November 7, 2012

Flip All The Pronouns

Filed under: a/b,digital,hate,interfaces,parenting,toys,vendetta — mhoye @ 8:56 pm

On A Certain Island

Maya and I have been playing through Windwaker together; she likes sailing, scary birds and remembering to be brave, rescuing her little brother and finding out what’s happening to Medli and her dragon boat.

She’s the hero of the story, of course.

It’s annoying and awkward, to put it mildly, having to do gender-translation on the fly when Maya asks me to read what it says on the screen. 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.

This isn’t particularly user-friendly; you’ll need to download the Dolphin emulator and find a Windwaker .GCM, the Gamecube disk image with this SHA-1 hash:

Original: 6b5f06c10d50ebb4099cded88217eb71e5bfbb4a

and then you’ll need to figure out how to use xdelta3 to apply a binary patch to that image.

This patch.

When you’re done the resulting disk image will have the following SHA-1 hash:

Result: 6a480ffd8ecb6c254f65c0eb8e0538f7b30cfaa7

… and all the dialog will now refer to Link as a young woman, rather than as a young man.

I think I’ve gotten this right – this was all done directly on the original disk image with a hex editor, so all the changes needed to be the same byte-for-byte length, in-place. I haven’t had time to play through the whole game to test it yet, and some of the constructions aren’t perfect. I’ve borrowed Donaldson’s “Swordmain” coinage to replace “Swordsman”, for example, and there’s lots of “milady” replacing “my lad” and “master”, because I couldn’t find a better way to rewrite them in exactly the amount of space allotted. If you come up with something better, I’m all ears.

I’m going to audit it shortly, and may update this post to reflect that. For now, though, here you go.

FemLink or you’re doing it wrong.


  1. What the fuck is wrong with you?
    Who cares what fucking gender you play as? Instead of teaching your kid that girls are better than boys, maybe you should teach her that we’re all equal, even though that’s a blatant fucking lie as women are proven to act on emotions rather than logic, thus making them inferior in critical situations.

    Comment by Moose — November 15, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

  2. that was fucking awsome dude i so want to know how to fuckin do that
    and u r the mother fucking best dad ever

    Comment by sup — November 15, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

  3. also moose sucks balls and screws tellephone polls

    Comment by sup — November 15, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

  4. Look at all these fucking crybabies! It’s not like Link’s gender is an important part of his character; hell, he doesn’t really even have any “character,” he’s a silent protagonist for crying out loud! I’d love to hear a logical explanation for how this “ruins” the game, as so many people claim.

    You done good, mhoye.

    Comment by jerry coeurl — November 15, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

  5. How does changing Link to a girl teach that girls are better than boys?

    Comment by LOL @ Moose — November 15, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

  6. Awesome work!

    thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Francisco — November 15, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

  7. I can see future arguments your daughter has with peers. “No, Link is a GIRL, and Santa is REAL (and a GIRL TOO).” lol cracks me up to think of it. Love what you are doing!

    Comment by Laurie — November 15, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

  8. This is an awesome hack for a good purpose. You’re not ruining anything. Good work.

    Comment by Graver — November 15, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

  9. Fascinating. Although I personally shy away from Dolphin because it is too closely related to piracy…I would be interested in porting this patch to Gecko OS Mod so that you can run it on a normal Wii.

    Comment by DCX2 — November 15, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

  10. Glad too see I am not the only one out there. I have done similiar hacks to desktop games in the past for a couple of girls I used to babysit. I changed the character’s gender from male to female and changed names in game to reflectt thier names and people they know.

    Comment by Chris — November 16, 2012 @ 7:20 am

  11. I read your story, You are a good dad and man, and yes girls and women do get a raw deal in most games.

    If you and your little girl like sailing and learning, I suggest Uncharted Waters Online as a family game which everyone can learn geography and history. It basically takes place around the Age of Discovery period in history

    Comment by Kevin — November 16, 2012 @ 8:21 am

  12. Wow.

    All these people getting riled up, this is about PLAYING PRETEND. And it IS about reading. And Wind Waker is awesomely appropriate to play thru with a 3 year old. Metroid, Tomb Raider, Perfect Dark: are not.

