Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is It Time For "Girl Link?"

I was checking out these excellent "Mario Gender Swap" fanart pix (hat-tip to BAD) from Beth Rolling of RollingRabbit, and it occurs to me that while an actual "Mario Sisters" game would probably be just a little bit too "twee" (or verging on parody) to be taken seriously... any time I've been to a gaming con I see a TON of women cosplaying as Link (from Zelda) and it always looks, well... "right?"

Serious question: Since all the Links are supposed to be reincarnations or inheritors or whatnot, would it not be both perfectly reasonable and even WELCOME for Nintendo to make one of the "next" ones "Female Link?" I'm talking same basic character, same basic additude (or lack thereof,) same general "look," but female?

Something tells me this would not only work, but work REALLY well - the Zelda games have always had a sizable female fanbase, and I don't think Link has ever been prized as some iconic masculine role-model the way that Master Chief or Snake have. It'd end up raising a lot of related issues - do you make Zelda a prince? Do you pull back on Ganon/Ganondorf's fixation on the hero because now it'd look a little "rapey?" The second one I dunno about, but I think leaving Zelda female AND keeping the "friends, not necessarily romantic" angle of most of the games would make for a different dynamic than is usually seen (it's not like DeviantArt won't just gladly fill everyone's 'yuri-quota' either way.)

Am I nuts, or is this one of those "why didn't anyone think of this before" moments?

47 comments:

Zack S said...

It makes perfect sense, yet you would still hear the cries of the "gender-conscious" as they "denounce political correctness".

Nobody will think of Link as masculine until you take that part of him away.

Diz said...

Personally I welcome the idea of a female Link , even if it was only one game.

But change can be a scary thing to some and I think Nintendo would get alot of hate from the " hardcore " LoZ fans.

murfguy said...

Dear Overthinker, I agree that it could be time for a female Link.

I agree so much, that it may be of interest to you to see this piece of art I did back in aught-seven.

Tackman said...

If we ever get a female link, she will either be given a "female" personality (which will alienate people WAY more than Other M) or in the best case, she'll have the exact same personality as her male counterpart, and in that case, it ends up simply being a physical difference.

Plus, this female Link will never be considered a strong female character since she'll only be a distaff counterpart of a much more recognized male hero.

Even though the idea could work, not much will come out of it (except, you know... porn...)

TheAlmightyNarf said...

Girls cosplaying as Link has always reminded me of how Peter Pan is consistently played by female actresses in stage productions.

Frankly, Nintendo is not known for particularity good writing, having stumbled into meaningful stories far more often then having created them intentionally. So, I'm not convinced they could do a female Link the justice such a character would deserve. That said, I think Link would work just as well, if not even better as a female with they way he's been characterized so far. They've just got to get a good writer on board before they try it.

Arturo said...

I really like the idea, but the agoraphobic in me wouldn't cope with the backlash from the fanboys.

spork said...

That would be awesome, and would add a great new spin to a series that could use some fresh air in its plots. Where's the petition? I'll sign!

Raenir Salazar said...

Girl link would be awesome, but you HAVE to keep Zelda female, nuff' said. :D

/joking I think is a tad lack of strong female characters with a male love interest kicking around. Its what I like about the Gender flipping of Haruhi Suzumiya, you get it from the girl's point of view.

Rook in the Pumpkin said...

I like the idea, but I agree... the backlash from fanboys would be depressing.

And even though I think it would be neat, it does seem to fall a bit short. I mean, altering an established male character (even though he is just a series of similar, generally gender neutral individuals) to female doesn't seem like it would be winning any battles. But, I like this train of thought.

Maybe there should be more games where Zelda is playable and far more potent than how she has been represented in the past (let's forget Wand of Gamelon). I mean, she's definitely been capable of kicking ass for some time now. If anything, to make her more tabula rasa-ey (thus embodying the same role as Link), Nintendo would actually need to detract from her persona rather than adding anything. Seems feasible, right? Can you imagine Zelda in the fabled greens of the Hero of Time on a quest to save Prince Link?

Good topic, Bob!

Dave from canada said...

