News Article

Dad Hacks Donkey Kong So His Daughter Can Play As Pauline

Posted by Damien McFerran

Role reversal

Remember the story of Mike Hoye and his daughter Maya? He didn't want her to have to play The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker from a male perspective, so he hacked the game to make Link a "she".

YouTube user Mike Mika has performed a similar trick, this time making the hero of Donkey Kong a woman. Mario and Pauline have had their roles reversed — now, the world-famous plumber is the victim, and Pauline is doing the rescuing.

As Mike explains:

My three year old daughter and I play a lot of old games together. Her favorite is Donkey Kong. Two days ago, she asked me if she could play as the girl and save Mario. She's played as Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Bros. 2 and naturally just assumed she could do the same in Donkey Kong. I told her we couldn't in that particular Mario game, she seemed really bummed out by that. So what else am I supposed to do? Now I'm up at midnight hacking the ROM, replacing Mario with Pauline. I'm using the 2010 NES Donkey Kong ROM. I've redrawn Mario's frames and I swapped the palettes in the ROM. I replaced the M at the top with a P for Pauline.

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User Comments (81)



Mickey said:

MUCH better than lying to your daughter and saying Link is a she...



naut said:

To be honest, I thought for a second this was the same guy who did the Wind Waker thing. They even have the same first name.



NintyMan said:

Someone needs to hack the classic Super Mario Bros. and turn it into Super Princess Peach in 8-bit so that way Peach can rescue Mario. I can just see her sprite running and jumping on koopas before dumping her old kidnapper Bowser into the lava to rescue her man.

"Thank you Peach! But our plumber is in another castle!"



naut said:

@Damo Nah, it's not the same dude. And yeah, no problem! (^_^) Thank you guys for the credit.



Gridatttack said:

Pretty easy to pull off
Just copy pauline graphics and palette to mario.
Graphics hacks like these aplenty in the rom hacking scene (for old games)



steamhare said:

Looks good. Also teaches the important message to not climb ladders in a dress.



Jaz007 said:

Look at how tiny her mid waist is. Uhg, his daughter will develop anerxia now.



Link-Hero said:

When I first saw this article, I thought "oh god, is this the same father lying to his daughter again". Thankfully, it wasn't. This was actually quite a pleasant surprise.

Unlike the Wind Waker one, she knows that she is playing an altered version of a game she played before. The father changed the game because she wanted to play as Pauline, not because he wanted to "protect" her from reality.

This is the type of family bonding that I did not get from the other father. A father that doesn't lie to his children and doesn't expect them to be unable to handle reality. A father that talks with his children about problems they are having, no matter the size of it just so he can make them happy.

I approve of this.

I wonder if he is going to do this with the other games in the SMB franchise.



KAHN said:

i don't see why she has any reason to be bummed out. the gender of the protagonist has absolutely nothing to do with the game's gameplay. i don't see how it could effect the story unless it takes place in a period of extreme sexism or something, where women aren't allowed to do half the things men can, but other than that, gender will not make any impact on the game.



retro_player_22 said:

This is pointless, even I could hack the original Legend of Zelda and replaced Link with Zelda or in Metroid by replacing Samus with Ridley. The code is already in a Game Genie or Pro Action Replay so it's pointless to even illegally hacking it.



aaronsullivan said:

Sweet. It's especially cool because she asked for it.

@retro_player_22 pointless to who? Also, there are no in-game graphics for Pauline's actions that Action Replay etc. can draw on.

@0LD_SK0OL_PUNK She wanted to play the girl. She relates to her partly because she's a girl. It also seems less about gender and more about why is it the way it is? The idea of a female needing a male to be rescued is only slowly fading. It's everywhere and although a maturing female should easily be able to grasp this, it is different for impressionable children. Plus, sexism is not dead in many societies and cultures and religions across the earth.

I have a wife and a daughter and it always surprises me how easily guys dismiss these things as they were never effected by it growing up, but it's real.

The token change to the game is probably less effective than how the dad showed her how important she was to him.



