12-year-old discovers widespread extra costs to play games as female characters

11 Mar 2015

A 12-year-old girl has uncovered the widespread practice among smartphone game developers to charge users extra so they can play their apps as female characters.

Writing for The Washington Post, Madeline Messer revealed that apps charge on average US$7.53 (€7.13) for the bonus feature of being able to play as a female avatar. That’s despite the average cost of the apps themselves only being US$0.26 (when they cost at all).

“One day I noticed that my friend was playing a game as a boy character and asked why she wasn’t a girl. She said you couldn’t be a girl; a boy character was the only option,” wrote Madeline.

“After that, I started to pay attention to other apps my friends and I were playing. I saw that a lot of them featured boy characters, and if girl characters did exist, you were actually required to pay for them.”

In study of 50 games, Madeline discovered that 18pc featured characters whose gender was not identifiable (vegetables, for example), but of the apps that did have gender-identifiable characters, 98pc offered boy characters while just 46 pc offered girl characters.

Ninety per cent offered boy characters for free, while only 15pc offered girl characters for free.

“These biases affect young girls like me,” said the 6th grade student. “The lack of girl characters implies that girls are not equal to boys and they don’t deserve characters that look like them. I am a girl; I prefer being a girl in these games. I do not want to pay to be a girl.”

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Girl with mobile phone image via Shutterstock

Dean Van Nguyen was a contributor to Silicon Republic