Earlier this year, a 22-year-old man from the UK emptied his savings account on the game, Hidden Artifacts. The popular iOS game takes players on a journey of solving ancient mysteries and uncovering, you guessed it, hidden artifacts.
The game's addictive nature led to the man spending a whopping €3,160. A story that might seem like another comic instance of youthful irresponsibility takes on a completely different light when it's revealed that the man suffers from severe disabilities, including cerebral palsy, complex epilepsy, autism, and other learning disabilities.
Susie Breare, the man's mother, explained that her son is unable to do most regular activities, and receives a majority of his education and entertainment from his iPad. She contacted both iTunes, as well as Blastworks Ltd., the developer behind Hidden Artifacts, but was unable to reclaim her son's lost money. While telling the story to BBC News journalist, Zoe Kleinman, Breare stated, "It is extremely distressing that vulnerable people, such as my son, become victims of what is thought to be an educational game."
The story is one of several instances in which young gamers have spent an absurd amount of money, either their parents' or their own, on a single game. Understandably, this has caused many to question the ethics behind in-app purchases. When playing iOS games in particular, an active credit card is required on the account to download the game, even if the download is free. When young gamers notice that they can get further in the game by making in-app purchases, they might be compelled to do so without having the developed mental acuity to understand the consequences of making multiple purchases.
While it does fall to the parent to take responsibility for what their child is spending their money on, it isn't possible for anyone to constantly monitor what exactly their children are doing 24/7. Some argue that a simple sit-down conversation should solve the problem, but others would like to see Apple and its game developers take some responsibility, and send a notification to cardholders when a certain amount of money is being spent on an iOS application.
While some families who face these issues can solve them with a stern explanation to their children, others who aren't so financially comfortable have been genuinely burdened by these instances. With the massive prevalence of microtransactions in today's video games, it's hard to say that this issue will go away any time soon, and one can only hope that a resolution can be found in order to prevent stories like this from continuing to happen.
Source: Zoe Kleinman (via BBC News)