    His daughter isn’t going to be confused when she gets older, because she was PLAYING PRETEND.

    Go make something. Sheesh.

    Comment by Joel — November 16, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

  13. Three cheers! When your daughter is my age, she will probably still be bragging about this…especially since you are probably cool enough to show her how to do it herself later, so she’ll probably have friends who will understand just how very cool it is!

    Comment by Bryndis Tobin — November 16, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

  14. Can you elaborate on how you made the test substitutions? I’m interested in making a few changes myself but a simple text search does not yield any results. Are the strings encoded or did you do something else.

    I really hope to recieve a reply from you.

    Also, great job pulling this off!

    Comment by sigi — November 17, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

  15. I think this is a very thoughtful and wonderful thing you’ve done for your daughter. Yeah, there are games out there with male protagonists that a little girl can play just fine, I mean I grew up on Crash Bandicoot. But my most complete levels were always the ones where you played as Coco, because I got to play as a girl, I got to play a character I could really identify with. Thank you for giving that opportunity to your daughter, and for not just deciding she’ll “accept it” when it comes to playing male lead roles. Also I don’t think there’s going to be some grand “breach of trust” when she eventually discovers that Link is traditionally male–she’s more likely to just be pleased and greatful at this display of how much you cared about her being able to develop a strong, confident identity and not be forced to grow up seeing females relegated to the role of the damsel or the support. I think she’s very lucky to have you as her father.

    Comment by Shems — November 17, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

  16. Now replace links models with Tetra’s, rewrite part of the story, ect, ect and I will re-play the game just for this.

    Comment by David — November 19, 2012 @ 1:34 am

  17. I believe that the fictional characters we identify with help us form our personal belief systems and that every child should have the opportunity to see herself/himself as a heroine/hero.

    Young girls should see themselves represented as more than just the damsel in distress, so I think you’ve done more than you know for your daughter.

    Comment by Henrietta Krusen — November 19, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

  18. Can “My brave” work for “My lad”?

    Comment by Delphine — November 20, 2012 @ 3:12 am

  19. For all of you who’d like to try this out but are slightly (and rightly) scared of all this hash business, I wrote a script to reduce the patching process to a drag’n’drop:

    (Mike Hoye, I hope you don’t mind – if you do, let me know!)

    Cheers! \o/

    Comment by Daniel — November 20, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  20. SO PROUD OF YOU, amazing work!

    To the sadly-numerous folks who think this is somehow “ruining” the game… what in the world is wrong with you? As has been pointed out by several people, Link is supposed to be an empty avatar for the player to fill; it was Miyamoto’s oversight not to make gender-selection an option from the get-go.

    Because little girls don’t just want to play games WITH strong, capable female characters — they want to play AS strong female characters. Zelda, Tetra, etc. are all pretty cool; but they’re not playable.

    And no, Metroid is not enough. (“Other M” is disgustingly not enough.) Tomb Raider is not enough. Even if there were a hundred games out there with strong, capable female protagonists, it would be a drop in the bucket compared to the number of games out there with strong, capable male protagonists. Less than 1%. And you know what? I would be willing to bet there aren’t actually a hundred games out there with strong, capable female protagonists.

    (“Strong, capable” is a necessary part of the equation, so games like Clocktower and Fatal Frame — where the main character is female explicitly to increase the player’s sense of helplessness and fear — do not count. And games like Dragon Age: Origin, where you get to pick your character’s gender, also don’t count — not because they aren’t awesome, but because they literally cancel themselves out; for the one female protagonist they add to the bucket, they also add a male protagonist.)

    The gender inequality here is HUGE. Just the fact that people who are commenting have to resort to figures like Princess Peach should be proof enough to all of you that, yes, there is a problem. (No, I don’t object because she’s a princess; I object because she’s only a playable character in TWO games that aren’t a friggin Super Smash Bros game. Two games out of the countless Mario titles, and I have to include the infamous black sheep of “Super Mario Bros 2” in order to get to two!) (Lara Croft. Really? Look, on the surface, sure. She has the potential to be a positive role model for a young girl. But she was not designed for young girls, or for girls at all; she was designed to appeal to teenaged boys, and there’s already enough creepy sexualization of women out there without deliberately exposing a three-year-old to more of it and explicitly inviting her to see herself that way.)

