How to Hack the Video-Game Industry's Male Domination
Mike Mika, a programmer and father, decided to build a workaround for his 3-year-old daughter so she could "play as a girl." The result is a female-friendly version of Donkey Kong that's going viral to start off the week.
Everyone likes a butt-kicking heroine, but the gaming industry is never going to give in — male-centric titles sell way better, and Katniss fever isn't going to stop that. So Mike Mika, a programmer and, importantly, father, decided to build a workaround for his 3-year-old daughter so she could "play as a girl." The result — well, for starters, it's about time Mario got saved in the end, but here's Mika's female-friendly version of Donkey Kong that's going viral to start off the week:
In the accompanying YouTube description, Mika explains how the hero-for-heroine swap came to be in this very geeky but very equal opportunity family:
Two days ago, she asked me if she could play as the girl and save Mario. 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. So what else am I supposed to do? Now I'm up at midnight hacking the ROM, replacing Mario with Pauline.
Forget, if you will, the new standard in awesome parenting set by this Mike Mika character, and remember that video-game publishers don't exactly support games with female main characters. Penny Arcade's Ben Kuchera pointed out in November that a study examining 669 titles found that,"Games that allow you to choose your gender are reviewed better than games that offer male-only heroes, but the games with male only heroes sold better." Kuchera added some context: "If you’re funding a large-budget game and you see these numbers, you see that you lose sales by adding the capability to choose a female hero, and you lose significant sales by releasing a game with a female hero." Essentially, numbers trump quality and a hard-to-break self-fulfilling prophecy. The video-game industry ignores female characters for the bottom line.
Faced with that, Mika delivered to his daughter the only other option available with an ignorant industry: re-code a popular game for his daughter. This isn't unlike what father Mike Hoye did back in November, when he coded a version of The Legend of Zelda to swap the male pronouns for his daughter. But Mika's solution — having his daughter play as Pauline, the damsel in distress and Mario ex-girlfriend who always gets kidnapped by Donkey Kong, and actually saving Mario — is pretty much the best geek-dad move of the year so far... and a good segue until the little one's old enough to get into Metroid.