Posted on February 22 2016 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Tony Smith has a 6 month old daughter that he wants to get into video games as she grows up. He wants her to start by playing some of the classics he grew up with, including A Link to the Past. The problem he sees with older entertainment mediums is that they are extremely slanted towards Males. This is true both in TV/Movies and early video games. Some may still argue this is true today. Other fan hacks of Zelda games exist, but Tony didn’t necessarily want to gender swap the original avatar. Rather, he wanted the game to be played gender neutral.
Here is a bit of his story:
“My 6-month-old baby daughter isn’t old enough yet to handle a game controller without sticking it in her mouth, but I’ve already started planning her introduction to the big wide world of games. Unfortunately, many of the “classics” were hardcoded from a male perspective and feature male protagonists as the only playable characters. 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. I was particularly inspired by Mike Mika’s Donkey Kong hack that swaps the character sprites so that his daughter could play the game as Pauline saving Mario from the clutches of Donkey Kong.
There have been similar hacks to flip the gender roles within the Zelda series.Mike Hoye hacked all of the in-game text in The Wind Waker so that his daughter could play as a female Link. But perhaps most impressive of all,Kenna W, a talented animator and retro game enthusiast, took it upon herself to “right a wrong from childhood” by hacking both The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past (arguably the two best games in the entire Zelda series) so that she could play the games as Zelda saving Link. I highly recommend both of her patches, Zelda Starring Zelda and Zelda Starring Zelda 2.
A Link to the Past is one my favorite games of all time. In addition to Kenna W’s character-swapped version, I wanted to create a version of the game that kept the original characters intact but allowed for Link to be completely gender-neutral. Since Link’s graphical appearance in A Link to the Past is fairly androgynous to begin with, the only aspect of the game that needed to be “fixed” was all of the in-game dialogue referring to Link as a boy.
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.”
You can find out more over on his blog.
Personal note: I’m not sure Zelda is necessarily the sort of game or series that needs to be treated in such a way to appeal to all genders, but it’s interesting how many people continue to push the boundaries on these classic titles.