    (And no, Final Fantasy games with strong female CHARACTERS do not, of course, count. Because, again, we are looking for protagonists. Playable characters. MAIN characters. Lightning is the only actual contender of the group, and it wasn’t a big group to start with.)

    So, no. There aren’t “already” “plenty” of games to choose from. Those of you who think you could spend “all day” listing games that meet the criteria, go ahead; even if you literally could — which you can’t! — it wouldn’t be enough. Not when I could spend years listing strong, capable male main protagonist playable characters.

    And of COURSE a girl as young as three or four is old enough for her parents to worry about gender inequalities. The moment that little girl is aware of her gender is the moment to start worrying. (And we push that moment earlier and earlier, with all of our color-coded clothing and language.)

    Comment by Li — November 20, 2012 @ 10:58 am

  21. AWESOME!!

    Comment by amy — November 20, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  22. I envy your daughter, would have loved this, agree with Iggy, If I can opt for camera angle etc and name, why not gender? LOVE IT!

    Comment by Danni — November 20, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

  23. I’m a former military surgeon, and a woman. I’ve spent the better part of my life surrounded by men. You rock! Yes, girls can “get used” to seeing game heroes, etc, as guys, but that isn’t the same as seeing a female playing the lead. While not a big gamer myself, my daughters are, and I totally get where you’re coming from. It’s about the subtle gender assumptions that come from practically everything in the entertainment/gaming industry (or most industries for that matter) being male driven.

    Best dad ever. (well, besides my dad.)

    Comment by Lori — November 20, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

  24. You are wonderful. Thank you for sharing the story with us.

    Comment by tangomum — November 21, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

  25. Suggestion: lose the hex editor.
    If not, at the very least extract the files with the text, and figure out the format it’s stored in.

    Comment by Fishaman P — November 21, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

  26. To all the brainwashed feminist around us calling people haters only because we do not agree with this I’d like to say a few things.

    First a story is a story, you don’t like it, don’t take it then, there’s no point in changing a story that is not yours

    Second, it’s not because we do not agree that we forcefully are sexist, heard of freedom of speech or freedom of idea ?? That is why i hate idealist, causes supporter you are usually more intolerant than the people you accuse of being wrong.

    Okay all this is nice, indeed, to his little girl, very sweet, but i don’t think modifying a story will do anything to her, instead, talking with her, teaching her that women can be heroic too would be better, plus there’s plenty of other game with heroin, if you begin to replace every guy in the games by girl, what will she think, man are pussies that need women protection ? And what’s that gonna solve ?? Nothing.

    Comment by Danisk — November 23, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

  27. Plus, if the game makers give us more game with male leader it’s also because gamer are mostly male. I’m saying this for those who find it strange that there isn’t more women lead char. Nothing strange with companies trying to stick with the image their customer would rather see ingame, and if boys are 90% of the customers then there’s no point in spending more money to satisfy a small part of the customers

    And anyway nowadays there’s lot of game that give the choice of gender etc.. So pick those one if you really care about it

    Comment by Danisk — November 23, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

  28. @Danisk

    You make it sound like all that he did was update the code with a hex editor — you don’t think that he’s also playing it with her? Really, she may be an exceptional three-year-old, but honestly, “they” are the player in this case, if my experiences with my kids are any indication of how this goes. I expect that during this time that they play together he’s talking with her, explaining that women can be heroic too. So, it his effort does help, and no, I have a feeling that this type of parenting doesn’t result in his daughter growing up thinking that she’ll have to save every man who she meet.

    But do you know what make it easier? Having a female lead character to reinforce that idea.

    Amazing, isn’t it?

    Ultimately, if you are disappointed that someone messed with your childhood memory, forget you saw this and move on. For those of you who want to play it, have at it. For the rest of us, I say, kudos for doing something different, and worthy of this level of conversation. People like you are the ones who move us towards the future — not because you can hack a game’s code to change the pronouns, but because tinkerers are the ones who ultimately make the “old”, “new” again.


