A couple of weeks ago, the Huffington Post released a pretty phenomenal article about gender representation in the virtual world.
Mike Hoye, a self-employed programmer, was tired of the enormous gender gap between strong male and female characters in video games. He and his three-and-a-half year old daughter Maya regularly played Zelda: Windwaker together.
Link, the main character, is male, and although players can change Link’s name at the game’s outset, the masculine pronouns remain. Whenever Maya asked Mike to read the dialogue on the screen, he would translate the gendered terms from male to female. Why? Because he didn’t want Maya to grow up “thinking girls don’t get to be the hero.”
Tired of doing “gender translation on the fly,” Mike hacked into the game and changed all of the gendered language: “he” to “she,” “my lad” to “milady,” and “boy” to “girl.” After completing the project, he published the programming on the web so it could be imitated anywhere.
Obviously, Mike Hoye has some pretty sweet parenting skills! He said to Huffington Post, “That women get treated terribly by every part of the gaming industry – as protagonists, in games’ storylines, in gamer culture in general – is beyond debate, and completely inexcusable.”
I couldn’t agree more, Mike. And it’s true; we’re so accustomed to female characters being sex objects and punching bags that we forget they can also serve as role models to young female gamers if portrayed positively.
Maya will grow up watching the female Link tackle bad guys, go on adventures, and solve mysteries – activities that, in the gamer world, are usually reserved for men.
Unsurprisingly, some gamers have criticized Hoye for “reinventing” the game, but Hoye doesn’t seem too concerned about it.
In an interview with The Daily Dot, Hoye said, “[Changing the gender] is only a touchy subject with people who think the status quo is OK. And since those people are clearly, obviously wrong, I’m not all that worried about whether or not they’re comfortable with it.”
Score! Other gamers have argued that changing the pronouns of the game “may endorse the idea that people can’t relate to characters across gender lines.” Hoye responds to this criticism by arguing that his daughter ought to be the hero of the story for a change.
Hoye’s actions have received a bunch of attention on the web, and it’s likely that the Internet frenzy will raise awareness about the currently screwed-up state of gender in video games. This is a huge first step to making the gamer world more accessible to young girls – and, in the years to come, we should expect to see a lot more where that came from!
Hailey Magee is a Women’s and Gender Studies and Politics double major at Brandeis University. Her foremost interests include media literacy and empowerment of young girls. Hailey hopes to one day pursue a career in the political arena and become an advocate for gender equality.