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Game Beat: Little Girls Will Rescue Us From Sexist Bullshit

By Kristy Puchko | Miscellaneous | April 10, 2015 |

By Kristy Puchko | Miscellaneous | April 10, 2015 |

Let’s hear it for the girls!

As much as us adults may rant and rage about the failings of the patriarchy, it’s the kids’ causes that seem to be gaining major momentum. There was the seven-year-old who called out Lego for their sexist toys, and the 11-year-old that campaigned for more superheroines. Now, the latest girl to get shit done is 12-year-old Maddie Messer, who is spurring a change in free game apps.

A devoted fan of the mobile game Temple Run, Messer was miffed that the default character was male, and to get a female playable character you had to shell out real coin in this “free” game. NPR reports Messer did some investigating. She downloaded 50 similar free games, and wrote about her findings in the Op-Ed section of the Washington Post:

“I found that 18 percent had characters whose gender was not identifiable (i.e., potatoes, cats or monkeys). Of the apps that did have gender-identifiable characters, 98 percent offered boy characters. What shocked me was that only 46 percent offered girl characters. Even worse, of these 50 apps, 90 percent offered boy characters for free, while only 15 percent offered girl characters for free. Considering that the players of Temple Run, which has been downloaded more than one billion times, are 60 percent female, this system seems ridiculous.”

Messer’s whole piece is pretty remarkable. Not just for her shocking findings, but also for the sass she wields like a weapon. I particularly like this line:

“In one game, “Survival Run with Bear Grylls,” you can put the character in a Santa Claus suit for $1.98, but there is no girl to be had at any price. Does this mean that girls aren’t capable of escaping a bear, but Santa is?”


But more to the point, she writes:

“These biases affect young girls like me. The lack of girl characters implies that girls are not equal to boys and they don’t deserve characters that look like them.”

Messer also discovered the average price to purchase female playable characters when they are offered was $7.53. So representation literally costs ya.’ But some games—including a Disney one that asks nearly $30 for female characters—are remodeling, including Temple Run.

Messer’s piece got the attention of Natalia Luckyanova, who created Temple Run with her husband Keith Shepherd. Luckyanova told NPR, “It was embarrassing to read that…For all of my good intentions, it’s true that you start out with this male character. … The white male is always the default, and anything else, it’s like, you have to work for it.”

More importantly she reached out to Messer, promising Temple Run will soon have a free female character. Might we suggest they name her Maddie?

Kristy Puchko is willing spring into existence one weather inappropriate outfit at a time.

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Kristy Puchko is the managing editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.