It’s hardly a secret that when it comes to protagonists in video games, there isn’t exactly an over abundance of women. As a woman that grew up playing videogames, I often found myself wishing for more of a choice when it came to choosing my protagonist; playing the original Pokemon games, I didn’t get to play as a female trainer until the release of Pokemon Crystal in 2001. Though being forced to play as a male trainer wasn’t enough to stop me playing the games, it always made my training journey feel less personal, less satisfying. For young gamers, seeing themselves represented as the hero is important and there should be no doubt that the worlds they’re playing in are for them.
Knowing this, one dad has decided to make sure his daughter can enjoy playing the classics feeling the same level of inclusion he did, by hacking The Legend of Zelda to make Link gender neutral.
“There are plenty of classic books and movies all told from a male perspective that my daughter will likely endure, but what makes the medium of video games unique is that it’s technically possible to hack them to remove the gender bias and present a more engaging and empowering experience for the next generation of young gamers.”
Inspired by similar hacks like Kenna W’s wonderful Zelda starring Zelda where Zelda is the one who saves Link, this dad has gone through A Link to the Past and “replaced every instance of Link’s male pronouns with gender-neutral language.”
Since Link is fairly androgynous to begin with, changing the text seemed like enough to make the game more accessible:
“I combed through all of the in-game text and replaced every instance of Link’s male pronouns with gender-neutral language. To prevent introducing any bugs or glitches in the game, I had to use words with the exact same number of characters; “boy” and “son” were easily replaced with “kid,” but I had to get a little creative in other instances. Since I couldn’t replace “he” with “she,” I went with the Old English “ye,” which I think works in the context of Link serving as an avatar for the actual game player.”
By making the game gender neutral, the creator hasn’t just made it for his daughter, he’s made it for everyone and he’s showing that by making it freely available to download. Of course you see the usual comments that ask “why?” and “what’s the point?” but the easiest response to that is “why not?” This is a completely harmless change to the game that you don’t have to play that in no way ruins the story or the gameplay, it just means that anyone can feel like the hero.
My favourite objection by far, though, is the one that claims to have had no complaints about playing as Lara Croft. I congratulate you for playing a game with a female protagonist and retaining a sense of your masculinity, but it’s really not the same, is it? You played a game with a female protagonist when almost every other game you play has a male protagonist to identify with; the sense of otherness is not comparable. If every game you played starred some variation of Lara Croft and someone finally offered you a game that didn’t you’d breathe a sigh of relief and say “finally, someone kind of like me!” The best thing about this objection is that the change to the game isn’t even making Link female, which further highlights to me that the problem isn’t with changing much-loved games at all, the problem is with women in gaming generally.
Hats off to this dad, we hope your daughter loves her game.