HereticPB said:

That is only going to teach her to misbehave, rant, and rave to get her way and become like the rest of the stupid entitlement crowd these days



aaronsullivan said:

@HereticPB Seriously? Because she asked to do something and was disappointed? You can't do that without being labeled as part of the "entitlement crowd"? I think the entitled attitude is a serious problem, but this has nothing to do with it.



aaronsullivan said:

@Gridatttack Yet the COMPLETELY NEW animation he made was pretty nice and fit in, no? Hacking ROMs is not common knowledge either and unless he had done it previously, it took some research.



TrueWiiMaster said:

Eh, I honestly don't know what to make of the whole argument. I do think that this guy was just being a good dad and doing something for his daughter (though she may now think he can do similar things in any game), but why should it have mattered in the first place? And if the roles were to be truly reversed, the villain should have also been turned into a woman, shouldn't he? I mean, is it really okay to have kids play games where they think anybody could be the hero (as if being Mario really leads the other way), but only men can be the villains? Villains are almost always male, just as heroes are almost always male. This way they kind of counter out. If a parent changes only the hero to female, isn't that kind of sending a bad message?



WaxxyOne said:

Seems pretty harmless, but yeah was going to say the same thing about replacing the optional item graphics. It's a bit disconcerting to see the "heroine" taking a few moments to go grab her purse and umbrella before saving the victim...



1958Fury said:

I love it. I wish Nintendo would get the same idea on it's own, and release a whole series of gender-swapped classics.



SuperKMx said:

"I told her we couldn't in that particular Mario game, she seemed really bummed out by that. So what else am I supposed to do?"

To each their own, but if he jumps to her beck and call every time she gets upset about something as minor as this - and it IS minor, since it doesn't matter which gender the character is in this game - then he is going to be in for a tough old time of it when she grows up.

The answer to "what else am I supposed to do" would be to teach her to see people, not gender.



Trikeboy said:

OMG didn't you even read the Wind Waker one? He had played it with his daughter first, she enjoyed playing it and being part of the game so he gender swapped Link to help her feel even more part of it. He didn't lie to her, she knew Link was a boy when she watched her father play the game.

These stories are exactly the same and I applaud both fathers for doing this. Rom hacking aside of course.

Gender option in games is a great idea and should be implemented in more games.



AltDotNerd said:

Just have your daughter play Metroid! Samus is the most awesome girl in gaming! And to my knowledge, also the first female protagonist in gaming history.



SMW said:

I'm just proud at this father for raising a daughter on good retro games like DK and Mario.



Einherjar said:

Hacking NES roms isnt finding the holy grail. NES roms are one of the easier roms to hack (text, graphics or even level layout).



Zombie_Barioth said:

@TrueWiiMaster I have to say, you made some really good points. I never really thought of why the main villain and hero are usually male myself. While I think that was a really nice thing to do for her, it would have been better to use that to teach her how to deal with disappointment. If he makes a habit out of it she could start to think that daddy can fix anything, leading to much more heartache than not being able to play as Pauline.

I gotta say, I'm pleasantly surprised. I was expecting at least one post criticizing people for being ok with this but not the guy who changed Link to a girl.



Bankai said:

For the record, even when it comes to villains women are portrayed as inferior to men. The man is the hulking ultimate boss, while the women are always subservient, weak, but evilly cunning and use sex as a weapon.

Feminism has a long way to go before society will grow the heck up. Stuff like this is only doing good for the world.



Lalivero said:

@Bankai Some were more pointing out how males dominate the villain scene as well and weren't being sexist about it.

This isn't like the AC article, at least not yet.

I don't even get why it has to come to 'why does it matter, the game matters more' in this case, as some are using as an excuse for this being bad. That's not the point. What's bothersome is how next to nobody is willing to develop a legitimate female main character/villainous without using her in an overly sexy way.



edhe said:

The Dark Queen (Battletoads), Metroid Queen (Metroid - though you have to wonder if that really counts), Queen Slug-for-a-butt (Earthworm Jim). That's off the top of my head. I agree that if there is to be true equality, women need to be more represented as antagonists.

