I just finished a post about gender parity in television and film, reporting on information from last night’s Writers Guild of America West’s “Exploring Unconscious Bias. In it, I discussed the costly ramifications of inequity of on screen representation on the real world. The Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media estimates that it will take 700 years to reach gender parity on screen.
Monetary Costs to being Female
Prior to writing that, I had downloaded several articles on female representation in video games as I was prepping a humorous article on how video games make people gay. This was inspired by this insipid evangelist who released a study that Pokemon turned young people gay in the 80s and 90s. One of the articles I downloaded was an opinion piece that appeared in the Washington Post by a 12 year old who studied 50 Endless Running games such as the Temple Run franchise.
She found that in order to play a female character, a player would have to pay, not play, or just be a boy character. 85% of the games she examined did not offer a female character for free. Others charged an average of $7.53 for a DLC playable female character.
I tried to fact-check her assertion that in Disney’s Temple Run Oz, it costs $29.97 to play the only female character. However in 2013, the game was updated so you can play as China Girl. I can’t tell if she’s a DLC or if she comes as part of the $1.99 app price but I also can’t find any info on DLC or in-app purchase prices.
But I don’t doubt her overall conclusions that video games make you pay a premium to be female.
I know from my action figure collecting days, the female figures were always the “rare” ones. They are rare because fewer of them are made. Those are the ones you want to stock up on to sell or hold on for higher value because less of them exist. Poison Ivy, Invisible Woman, Daemona, Leia–I’ve got tons of them. But the lack of female characters packaged in a box means that toy companies are saying girls don’t play with action figures, girls are not allowed to play with action figures unless they want to “be” boys, and thus girls are of less value to toy companies. Oh, and that if you really want a female character, you’re going to have to battle men 10 times your weight to get one. Doesn’t this give a cruel connotation to the collecting term HTF–Hard to Find?
Be a Boy
For the majority of video games, being a boy is the only option, either as a player or as a character. The video game makers are making it financially difficult to be a female character and overtly the message that is sent is, “We don’t want you unless you’re a boy.”
So not only are there less options for female players, there’s a financial incentive not to be female.
Yet the gender split of video game players is nearly 50-50. Think what the ratio would be if more female characters were created. Don’t you think based on that statistic alone, there’d be financial incentive to create more female characters?