Dad performs video game gender reassignment for daughter’s benefit


Another awesome dad doing something awesome for his kid. Ars Technica covers a gamer father who’s been playing Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker with his daughter. Because she’s not yet old enough to read, he’s been narrating aloud, carefully changing Link’s gender by swapping pronouns and titles, in order to facilitate his daughter’s immersion in the game. But that was tedious and imperfect, so he grabbed the Gamecube rom image and hacked it.

To make this process smoother, Hoye eventually decided to hack away at the actual text of the story, producing a female-oriented version by altering the game’s data files. According to his blog post on the project, Hoye took a GameCube disk image (.GCM) of Wind Waker and dug into it with a hex editor. He changed all story text and dialogue by hand, then tested his work by playing the game file in the Dolphin GameCube emulator.

The modifications proved a bit tricky, since the new female-oriented wording had to be a byte-for-byte alteration of the original; even throwing in “she” in place of “he” would mess things up. So Hoye got creative, using words like “milady” in place of “my lad” and “master.”

“Sentences need to be changed or reworded just because ‘young lady’ is one character longer than ‘young man,’ line breaks need to be in about the right places, that sort of thing,” Hoye told Ars via e-mail.

The first comment on his blog post is “Dad of the fucking year.” I can’t outright disagree, though I do think he faces some significant competition. Still, there’s nothing like encouraging a little girl to be a superhero by giving her a video game avatar she can identify with, when the game designers aren’t doing it themselves. Cheers, sir.

Also, I love the nerdy discussion about how best to manipulate the language without messing up the flow of the text, picking appropriate same-length words or rewriting whole sentences so the line breaks fall in approximately the same places. Makes me want to do a rom hack myself.

Hat tip to Kruglord on Twitter for pointing me to this one.

Comments

  1. EllenBeth Wachs says

    Hah- the competition for Dad of the year I thought of was the one you linked to. Even though that dad didn’t face the technical difficulties the gamer dad faced, he faced social difficulties.

  2. Apparently Not Erin says

    This comment posted by “Some girl” really got to me:

    This is pretty stupid, really. At that age I didn’t care about what gender the protagonist was I just had fun playing the games, as is the case with most kids. Tetra is pretty cool in this game anyways.

    Instead of altering games, effectively censoring them you should realize that females don’t have to be the lead role to be strong role models (Tetra and OoT Zelda).

    Here’s the thing. Kids that age want to identify with what they’re watching, reading, and playing. I’ll admit that Liam says he’s the pink Backyardigan (one of two female characters…his father is the other), but for the most part he’s Anakin, Wolverine, Iron Man, Po, Peter Parker and Peso from the Octonauts (with only 2 female characters out of 7 crew members…at least one isn’t the medic). When I read the big brother book he got when his little brother was born, the little boy in the book is Liam and the baby is Callan and woe be to me if I accidentally use the character’s real name.

    What that commenter doesn’t take into account is that kids absorb everything. Disney tells us that women have to be rescued. TV, movies and games tell us that men are the heroes. Even when women do take prominent roles, they’re still sidekicks or they need a man to help them (not so much for toddlers but very much for older kids). Maybe you don’t mind that you’re playing a male because you’re having fun, but you’re learning that women can’t be the hero. Our kids are bombarded with this message and it reflects in their behaviour as adults.

    So, no, this wasn’t stupid. This was ingenious. When his daughter grows up she’ll probably have a lot of confidence (and maybe be an amazing gamer).

    BTW, males don’t have to be in the lead role to be strong role models.

  3. D-Dave says

    BTW, males don’t have to be in the lead role to be strong role models.

    Exactly!

    I <sarcasm>love</sarcasm> all the responses in the comments on that post that say ‘But what about this other game?’ Is there any clearer way to say, ‘We don’t care about what you want because we’ve got a few toys over here for you to play with. Go Away.’? I can’t ever read those without thinking ‘Pink Lego’ and the ‘If you can’t see what’s wrong with this…’ that goes with it.

  4. Apparently Not Erin says

    Yeah, that too. I’d realized I’d hit the wall of text point before I got to that. That “girl” need a dictionary.

  5. Ysanne says

    Kids that age want to identify with what they’re watching, reading, and playing.

    True, and good point. However, a character doesn’t necessarily have to have the same gender as the reader to enable identifying with him/her.
    I remember attempting to identify with the token female character at first in almost all books I read as a child (authors tended to write her potentially interesting usually and just failed to follow through, so it seemed worth a try) and ending up completely immersing myself in the story from the POV of the male lead by page 100.

    but you’re learning that women can’t be the hero.

    True. And while girls who do a gender-switch in their head can still get around this to some extent, boys don’t even notice what they’re learning.

  6. Sassafras says

    It’s caving my brain in, the way some of the commenters are pointing out “strong female characters” like Lara Croft and FemShep as evidence that there are already woman-centered games so the dad shouldn’t be doing this. ‘Cause his three year old should totally be playing Mass Effect instead of Wind Waker.

    Even Tetra and Zelda just aren’t good enough. Sure, Tetra’s a tough girl who kicks ass and does things on her own terms … but she’s also in the game for like five minutes of cut scenes and then she’s gone. And Zelda spends most of the game hiding to avoid capture, and then fights in one battle. That’s “equal representation” and if little girls want as much as boys get, then they’re spoiled, according to the offended gamers.

    Ugh, that onslaught of stupid makes me so glad the little girl has such a great dad to support her and make her feel valued.

  7. says

    Sassafrass: yes, and another thing that bothers me to no end is, you can name the exact number of strong female characters in video games, counting only the non-alterable characters (e.g. no RPGs where you get to choose your avatar). Note that this excludes Commander Shepard. And even if you include Shepard, she suffers from Ripley Syndrome — where the only reason she’s a strong female character is that she was written as a guy and given a sex swap at the player’s discretion.

    Why can we rattle off “Jade, Samus, Lara Croft, Aya Brea, Shepard”, etc, and not do anything remotely close to the same with male characters? Because 99% of all strong video game characters are males to begin with. Why is that? Why can’t there be more female characters in video games who aren’t either secondary, hypersexualized (wearing a battle bikini while the men get full platemail), or otherwise weak or token characters?

  8. julian says

    Are people seriously pointing to RPGs like Mass Effect as “evidence” for strong women role models in gaming?

    Those are rpgs wher the lead character has no set sex, gender or orientation. And FemShep isn’t even a strong lead. She’s taken a back set to MaleShep in every piece of promotional art, box cover and trailers. We only ever got a FemShep version because we lit up BioWare’s inboxes and forums until they caved.

    P.S. Not to be hard on BioWare. They’re one of the few game developers who genuinely try to do gender and sexual orientation right.

  9. opposablethumbs says

    This father is definitely one hell of a great parent. It does matter, it matters a hell of a lot, when children are constantly exposed, day in day out, to a steady drip of messages, from the overt to the subliminal, all of which reinforce each other – female characters are (mainly) passive, need rescuing, are the subject of the player’s gaze; male characters are (mainly) active, do the rescuing, represent the player’s gaze.
    This father really cares about his daughter.

    Not having these skills (and not having any computer games at all at the time anyway), we used to print out our own version of the text and glue it into the kids’ picture books when they were really tiny. (we were translating them anyway, so two birds with one stone). Good times.

  10. Dunc says

    With a hex editor? Hardcore. I program for a living, and I can’t remember the last time I had to fire up a hex editor…

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