Mike Hoye wanted his young daughter, Maya, to be able to play The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, but Maya had a problem. She wanted to play Link, but she didn’t understand why Link had to be a boy. Luckily her dad is a hero in his own right—he altered the game’s disk image with a hex editor and changed all the pronouns.
Link is pretty gender-neutral in looks, which made editing this game particularly easy. Unfortunately for Maya and girls like her—not to mention adult women who love gaming—a majority of video game protagonists are male.
When geek dad and game developer Mike Mika witnessed his daughter’s disappointment at not being able to play as Princess Peach in Donkey Kong, he decided to fix the problem.
“My three year old daughter and I play a lot of old games together,” Mika writes. “Her favorite is Donkey Kong. Two days ago, she asked me if she could play as the girl and save Mario. She’s played as Peach in Super Mario Bros. 2 and naturally just assumed she could do the same in Donkey Kong. I told her we couldn’t in that particular Mario game, [and] she seemed really bummed out by that.”
So Mika hacked the 2010 Nintendo ROM and reversed the roles.
In the new game, dubbed the “Pauline Edition,” Mario patiently awaits rescue from the heroine, Pauline.
A 2012 EEDAR study (cited by Penny Arcade Report) found that out of 669 action, RPG, and FPS games, only 4% had an exclusively female lead.
(It should be noted that almost half had the option of a female lead, for instance with a create-your-own-character engine, but these are most often avatars without personalities rather than characters. )
I applaud Hoye and Mika for recognizing the need for girls to see heroic representations of themselves, and I hope that someday great dads won’t have to hack the system to make girls the heroes. I also hope we’ll be seeing more of Maya and Pauline in the future—maybe they’ll develop their own games for future generations of girl heroes!