Image via Wikimedia Commons.
When it got out that Mike Hoye altered the code in the Legend of Zelda game The Wind Waker to change protagonist Link’s masculine pronouns to feminine ones, he didn’t receive as many death threats as he thought he would.
“But not none,” he adds. His family and his three-year-old daughter specifically have been threatened as a result of his decision to do something to make his daughter feel less alienated by a game.
Women are still generally regarded as “the other” in the video game community. Sites like Fat, Ugly, or Slutty and Not In The Kitchen Anymore chronicle the misogynistic abuse women have to deal with when they engage in their hobby online. Games are usually marketed to men with male protagonists, and women are NPCs – non-player characters – or exist only for eye candy.
“Since I have a daughter growing up who seems to like Dad’s hobbies, I thought there was a small thing that I could do about that,” Hoye says. When his daughter played the game, she started identifying with Link as being herself – she was the one who was saving people and fighting monsters.
He started out reading the dialogue and changing the pronouns as he went, but wanted to make it easier on himself and for his daughter, since she was reaching reading age. He decided to go in and change the code itself.
“I’ve been working with computers for a long time and you don’t usually stay in this career for very long unless you can get obsessive about stuff like this,” he says.
Eventually he succeeded and put the code up on his personal blog. After that, it took off. The story was reposted in various places, picked up by Reddit, and then started appearing on sites like Kotaku and Hack a Day. The response to the story has been polarizing: Hoye says he gets people calling him dad of the year, but there are also the people who threaten his family.
“The pushback I’ve gotten about this has been remarkable,” he says. It’s not the first time that there’s been an extreme negative reaction to people who want to change video games – particularly changes regarding women’s involvement or depiction. When Anita Sarkeesian started a Kickstarter page for a planned video series about women in video games, she received death threats, there was an organized attempt to get her Kickstarter page taken down, her Wikipedia page was vandalized, and one person created a game where the point was to punch her face until the screen went red. When BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler said that she didn’t play video games and that games should have an option to skip combat, she was also at the centre of a vitriolic backlash. She was called a cunt, a whore, and a bitch – insults that are exclusively reserved for women.
But Hoye is fighting back against this hostility to women in the video game community.
“I did not expect this to take off the way it did. Since it has, I have been trying to use this as a platform to make more people aware of the situation and I guess ultimately to show this is something that maybe we can change and that we need to change.” M