Friday, April 10, 2015

Kids Want Change In Games

Remember that post that I made last year about the gaming gender gap, and how things haven't changed much in the past 20 years? I will now link it for your reading enjoyment. A year can make a difference, but not by a whole lot. What's interesting is that much of the change has been spearheaded not by adults, but by children.

Maddie Messer is 12 years old and she loves Temple Run. She plays video games, particularly mobile titles, but has noticed a trend: there are a lot of male characters and not many women. So she created a spreadsheet and began tracking what heroes are available of the top 50 most downloaded games for mobile. 37 of the games offered free male characters as a default, while only 5 offered female characters as an option. A number of the games allowed you to get a female avatar, if you paid for it, which averages out to $7.53 per purchase. Or a whopping $30 for that one Disney game. Yikes.

It's called price discrimination, where businesses charge different prices for different people for an identical product. If you need a comparison, senior citizen and student discounts at movie theaters would be a form of this. The creators of Temple Run didn't see this as an issue until Maddie wrote a letter and brought it to their attention. For them, the female avatar was not considered a default, like in so many games, and if people want it, they'd have to pay for it (and they do). The developers hope to have a freebe female character in an upcoming update to the game. Disney is also reconsidering their pricing structure now that Maddie's letters have gone viral.

But this form of gender bias also plays in other realms of retail, as we have seen in the past. Like fabric. Yeah. Arts and craft. Typically a "girly" domain also experiences bias on fabric. I see it every time I go into the store and they have "character" fabrics from franchises. Since Disney took over Lucasfilm, Star Wars fabrics are all over the place. Every single officially licensed fabric is with a dark blue background, and has images of Yoda and Luke Skywalker on them. The few female characters that exist in the universe are no-where to be found. But it's like this on all of the sports fabrics, holiday prints, you name it. Anything that has a "character" of some sort will always be male. No girls allowed.

A mother in Washington, Veronica, had a similar concern with prints for Big Hero 6. Oh look. Another Disney movie. The company who designed the fabric, Springs Creative, made a fabric that featured 4 of the 6 main characters. Guess which 2 were missing? Yep. The 2 women. She didn't buy the fabric and wrote an email to the company regarding her concerns. Her kids spurred her on to make the complaint. They wanted all of the heroes on the fabric, not just the boys. The company's response noted that the movie was geared towards boys, and boys don't want to see girls on their stuff. Their exact wording was "(eeeww girls! Yuck! Haha)." Really. It's in the post.

Veronica wasn't happy. I wouldn't be either. That's a pretty half-arse excuse, but given the market...I'm not at all surprised. People assume that it's a "boy product" therefore they cater only to boys. The big to-do with Black Widow not being prominently featured in the initial The Avengers advertising, sometimes being left out entirely, is no different. Companies think this is what people want, and we accept it because that's how it's always been.

But this does give me a sparkle of hope for the future. We're seeing kids, boys and girls, making a bold statement: we want everyone to be included. And that's great! Why shouldn't everyone be involved? Now to get companies to start listening when the adults complain...


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