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Video Game Sexism Getting Better, One Hack at a Time

Video Game Sexism Getting Better, One Hack at a Time

Breaking News: Girls play video games.

It’s a shocker, I know. Even though it’s been changing over the past few years, the conventional wisdom still seems to be that women gamers are a very small minority. In fact, women make up 47 percent of gamers. So what gives? Why is no one paying attention?

Well that’s all changing, one hack at a time.

You may remember several months ago Mike Hoye hacked into Legend of Zelda: Wind Walker in order to change all the pronouns to reflect the female gender.

You can pick your character’s name, of course—I always stick with Link, being a traditionalist—but all of the dialog insists that Link is a boy, and there’s apparently nothing to be done about it.

Well, there wasn’t anything to be done about it, certainly not anything easy, but as you might imagine I’m not having my daughter growing up thinking girls don’t get to be the hero and rescue their little brothers.

And now another badass father has hacked his way to a more progressive game. Mike Mika, however, goes beyond words. He swapped the roles. Mika’s three-year-old daughter can save the day. As a girl.

“She’s played as Princess Toadstool 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, she seemed really bummed out by that,” Mike posted to YouTube. “So what else am I supposed to do? Now I’m up at midnight hacking the ROM, replacing Mario with Pauline.”

Rock on.

These are cute stories of fathers who care whether or not their daughters see themselves as the hero of their own story. But the sweetness has an ugly side. You may remember a while back Anita Sarkheesian, creator of the Feminist Frequency video series, started a Kickstarter to fund a series of videos examining sexist tropes in video games. Fair enough, right? WRONG. She was viciously attacked with death and rape threats, gendered slurs, and allegations that she would take off with the money.

Jeez. All for pointing out that *gasp* sexism exists in video games.

Well Anita didn’t run off with the money (of course) and the first episode of Tropes vs Women in Video Games is up. The topic: Damsel in Distress.

For some reason, it’s taking the video game industry (and those who feel the need to defend every single little aspect of it) a long time to understand something Mika and Hoye seem to get intuitively: Girls can be heroes, too.


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Image credit: JD Hancock

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8:07PM PDT on Mar 14, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

9:59PM PST on Jan 19, 2014

Pretty remarkable post. I simply came across your blog and desired to say that I have really enjoyed searching your blog posts.


2:33PM PDT on May 24, 2013

hack away gamers! I used to love to play, now I never have time, or have better things to do. But I still occasionally love to kick butt on some old school systems :)

8:22PM PDT on May 8, 2013

Everyday single day the makeup of the world, environment, society, etc., when video games first started coming out in the early ''80s, they were meant to provide a means of entertainment, having fun playing them to see how many points and to what level you could complete. I remember my children, once I could afford to buy one, even my father enjoying the game. I definitely agree that video games should not be sexists, whether you choose to be the girl or the boy, the important thing is to play for entertainment and having fun! Take a load off your hard day and enjoy it for a while!

7:44AM PDT on Mar 30, 2013


2:59PM PDT on Mar 29, 2013


8:25AM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

Thanks for the info.

5:38AM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

Iona K.,

How is that NOT being sexist against your own gender?? Ways of playing are NOT sex based or Male or Female!

""In the end will thou gets the girl or play like one?" Now that's a telling quote! I'd prefer to play like a girl and kick some serious butt!"

8:50PM PDT on Mar 27, 2013

"In the end will thou gets the girl or play like one?" Now that's a telling quote! I'd prefer to play like a girl and kick some serious butt! This is an excellent expose of this industry.
Yes gaming is perhaps not the most important issue in the world right now, but it's culture is indicative of culture in general. Women and men have the right to see women as strong participants in life, not onlookers or objects. It is the right thing to support all areas where admirable approaches are taken and to point out where things are less than ideal. Good luck and thankyou to this young woman and others like her.

2:13PM PDT on Mar 27, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

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