And in regards to this story, I see no harm in what the father did, but people must remember that children - of either gender -need both strong female and male role models.

It should really be up to the game developers to cater for children like this, but props to the father all the same.



Zombie_Barioth said:

@Bankai No ones saying that female villains don't exist, just that its rare for them to be the main antagonist. Just as you said even as villains women are usually portrayed as inferior. I'm starting to wonder if it might actually have something to do with developers and publishers being afraid of receiving backlash from portraying women in such a way.

Makes sense and you can exactly blame them when so many people seem ready to play the misogyny card at the drop of a hat.



Void said:

Bankai wrote:

There are people who seriously think female villains don't exist?

No one in this discussion has said that, the closest thing, I think, to that would be me saying I can't think of many, main female villains.

And I don't think someone who fails to read the comment he's complaining about is in a position to be telling those people to read something. :/



Bankai said:

@Void Unless you've played every game and seen every film I don't think you're in a position to comment about how often females are cast as the primary villain of a game or film.

You're actually more-or-less correct, for the record. But what you missed is that the fact that there are so few female primary villains is precisely because the entertainment industries are still fundamentally sexist.

Women can't be the main bad "guy" because women are physically inferior to men - that is quite literally what it boils down to. The only time a woman can be dangerous is if she is incredibly sexy and able to use that as a weapon against the menfolks.

This is literally ancient history. From the Succubus of Christian mythology to every other ancient religion having a version of the Succubus (say, the Siren), the only time evil women have power is when it involves seducing men.

This is not something we need to replicate in modern art and games. The problem is that villains almost always represent primal fears that we humans have. Male primary villains tend to be physically or mentally elite because we as humans fear those who are superior to us - they have mental and physical abilities beyond our understanding and so it triggers the primal flight response in us.

What we as male human beings fear in women is not their physical poweress, but their sexuality, which does hold power over our core emotions. And so the only EASY way to make a female villain threatening is to make them sexy. Which, again, triggers our flight response.

As long as males continue to dominate these industries, male ideas of what is and isn't threatening will also continue to dominate. There is nothing good that can happen by having female villains in that context.

Or to tl;dr this, it is not coincidence that the only female villain in the games industry worth any real respect, GlaDOS, is a character that was written by a woman.



Handy_Man said:

Disney seems to like using female villains quite a bit. Just throwing that out there.



Gridatttack said:

@aaronsullivan Its not that hard... The only hard part he had to come with is the new animation (and this is the NES. its limited to only 4 colors per sprite, so its easy to make new graphics in this donkey kong style)

Also you only need a program, the ROM, and then open the game with the program and search for the graphics (which is easy, since DK doesnt have to much graphics space) and edit them



DarkNinja9 said:

i agree with KenB

while at least the girl already knew mario is themain character now all the sudden she has a prob with it?what next? ''daddy my milk isnt cold so i wont eat my cereal no matter what you say! Dad: oh what am i to do'' that is now stuff you going to have to deal with from now on! next it will be her asking her dad to ask out a guy(yes when shes older) cuz shes too nervous to and he will have to cuz what is a dad suppose to do right?



Poketendo said:

they should give us the option to play as a female more often. for example, in Paper Mario for the N64, after every chapter Mario finished, you got to play as Peach for a while. It would be fun to play as Peach trying to escape Bowser's Castle inbetween the world in SMB.



OdnetninAges said:

Here are the female video game villains I can think of:

Risky Boots


That's about all I can think of.



The_Fox said:

Even though it has a feminine voice, wouldn't GLADoS technically count as gender neutral?



TrueWiiMaster said:

I fail to see the relevance of films here, since we're talking about games. I'm pretty sure it would be hard to hack a movie to change anyone's gender.

When I first brought up the villains point, and of course I know there have been female villains (though few come to mind in gaming), I wasn't talking about the portrayal of female villains, or female characters at all for that matter. I was saying that if people really wanted "equal" gaming they'd have to change both the hero and villain's genders. Otherwise it gives the image that only men can be villains, at least as much as an exclusively male hero gives the idea that only males can be heroes.



