Most video gamers are well aware that there's a serious lack of main female characters in video games. That's even more true in mobile games, where some characters can only be unlocked by purchasing them.
When young mobile gamer Madeline Messer recently realized that she could only play a female character in the popular games like Temple Run by paying for it, she decided to research other popular mobile video games. She made a startling discovery: almost all of them only allowed gamers to use female avatars by paying for them.
The 12-year-old Messer published her findings in an opinion piece for The Washington Post. She stated that 18 percent of the 50 most popular endless running games in the Apple app store had non-gender specific characters (animals or inanimate objects). However, of the games that offered gendered characters, they were overwhelmingly available as just male.
"What shocked me was that only 46 percent offered girl characters," Messer wrote. "Even worse, of these 50 apps, 90 percent offered boy characters for free, while only 15 percent offered girl characters for free."
That's right — Messer found that the 50 most popular endless running games available for iOS featured male characters and that most of those games made users pay extra if they wanted to play as a female in the game.
The average cost of female characters in the games was $7.53, which is a considerable amount — a higher price than the average cost of most paid games themselves. Disney's Temple Run Oz charged nearly $30 for a girl character, which, most would agree, is outrageous.
"These biases affect young girls like me," wrote Messer. "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."
Messer's results were so upsetting that the developer of Temple Run decided to offer a female version of its main character for free. Not only that, but this new character's name is Maddie. Disney is also removing the $30 price tag from its character — the company plans on offering it free soon, too.
We'll have to see if other mobile video game developers follow suit — many girls play mobile games, and as Messer points out, it only makes sense from a business perspective to offer games with free female characters available for play.
Messer did find one game that let her choose between being a boy or girl: The Hunger Games.