An interesting concept to be sure. There are so many things you could do with zelda. I saw a mockup of what a steampunk edo period japan zelda would look like and I almost cried.

Unfortunately that requires a level of developmental chutzpah that nintendo has not posessed since the N64.

Matthew said...

Purely in the context of the game itself, it would be interesting. I like playing as female characters in games because it's a nice change of pace from the normal.

If it happens, though, I'll do my best to STAY THE FUCK AWAY from any article, video, or forum post discussing whether female Link is a "victory" for feminism or whether it is yet another instance of blatant misogyny by clueless male game designers. There is nothing interesting to be said on the subject. Nothing. I guarantee that there will be a torrent of rage on both sides, no matter how finely Nintendo walks the line. There are too many angry feminists out there and too many people who hate what feminism has become who won't give Nintendo a inch of breathing room. And that's why they'll never do it.

Kholdstare said...

The idea could be a pretty good one, but I'd rather Link stay a guy considering he's one of the few game characters I consider "hot" (in his older incarnations, anyhow.) You wouldn't believe how fanservicey Twilight Princess was for me in that regard.

imsmart said...

I don't like it, just because it's a major change for no reason. Link is the only constant in the series, and changing his gender changes him entirely. The fact that Link isn't conventionally masculine is irrelevant, in my opinion at least.

Mads said...

There would be a backlash? From Nintendo Fanboys?

...really?

I get that there was a backlash when it came to Metroid: Other M, because of a lot of unfortunate accidental symbolism. But that was for a whole range of largely PC reasons.

What, pray tell, isn't PC about female link? How is that in any way shape or form offensive?

I don't see it. And honestly, gender-bending link? The character has no personality other than what suits the games emergent narratives. It's always clearly derived from whatever gameplay design they've come up with this time. So what would it accomplish in the first place? How would any single part of the gaming experience be different?

Other than a lot of fun implications for overthinkers, there's nothing there. You can't follow the formula - derive links personality from the context - and simultaneously derive it from link being female. If it follows the formula, you have link. With a girly hairdo. If it doesn't follow the formula, you have a girl of some sort who isn't really link as we know the character. So then it isn't really a zelda game.

Idea initially sounds good on paper, it would probably work as a diversion, but it's harmless and forgettable. I'm not against it, it's just...a bit pointless? :P

motyr said...

I don't think there would be much, if any, backlash from "hardcore" Nintendo fans, probably just those that are ignorant/misinformed/unaware of the gameplay or storytelling aspects of the video games, but know that many gamers consider the Zelda games to be some of the greatest of all time. (Seriously now, how many 14 to 16 year old gamers have played any Zelda game released before Ocarina of Time or even Twilight Princess?) The somewhat sad reality is that the biggest and most outspoken voice against this idea would probably also be the least knowledgable. I love the Zelda series and I would be completely open to this idea. In fact, I would probably be more excited for the "female Link" Zelda than the upcoming Skyward Sword. Zelda's always been known for its dramatic aesthetic changes (people HATED the "Wind Waker look" initially but loved the game) and it'd actually be really cool to see a more significant change to the "standard" plot.

Aiddon said...

If you're going to do a female protagonist for the series, just pick the obvious candidate: Zelda herself. In Spirit Tracks she served as a partner to Link in his adventures and that was a great gimmick. I think they could do the same sorta thing for one of the console games, making Zelda a partner to Link.

SaviorGabriel said...

It's an interesting idea, but if they do that, they'll just cry about it.

"BAAAAAAAWWWWWW!!! I DON'T LIKE CHANGE! BAAAAAAAAAWWWW!!!"

whatisthisidonteven said...

Uh, yeah, cool. Why though? Link's a guy. As someone above said, a constant. Think of a new character, or, indeed, make Zelda the star. Otherwise, this is just silly.

And the reason why girls dress up as Link is that manga-ish characters typically look feminine, at least by western standards.

Chris646 said...

Huh. Haven't really given any thought to this before, but going by a purely scientific standpoint, this WILL have to happen eventually. Link is, for all intents and purposes, a human. If Link is reincarnated many times throughout the lifetime of Hyrule, then eventually, Link will be born with an X chromosome instead of a Y chromosome.

malnin said...