    Comment by Ben — November 23, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

  29. Just to be clear, “there’s plenty of other game with heroin” is currently the winning phrase in this comment thread.

    Comment by mhoye — November 23, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

  30. Yeah well if that’s all you have to answer I’ll just say sorry for the wrong translation mister daddy of the year, yet i still think the idea behind this is wrong, will you go repaint every painting that aren’t appropriate for her maybe ?? Are you gonna modify any content that you judge inappropriate for her, coz let’s be clear, she’s 3yo that’s the kind of concern a 3yo kid is able to have, i was already playing plenty of game at her age, and the gender of the character was from far the least of my worries.

    All i say is that when you see a movie you watch it for whatever it as to offer, same with book, and any form of art. Same goes with games. What you did, is nothing comparable to usual mods where they add or change the whole content, you just changed the story, which is i think wrong and doesn’t respect the whole piece of work the game is. Plus, like i said, i hardly think she ask precisely asked you to edit the game etc.. Which let me think that you found it inappropriate and took it on yourself to edit so she could play something you see fit on the feminist theme of the question. I’m not trying to question your parenting of course but i just think than instead of showing content you see as being appropriate and thus pushing her to think the way you’d want, maybe you should let her build her own opinion on the question. Again it’s just my 2cts opinion course.

    Comment by Danisk — November 24, 2012 @ 6:52 am

  31. Oops “that’s not the kind of concerns a 3yo kid…” is what i meant.

    Comment by Danisk — November 24, 2012 @ 6:54 am

  32. I think what you did for your daughter was a sweet and thoughtful thing Mike and I respect you for doing that, I really really do, but when she gets older, you might have to tell her the truth about Link eventually when she gets older and has matured to an age of understanding. It’s a good thing that you’re teaching your daughter that girls and boys can do the same things equally as good because your daughter deserves to know that gender doesn’t matter and that she can do anything if she puts her mind and heart to it.

    Comment by Vaati — November 24, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

  33. I can’t believe some of the thick skulled neanderthals in this thread. Pitiful. Brainwashed feminists? I’d laugh if it weren’t so sad.

    I love that you updated the game for your daughter – maybe one day, more games will have the option to choose the gender of the hero.

    Until then, we’ll have to deal with these outdated pearl clutchers. “Oh noes, feminism!”


    Comment by Allison — November 24, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

  34. On behalf of my daughter and girls everwhere, thanks for this.

    Comment by Isaac — November 24, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

  35. Hi, Neat post. There’s an issue along with your website in internet explorer, may check this? IE still is the marketplace leader and a good section of other people will pass over your great writing due to this problem.

    Comment by consolas — November 25, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

  36. That’s fabulous! I had actually originally thought that the hero of the Zelda games was female and was very disappointed when I found the hero was “Link” and Zelda was the helpless princess/prize.

    There are too few games (board and arcade) that have a gender balanced perspective or even representation. Is it that there are so few women who design games? Something needs to be done so we’re not forced to use a hexeditor to fix every video game out there.

    Comment by Ben in Seattle — November 26, 2012 @ 1:14 am

  37. I am a father of a young daughter, and it has always bothered me that most female video game characters are helpless, or worse, just eye candy. I salute you for your dedication and willingness to personally address this issue. Your daughter is one fortunate little girl.

    Comment by Nathan — November 27, 2012 @ 10:06 pm

  38. Well done.

    Comment by Hagen — November 28, 2012 @ 10:34 am

  39. I am 31 and have played video games for most of my life, now I am an indie game designer/artist. I still cringe when forced to play male, or inappropriately dressed, characters in games.

    I have a seven year old daughter now, and the game I chose to start her with was Minecraft, partly because I love the game… but also because I was worried about the issue.

    Your solution is a far better one I think, and one will consider for any game that I can mod. Thank you for giving your daughter this gift :)

    Comment by Heather — November 28, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  40. Neato! You might enjoy — try it out.

