Rewriting video games for women

In the 32 years that the mustachioed plumber Mario has jumped, run and climbed his way across video game screens, his objective has always been the same: save the girl.

Not once did the girl get to save the guy.


Now, thanks to renegade fans with computer skills, the Wall Street Journal reports video games like Donkey Kong are being rewritten with women in mind.

With a few redrawn pixels and well-placed lines of computer code, the women crying out for rescue have become the ones who save the day. One gamer turned the namesake character from "The Legend of Zelda," a princess saved by a guy named Link, into a sword-bearing warrior. (The game's creator called it "Zelda Starring Zelda.")

Another made Princess Peach, a different kidnapped friend of Mario, throw her own fireballs as she fights her way through a Mushroom Kingdom to save the plumber. Even the lipstick-lined Ms. Pac-Man started as a hack of the popular arcade game about her male counterpart. The hackers do the gender switch by tapping into code from the games. They tend to focus on older titles because the programming and graphics are simpler than modern ones...

...Anita Sarkeesian, who started a Web-video series in which she critiques the way women are portrayed in videogames, says the hacks play into a larger issue.

"It is sad that they have to do that in the first place," she says, adding that in the decades since many of these games were originally released, there have been few substantive female protagonists. "That's a long stretch of time not to expand the industry and representation of women in a substantial way."

You can read the full article here.

MPR News is Reader Funded

Before you keep reading, take a moment to donate to MPR News. Your financial support ensures that factual and trusted news and context remain accessible to all.