AltDotNerd said:

@SanderEvers Tomb Raider?! Poppycock! Two words: Super Metroid. Metroid Prime can't be beat, but if we are talking about games little girls can play, Prime might be too scary...



Bankai said:

@TrueWiiMaster 1) films are relevant because sexism is a social issue that transcends games.

2) Simply 'changing' the gender of characters doesn't resolve the issue of sexism. As I mentioned above the issue is the way characters are portrayed, not whether they are male or female. The applies equally to both heroes and villains.

Anyone who doesn't think feminist theory is still important to analyzing games, films and the social environment these exist within should take a look at some of the comments in here. It's clear that a large percentage of people still, simply, do not get it.



Bankai said:

@The_Fox I dunno. I've read some pretty neat deconstructions of glados as a character that cleverly twists the female villain role in parody of expectations.

I'll have to track that reading down.



TrueWiiMaster said:

1) Relevant to the issue of sexism, sure, but not really to this article, which is specifically about games.

2) Actually, "simply 'changing' the gender" resolves it perfectly. It would mean no characteristic is exclusive to either gender. There should be no difference other than the way the character looks, right? Wouldn't that pretty much be the definition of equality? To have a female villain who didn't follow female stereotypes, simply make a male villain and turn him into a woman.

Somehow that seems really ironic. One guy saying everyone else is wrong because they think differently than him... It just reminds me of an old joke. If every car besides yours is going the wrong way, you're probably the one going the wrong way. Not to say majority makes right, I just thought it was funny.



Bankai said:

@TrueWiiMaster How much feminist social theory have you done? Do you understand the broader issues at play here? Do you understand how symbolism works, as opposed to direct meaning? Do you understand concepts of subconscious design - where a person's in-built attitudes and worldview will often unintentionally work their way into a creative project?

I suspect I know the answer to all of these, since you seem to think the problem here is exclusively "the way the character looks," and you seem to think that being able to copy and paste gender into games (or films, books, whatever) is the definition of equality.

It's not. Feminist equality never intended for women to be treated exactly the same as men. It argues that women should not be disadvantaged compared to men. There's a world of difference.

But there's little point having this argument as I'm certain your knowledge of feminism is limited to "internet research," and you have no formal knowledege of sociology.

So to continue your metaphor; if every other driver on the road has never done a driving course, is it really your fault for driving on the "wrong" side of the road, when the rules say it's actually the right side of the road? No. The problem lies with all the other drivers who don't listen to the guy who actually knows what he's talking about.



Moviefan2k4 said:

God forbid any kid should be taught about the valid differences between genders, and why they matter. Its far better to make them think that men and women are completely interchangeable on every level...NOT.



Trikeboy said:

@KenB "To each their own, but if he jumps to her beck and call every time she gets upset about something as minor as this - and it IS minor, since it doesn't matter which gender the character is in this game - then he is going to be in for a tough old time of it when she grows up.

The answer to "what else am I supposed to do" would be to teach her to see people, not gender."

So you are telling us that if your 3 year old daughter came to you and asked for something that you could easily provide, at no cost to you besides your time, that would make her happy, even if it was only for a minute, that you wouldn't do it for her? I pray for your future offspring.

Of course, teach her about how the world works, that is what is called being a parent. Sometimes you can get things, sometimes you can't, that is an important lesson. So many people these days drop their kids at kindergartens, nurseries and schools and expect them to emerge as perfect human beings. The result is what you see on the street these days, thugs and jerks. Take the time to educate your children for gods sake. If you don't point them in the right direction they can easily be swayed to the bad ones.

@Moviefan2k4 Besides the obvious sexual differences, what other valid differences are there between men and women? While it is true some things are better suited to either gender, that doesn't mean that it is impossible for the gender.



TrueWiiMaster said:

You're right, I've never taken courses in social theory, nor do I ever intend to. Such courses over complicate what should be common sense. You don't need a special education to understand equality, nor do you need a special education to see sexism in culture (and not just against women). Equality is equality. No one group should receive special treatment due to the way they are. That is equality.

