Revising video games to empower girls

imgres-2The world of video games has a long history of damsels in distress. It’s the go-to framework for endless heroic adventures where fabulous male heroes journey to save [insert female captured by villain here].

One of the earliest of these is the classic tale of a plucky, mustachioed plumber on a vertical, girder-climbing quest to save his lady Pauline from the barrel-throwing primate Donkey Kong, reports NPR today. ” It was the game that would set the stage for a long series of Mario adventures where his princess would continue to be captured and wind up “in another castle.”

“After being introduced to the game, Mike Mika’s 3-year-old daughter, Ellis, asked why she couldn’t “play as the girl” and rescue Mario instead. (She’d recently played Super Mario Bros. 2, where you could play as Princess Toadstool). She was disappointed to find that she couldn’t.

“So I had to tell her, ‘This game doesn’t let you do that,'” Mika told All Things Considered. “She was actually bummed out by it.”

“As a dad, Mika says, he gets the sort of impossible requests often asked by children (like going to the moon to eat cheese, for example). But this time, he realized he had the power to make it happen.

“A light went off,” he says. “It’s like, ‘This I can do. I know I can do this. I have the tools, I have the power.’ This is the one thing probably I’ll ever be able to do that’s outrageous. So Mika, a game designer by trade and chief creative officer at Other Ocean Interactive, set out to flip the script on the game and make it happen. He spent a furious night of hacking through the game’s code and swapping out all of the Mario graphical sprites and color palettes for new ones of Pauline.”


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