i3 Scholars: Amy Castillo, Sabrina Chu, Zuaira Khan, Adanna Nedd, Alia Reza

Research Advisor: Dan Gardner, PhD Student, University of California, Irvine



Skins for Sale: Linking Player Identity, Representation, and Purchasing Practices

Alia Reza, Sabrina Chu, Zuaira Khan, Adanna Nedd, Amy Castillo, Dan Gardner. iConference 2019. Washington, DC, USA.

Abstract: Although understudied, microtransactions are becoming widespread in games, especially for the purchase of aesthetic variation in-game. In this paper, we review literature around representation in games and purchasing practices tied to player racial identity to provide insight on how in-game racial representational options and microtransactions may impact purchasing practices of players of diverse racial backgrounds. We selected articles which articulate racial identity, representation in games, and purchasing practices in ways that could be applied to the in-game purchases of non-white character representation in the form of “skins.” The diversity of both players and game characters is steadily increasing in the US. Several of the sources we review here examine this theme and how it is felt by players of color. In this review we thread together research that has focused on the state and effect of representation in games, with research considering the role of racial identity in consumer practice to better examine how players of color feel about purchasing self-representation in games.