Devoted Dad Hacks Donkey Kong for his Daughter, Makes the Hero a Girl

Look closely: In this version of Donkey Kong, Pauline saves Mario (Photo: Mike Mika via YouTube)What happens when your daughter wants to play her favorite video game, but the only option for the hero character is male? If you're a video game developer, you go under the hood and hack the game, swapping the "damsel in distress" and "knight in shining armor" roles to give your girl a protagonist that she can relate to.

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"I didn’t set out to push a feminist agenda, or try to make a statement," Mike Mika, the chief creative officer at Other Ocean Interactive, wrote at Wired. "I just wanted to keep that little grin lit up on my daughter’s face every time we sit down to play games together."

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"As a gamer dad, there’s nothing better than when your child asks you to play a videogame," he wrote. He's played with his son plenty of times, so when his 3-year-old daughter took an interest in old-school Donkey Kong, he encouraged her to play, too.

"Maybe it was because it was the first game we really played together, or the fact that she watched the King of Kong documentary with me one afternoon from start to finish," Mika wrote. "Maybe it’s because Mario looks just like her Grandpa. Whatever the case, we’ve been playing Donkey Kong together for a while. She’s not very good at it, but insists on playing it over and over again until she finally hands me the joystick in total frustration."

Last week, his daughter asked him if she could "play as the girl" and save Mario in Donkey Kong. "She's played as Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Bros. 2 and naturally just assumed she could do the same in Donkey Kong," Mika explained on YouTube, where he posted a click of his new version of the game. "I told her we couldn't in that particular Mario game, she seemed really bummed out by that."

What's a gamer dad to do? Why, hack the game, of course.

"Kids ask parents all the time for things that just aren’t possible," he wrote at Wired, where he went into detail about how he did it. "But this time, this was different. I’m a game developer by day. I could do this."

The result: A video game that we wish we had played when we were kids -- and fodder for discussions about feminism and the role of women in video games.

"Having kids is incredible. And having a daughter is something special. I get the opportunity to see the world through her eyes," Mika wrote at Wired. "And if this experience has taught me anything, it’s that the world could be just a bit more accommodating. And that if something as innocuous as having Mario be saved by Pauline brings out the crazy, maybe we aren’t as mature in our view of gender roles as we should be."

Also on Shine:

The Flip Side: What Happens When Men and Women Switch Roles?
What Happens When a Tomboy Gives Birth to a Princess?
Photos: Jason Lee's Crazily Creative Kid Portraits