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.”
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.
Image credit: JD Hancock