    Comment by Ping — November 28, 2012 @ 11:36 pm

  41. You’re so cool :)

    Comment by Sven — November 30, 2012 @ 3:11 am

  42. This points out an in important point – accessability in games. I have been a Game Designer for some time and I often heared from female players why they didn’t like this title or that title – and the reasons were always “Lack of female characters and female interactions”
    Now I teach game design at the MHMK, Munich, and some of my students focus on gender interaction as well, because what you point out here is an essential lesson for game designers: Create game with character options. Women play! But most women don’t like to play the heavy muscled male, sometimes not even the androgyn male like Link etc.

    I have to point out for legal reasons: in several countries (Germany among them) what you had done would result in being sued as a violation of copyright issues, because you altered someone elses property, but still your point is taken: Game designers must learn to add options. After all this is what interactivity means, right?
    I for once will consider this in my lessons more thoroughly.

    Thank you very much for pointing out what needs to be considered,


    Comment by Michael T. Bhatty — November 30, 2012 @ 3:37 am

  43. That’s very cool! I wish it would be legal to read out the cardridge in Germany. Unfortunatly it’s forbidden… but forbidden doesen’t mean it’s not possible :-)
    I will look what I can do ;-)
    But respect, very very AWESOME!!

    Comment by Matze (Germany) — November 30, 2012 @ 6:50 am

  44. The German News Site brought me to your page! Congratulations for the nice idea and best of fun for playing zelda with your daughter!

    Comment by Philip — November 30, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  45. When I was a girl, my dad used to read to me “Where the Wild Things Are” by Sendak – and he secretly switched the main character from boy to girl. I completely identified with her and discovered only in my late teens that it was in fact a boy! The discovery wasn’t a catastrophe and for me, personally, the main char is and will ever be a girl. Thank you for your adaptation of this to the 21st century, I’m happy that there exist other parents who think and act likewise. Such behaviour can move mountains.

    Comment by WuChuyun — December 2, 2012 @ 7:32 am

  46. Awesome!!! ♥ One of my clearest memories of childhood is my dad hacking the Elite code in order to make sure I had an autopilot right from the start of the game – I kept getting lost in the three dimensions of space and just could not (EVER!) get my ship safely into the space station. And when I was a toddler, he and my mum also wrote an alphabet learning program for me that I still adore, vector graphics and all.

    So, y’know, speaking from experience I’m pretty sure that your daughter will remember this for years to come and appreciate all the effort you’ve gone to for her. :D

    Comment by Nic — January 12, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

  47. How far do we go with this? What if the main character was a horse? Would you have made it a female character then? Your daughter isn’t a horse, so I assume you would. You wouldn’t want your daughter to grow up thinking she’s a horse, because we all know that kids get their values from video games and not from their parents (sarcasm). What if all the characters were horses, would you change some of them to be cows so that the world doesn’t go around thinking that only horses are special? What about chickens and frogs and lizards, what do you do about them? This is silly. Not the fact that you care for your daughter and want her to be raised right, but if you feel an overwhelming need to rip out characters from a video game to make yourself feel good, you might want to consider doing some actual parenting and stop with the games altogether. Video games are fun. Kids play games and don’t worry about these types of things, only adults with issues worry about these types of things.

    Comment by None-ya-business — January 29, 2013 @ 9:59 pm

  48. How far do we go with this? What if the main character was a horse?

    If you can’t figure out where to draw sane lines in your life between people and horses, son, you’ve got bigger problems than I can help you with.

    Comment by mhoye — January 29, 2013 @ 10:39 pm

  49. Changing game characters as you seem to like to do seems very illogical. Personally I see no need to ever do that. Are you going to go around adding high heels and lipstick to all of your daughters game characters to make yourself feel better? The game was made to be one way, don’t over think things. The games intention wasn’t to offend nut-jobs. It’s just a game.

    Comment by None-ya-business — January 31, 2013 @ 1:47 am

  50. Are you going to go around adding high heels and lipstick to all of your daughters game characters to make yourself feel better?

    You know that you’re part of the problem here, right? And the fact that you don’t even seem to realize that a problem might exist is also part of the problem?

    Comment by mhoye — January 31, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

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