to interact with other players, write and receive emails, and furnish her dressing room.
“I want our visitors to feel connected. They are given many choices and options to use in creating their doll and personalizing their “virtual space. I really feel that Jasmine-Club offers a culturally diverse atmosphere in virtual gaming that is unique and very different from any other gaming and social networking tween site on the internet.” Said Tosch.
Jasmine-Club is a division of Jasmine Entertainment Enterprises. During the site’s development Tosch worked closely with graphic artists and advanced programmers in custom designing each section of the site. Aside from the dressing room and personal pages, there is a bazaar which sells virtual furniture and clothes, a VIP area for paid members, a news and forums page and of course a large selection of flash and other games where players can earn “Jasmine Dinars” used in making virtual purchases.
Currently Tosch is beta-testing a new section for the site called the “Well Being” page. On it visitors can watch videos with music and text related to self-improvement and positive thinking.
“Ok, so maybe it’s a bit cheesy. I don’t care. I’d like to see our visitors play a few games, email their friends and then sit back and watch something uplifting that’s going to make them feel good about themselves. I don’t think people realize that sometimes its tough being a tween. After a long day of school it would benefit them to relax and watch something inspiring that is age-appropriate and that they can relate to.”
In addition to wanting to offer some form of self-improvement to her visitors, Tosch hired author Carolyn Handler Miller who has worked with companies such as Disney Interactive and Pixar, to develop serialized stories based on a group of 5 girls coming from different cultures.
The stories are set in a fictional middle-eastern country and the friendship of the 5 main characters shows that people from different cultures and religions can indeed get along and form close relationships.
“Our serialized stories section is due to be launched in the Summer of 2010. We are really working hard on the graphics and characters. I am paying special attention to the scenery because I want our readers to feel immersed in the stories.” Explained Tosch.
“What do I envision for the future of jasmine-club? Well,” said Tosch, “Judging from the hits we are currently receiving, I feel strongly about it’s success. I would like to partner with other media companies in the middle-east to gain some additional capital for sister-sites. I have a long, ambitious list of upgrades and new features that will eventually be added. Commercially speaking, the middle-east is an untapped market. Particularly the tween sector which is now gaining notice as a powerful decision maker in family purchases and travel. Jasmine-Club offers a well defined avenue to the middle-eastern tween advertising market.”