Missives from the Digital Front: How my son became a whale for DragonVale

JANUARY 16, 2013

LAST SUNDAY–BOSTON SUBURBIA–SOMEWHERE DURING THE SECOND QUARTER of the Patriots–Texans game, with 12 or so friends and family gathered around the TV, the house phone rang.

Private caller.

Who is calling during the game???? Clearly, someone I didn’t want to talk to, only I did.

It was the credit card early warning/fraud department calling to ask if I was on iTunes and charging things. Clearly, I was not, but somewhere in the midst of the first quarter, my nine-year old asked if he could use Mom’s iPad and was given the green light.

The credit card people said there were rapid charges for an app, a game, called DragonVale. Locating my son and my wife confirmed this, so I confirmed the charges were legitimate, and well, in fact, ours.

The bill? $106.24.

My son was genuinely surprised, and I consider him pretty tech savvy. “I used coins and gems, Dad, really!” he repeated nearly 10 times, and said he didn’t think he was using real money.

Owch. Either there has to be better parental control over iPad usage in our household, or DragonVale has some less-than-clear in-app purchasing. This will be investigated further.

The next morning, I sat down with my son and the dialog went something like this:

“What did you buy?”

“A dragon.”

“And what else?”

“Well, he needed an island. And a castle. And a…” the list continued.

From a professional standpoint, I’m a big fan of free-to-play games, and I think it’s great for the video gaming industry in general. And now I’ve come to understand something else: my son is a whale for DragonVale.

Monday night? DragonVale was deleted from the iPad…lesson learned.

(Missives from the Digital Front is a series of opinions and thoughts, sometimes with a bit of snark, and don’t qualify as a research post. Consider this a blog courtesy of P.J. McNealy.)

Filed in: Gen M, Missives from the Digital Front, Video Games Tags: , ,

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2 Responses to "Missives from the Digital Front: How my son became a whale for DragonVale"

  1. Jamie Lin says:

    Two years ago, we had a very similar experience with our 8 year old son. He was playing Smurfs and purchased $50 of smurf berries. We did call Apple and expressed our concern that these gamers were praying on young kids. They did refund all of our money.

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