I just saw this article on and decided that I might just have to make “Men Behaving Radly!” a reoccurring blog topic. Mike Mika posted a video of his hacked version of Donkey Kong, wherein he changed the roles of the male and female characters, Mario and Pauline. Instead of Pauline being the damsel in distress, Mika hacked the ROM so that his 3 year old daughter could play as Pauline, the hero. The article says that:
“Mika explained that his daughter sometimes plays as Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Bros. 2 and so she understandably assumed she’d be able to play as Pauline in her current favorite game, Donkey Kong. He told her it wasn’t possible.”
The article also mentions a story from last year, where game developer and dad, Mike Hoye, changed all of the gender references in Nintendo’s Lengend of Zelda: The Wind Waker because:
“It’s annoying and awkward, to put it mildly, having to do gender-translation on the fly when Maya asks me to read what it says on the screen,” Hoye wrote at the time, adding, “I’m not having my daughter growing up thinking girls don’t get to be the hero.”
I think for most people these are just awesome things that devoted fathers did for their little girls, but others don’t necessarily see it that way. If the comments on Mika’s video are any indicator, hacks like these are seen by many gamers as very controversial, which is not all that surprising given the reaction to Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter campaign that launched back in May of 2012. In an update written to her Kickstarter backer, Sarkeesian addresses the backlash (examples of said backlash can be read here):
“As some of you may be aware, this project has recently been subject to a coordinated online harassment effort waged by various online video game forums vowing to “take me down”. I always expect a certain level of harassment when discussing gender issues online. This time however, it’s a more organized and sustained effort than I’ve experienced before. The intimidation and harassment effort has included a torrent of misogyny and hate speech on my YouTube video, repeated vandalizing of the Wikipedia page about me, organized efforts to flag my YouTube videos as “terrorism”, as well as many threatening messages sent through Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, email and my own website.  These messages and comments have included everything from the typical sandwich and kitchen “jokes” to threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape.  All that plus an organized attempt to report this project to Kickstarter and get it banned or defunded.  Thankfully, Kickstarter has been incredibly supportive in helping me deal with the harassment on their service. The sad thing is this kind of backlash happens all the time whenever women dare to speak up about gender and video games.”
A recent article on by Erik Kain calls Sarkeesian’s first post kickstarter video, “Damsel in Distress: Part 1 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games” excellent and important.
While I don’t necessarily feel like I’ll agree with everything she says in this video and the ones to come, I do value open discourse and I believe that tropes like these are definitely worth discussion and thought.  It’s clear that these days, women and girls make up a very large portion of the game market and we’re enjoying the games that are inclusive and include dialogue and story options that keep things fun and interesting, not just for us women, but for us all as individuals (male, female or transgender).  Sarkeesian says in her video:
 “Remember that it’s both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects”
and I think that’s perfectly reasonable.So here’s to Mike Hoye and Mike Mika’s sweet and loving acts from fathers to their daughters, which should be seen as just that, rather than an assault the the canon that is Donkey Kong or Legend of Zelda.
You know if you think about it these two stories of father’s hacking beloved games to change the hero roles actually another example of the damsel in distress trope; where the girls are the damsels (distressed about their games) and the dad’s are the heroes… Just a thought.  –S.

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