The most recognizable product that Ty Inc. has produced is the Beanie Baby. Ty produces a long line of unique stuffed toys. In 2007, Ty Girlz first appeared as a stuffed toy, quickly followed by the Ty Girlz website. Both the toy and the website are aimed directly at girls ages 8-16. Non-members can consult the website for free; however, this limits most of the activity they can have in the virtual world. Unlike most other virtual worlds, Ty Girlz does not offer monthly or yearly memberships. Instead, members must purchase a Ty Girlz doll that has a secret code attached to the tag. The code can then be entered on the website during registration, unlocking all the benefits of membership. Currently, the price of a Ty Girlz doll is $14.99, although this price can change and vary.
Ty Girlz is a very pink website, designed specifically for girls. The website is actually modeled after the dolls and works for two reasons: to bring owners together in a virtual online world and to further market the dolls. The dolls actually look like dolls, with serene and happy expressions. In Ty Girlz, the avatars don’t look like dolls, they seem to have been modeled after teenagers with little self-respect. Once girls purchase a doll, they enter the doll‘s code in the registration process and fully activate their membership. Members choose an avatar to be their online personality. This avatar can be customized with accessories and a unique look. The avatar gets their own room, the ability to decorate it, a selection of top cities to live in, and $500 in virtual Ty Dollars.
Although most of the website exists for girls to talk about the Ty brand and interact with other girls, there are games to play. These games give players Ty Dollars, the website’s virtual currency. The more games people play, the more Ty Dollars they can earn. This currency allows players to purchase room furniture, personal accessories, clothing, makeup, games, and other trade items. Chat is the most popular feature in the virtual world. Chat Around the World prevents members from typing their own words. They must use preselected words and phrases. In the Freestyle chat version, members can write their own phrases, but they are limited to words found only in the Ty Girlz dictionary.
What is good
The website will appeal only to girls in a wide age range who are interested in fashion and social chat. The graphics are quite good: clean, clear and sharp images. It flows pretty well. It is a bright website with vibrant colors. There is no violence, drink, drugs or tobacco on the website or in the games. Chat filters remove obscene language. Other than testing simple memory skills, Ty Girlz have no real educational value.
What is bad
The comparison with Barbie is unmistakable. Isn’t there more to a girl’s life than makeup, fashion, beauty and shopping? Certainly, Ty Inc. doesn’t think this is all that will happen to the girls who buy and display their Ty Girlz, does it? There are no positive role models or messages contained in the virtual world for girls that will empower them to become nothing more than empty shopaholics. Girls can have a little fun on this website, but they shouldn’t take it seriously.
Ty Girlz have no control over who joins their website; however, they do have control over what members say. In this regard, Ty Girlz is to be commended for at least trying to put tight security measures in places to protect the girls. The most secure chat mode only allows users to choose pre-selected words and phrases. Even in open chat, only words chosen from your restricted dictionary are allowed and moderators patrol this area. Members are encouraged to report inappropriate behavior and parental consent is required before a child uses open chat.