Let’s just all get it out of our systems: 1, 2, 3…
Seriously, the moment I heard about this story, I absolutely had to write on this. I’m the daughter of an occasional gamer, my dad. Whenever he had a free moment, he never hesitated to join me in video games when I was younger. In fact, it was he who bought me my very first system, the Sega Genesis, while my younger sister was asking for Barbies and all of the accessories. He never once discouraged me from playing, and my life as a gamer has always been a constant source of amusement and, often, confusion. Never mind the fact that we used to laugh absurdly while playing Soul Calibur 2 at Ivy’s highly unrealistic boobage. And I mean, we laughed like hyaenas.
In no way did my father ever discourage me from playing video games, he always made sure I was updated on the latest consoles, and yes, he played the role of Dad and took it away from me when my grades weren’t up to par or I’d messed up.
So, to see another father encourage his daughter’s love of video games, to the point of hacking an authentic copy of Donkey Kong so that his daughter could play as Pauline, ultimately making everyone’s favorite plumber the so-called “damsel in distress”…well, I’m not going to lie. I cried a bit. I was really happy to see this dad go above and beyond for his little girl gamer.
Mike Mika, pictured below, whose name you very well may find familiar, given that he is the chief creative officer at Other Ocean Interactive as well as a veteran game designer for systems from Atari 2600 all the way to the Xbox 360.
He is also a father of two: a young son and a three-year-old daughter. He even muses over how his son likes video games, but loves playing with trains more, and that his little girl is in fact the gamer in the family along with him.
Her favorite game, is of course, Donkey Kong. Now, for those of you living under a rock, Donkey Kong (and I’m talking about the old school game, folks!) is a game featuring a giant ape who has kidnapped a plumber’s girlfriend by the name of Pauline. (Thanks to those at Cracked.com, it’s revealed that perhaps Mario is in fact the bad guy: http://www.cracked.com/article_19321_5-classic-games-you-didnt-know-had-wtf-backstories.html)
And of course, Pauline fills the traditional “Damsel-In-Distress” trope that was later given to Mario’s new honey, Princess Peach. (Love triangle, anyone?) Here is a screenshot from the original layout of the game:
This didn’t sit too well with Mike’s daughter, who didn’t want to play as Mario, but wanted to play as Pauline, and asked a very innocent question:
“How can I play as the girl? I want to save Mario!”
But, gasp! Something just like that isn’t possible! In no way can Pauline ever be the hero, while Mario is the one needing to be rescued! It just can’t happen! And thus, a little girl’s dreams of being the heroine are dashed…
…Or, at least, they would have been, and of course, it is possible, if you’re the lucky little girl of Mike Mika, who, to reiterate, is a game designer. Many parents often can’t give their kids what they want, because some requests are just flat out impossible. (I know…I wanted a white tiger when I was five.)
But this was (pardon the pun) all fun and games for Mike, along with his “partner in crime,” Kevin Wilson, who took on the challenge of rewriting a good chunk of Donkey Kong’s data all the way down to the very core of the game.
The final touch? Making Pauline the main character.
Of course, when he revealed the finished product to his little girl, she had no idea the work and effort her daddy-o had put forth. For all she knew, her dad had just gotten Pauline to “work” in the game as a playable character. Now, imagine being that little three-year-old girl, once upon a time, in a male-dominated gaming world, and this time, you’re saving the guy, and not the other way around for once?
I give this father a standing ovation of the highest degree, because he has set the stage for his little girl in more ways than one, with basically this message: “Girls don’t always have to be the damsel in distress: they can also be the HERO.”
And for those thinking he was trying to “push the feminist agenda,” he has this heartwarming message to say:
“I didn’t set out to push a feminist agenda, or try to make a statement. I just wanted to keep that little grin lit up on my daughter’s face every time we sit down to play games together.”
Bottom line. Parenting, Mike: You’re doing it right.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and call my dad and tell him how much I love him. (It’s coincidentally his birthday too!)
To see the Donkey Kong: Pauline Edition, click here and check it out!