Explain to me then, with your apparently far-superior-to-everyone-else opinions, how men and women should be portrayed. You said before that sexuality should not be a part of the portrayal of women. I believe you also implied, if not said outright, that stereotypes shouldn't be used. What, then, are you left with? A genderless character. If "acting like a woman" is an inappropriate way for a character to act, how then should they act? And without these typical and common differences between men and women, what difference would there be between a male and female character other than image, which you said would not be difference enough?

"But there's little point having this argument as I'm certain your knowledge of feminism is limited to "internet research," and you have no formal knowledege of sociology."
Another funny comment. What good is "knowledge" that can only be shared/discussed with other people who have the same "knowledge"? So you know better than everyone else, and the only people who know as well as you are those who agree with you? Nice.

The problem with your continuation there is that it implies a person must be educated to "think" correctly in order to even discuss a subject. It implies there are some sort of rules to what people can think or say depending on their education, which is of course ridiculous, and bordering on fairly evil intentions. My point was just the humor of one person telling everyone else they're wrong because they themselves are right. I still think it's pretty funny.



WindWakerLink said:

Awww. That's supper cool. "The lengths we go for our kids when it comes to video games." "Hee hee."



Bankai said:

@TrueWiiMaster Throughout history what is "common sense" to the layperson is simply common sense because they don't know better.

It was common sense that the earth was flat. It was common sense that witches weilded magic powers and would float if thrown into a lake. It was common sense that the earth was the centre of the universe. It was common sense that black people should be slaves, that women should not vote, that communism is a bad thing.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of entire books written about gender roles in entertainment. These don't always agree - there is a lot of debate happening in academia around the theories that these books present to readers.

And here you are telling me that your opinion should be taken seriously compared to all that literature and debate because it's 'common sense' to you? I'm sorry, but there is absolutely no reason for me to debate the topic with someone who themselves admits to not actually knowing anything about the topic.

I suggest you buy a couple of these books and do some reading. I can all-but guarantee you'll find what you think of as "common sense" challenged in a positive manner.



TrueWiiMaster said:

And how does one get to the point of "knowing better"? By learning what other people think is better? By changing the way they think? If I agreed with you, would that mean I "knew better"?

Some of those examples don't apply... Some of them were scientific, and not social at all. As for the others, they were very different from what we're discussing, in that they're levels beyond simple portrayal of gender. If anything, women's right to vote goes along with what I'm saying, equality is equality. Slavery is the same. No one should get special treatment. That's equality.

And communism is bad. That's still common sense. Well, with people who have sense to know it anyway.

So then if I write a book about why academia has far over complicated simple subjects, then all of a sudden I'm extremely credible? Taking classes or reading books on social theory only makes you more credible to people like you. It doesn't make you better, or even more knowledgeable really, than anyone else. It doesn't make your opinions superior, nor does it make them more believable, except to those who agree with you, or who lack the intelligence or interest to think for themselves.

I never admitted to not knowing anything about the topic. I said I haven't formally studied it. In other words, I haven't been taught to think the way you do. That doesn't discredit what I say. Only a legitimate and successful rebuttal would do that. Unlike math or the natural sciences, one doesn't really become better at a topic like gender equality. You can learn various examples or angles, but in the end it's still a matter of opinion.

And if I read those books, and came out exactly as I am now, how would that make what I'm saying more credible? Wouldn't I still be saying the same things? Or would I still be uneducated on the topic if I didn't agree with you?



SuperKMx said:

@Trikeboy "So you are telling us that if your 3 year old daughter came to you and asked for something that you could easily provide, at no cost to you besides your time, that would make her happy, even if it was only for a minute, that you wouldn't do it for her? I pray for your future offspring."

Not every time, no, I wouldn't. I wouldn't want my child turning into a spoilt brat. Whether's it's easy or costly or difficult for me to provide has very, very little to do with it.

When they're 25, still living in your house, eating your food, paying no rent, and demanding that you buy them a new computer because they know that you won $2,000 on a lotto scratcher, you'll realise why.

And please don't waste your prayers on my offspring, since my partner and I are not planning on having any, and we don't believe in deities anyway.

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