Maybe Link doesn’t need to be a young boy. The father of one little girl decided he’d change the gender of one of Nintendo’s most iconic characters so he hacked The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. While playing the 2003 Gamecube title with his daughter Maya, Mike Hoye had been reading the game’s text to her, switching the pronouns to match her gender.
Tiring of that, Hoye went one better and actually wrote scripts that switched all gendered pronouns in the game from male to female. In the blog post where he explains how he did it, Hoye explains that access to the infamous Dolphin emulator and some programming knowledge are required to pull off the feat. He poignantly lays out his motivation here:
You can pick your character’s name, of course — I always stick with Link, being a traditionalist — but all of the dialog insists that Link is a boy, and there’s apparently nothing to be done about it.
Well, there wasn’t anything to be done about it, certainly not anything easy, but as you might imagine I’m not having my daughter growing up thinking girls don’t get to be the hero and rescue their little brothers.
Like The Legend of Zelda, some of gaming’s most storied franchises have been locked in with certain lead characters since their inception. As a result, it might be harder to imagine that the you that stares back from the mirror is the hero of, say, a Castlevania game. Nowadays, it’s easy to take for granted that lots of games will let you play as any kind of character you want. But stories like Hoye’s make clear just how important a seemingly bland feature like customisation can be to players from all walks of life.