It would never work since far too many people would just back her into a corner to try to get the camera to do an upskirt then play the game. Besides I think it would be far more likely that if a girl Link is ever used it would just let you choose rather then force one way or the other.

Josh Waters said...

To be honest, as I read this article (and the following comments), I wondered if perhaps it wouldn't be interesting for the player to choose Link's gender. You could have some quick menu selection before you start a new game, like Pokemon. It probably wouldn't require that many changes to the dialogue, given how Zelda games work. Just a thought.

I have to admit, I also like the idea of having Zelda be a playable character, sort of like Zero for Mega Man X. Have Link get captured and Zelda has to rescue hime, or perhaps have a dungeon that requires switching between two characters to beat the puzzles. OR, dare I say it, MULTIPLAYER CO-OP LINK-ZELDA GAMEPLAY!!

Yeah, that'd be cool.

21464cb6-9181-11e0-bedb-000bcdcb8a73 said...

By the way, forgive the number salad for my name. It's a result using AIM as my ID.

The problem with changing Link's gender is, well.... look around at other male characters in games now.

In fact, check this image out:

http://www.nerdnirvana.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/video-game-protagonists.jpg

Now of course it generalizes to video games characters in general, but stick link in that lineup and see how much he sticks out like a sore thumb.

If you were to have Link switch genders, you essentially damn all future male designs to this picture. Only Super Mario would stand out then.

Also, it may not play as well as you think with the female crowd. I would imagine they enjoy Link because he is a elfy-type pretty man or cute boy. If you change sexes, you may lose the appeal that it already had, and you risk the optics of visibly and conspicuously pandering to said audience. In an fortune cookie sort of way, you end up losing what you already had by chasing it.

Also one must consider all the messages such a move broadcasts. Some women and some feminists may like it, but another group would say that it enforces patriarchy because it shows that only female versions of already established male characters can be accepted. It's a murky morass that's probably best avoided.

Antonio Black said...

STOP HIM. HE"S A MADMAN. A MADMAN!!!

But a female Link....eh...it sounds like a good idea ON PAPER.
But because of Link's "silent protagonist" motif he/she would run the risk of basically becoming Samus Aran with a sword. Link has snippets of a personality at times, but those snippets (aside from a few notable moments) have been totally unisexual. Both a man or woman could have the same reaction or mannerisms. So, as you said it could work. But would Sheik be involved in any way?

Sam Robards, Occasional Gamer said...

I love the idea of a female Link. I'd keep Zelda female, though, and make them BFFs, which could be easily done by having a sizable portion of the game show the nature of their relationship.

And for people who think that might be too slow, remember how long Twilight Princess took to actually get going? It was several HOURS before you got into the meat of the game.

Nintendo doesn't have the balls to do it, though. The last time they took a big risk like this with one of their major franchises was Other M. While it was a fantastic game, a VERY vocal minority took the opportunity to bitch about it to no end.

Want proof? Read any Metroid-related article on IGN and you'll see some the writer go out of their way to bash Other M: this is despite the fact that IGN gave Other M a great review, which praised the character development given to Samus. It's really the biggest instance of editorial cowardice I've ever seen, but that's another issue entirely.

Metroid isn't even anywhere near as big a franchise as Zelda. Given the rage that Other M created, do you see Nintendo doing ANYTHING different or taking ANY chances on ANY of its franchises at this point?

If Other M taught Nintendo anything, it was this: when it comes to your traditional franchises, stay well inside the box.

Again, I think a female link would be a terrific idea.

Max Wilson said...

Yes. I thought I was crazy when I thought of nintendo having a female Link saving female Zelda a couple years ago, and then I told my friends and they had the same: "It's just right" reaction.

Any negative reaction from it, and anybody not buying a fucking Zelda game because of a change like this, is ostensibly a very small part of the market. Zelda fans are coming to play a Zelda game. I think having Link be a girl would get all of the girls during the N64 era who love Ocarina, or bring in some new female blood into hard core gaming, which I feel is needed in our culture.

Maybe after that game you could choose your gender as an option, and this would be the game where Link's gender would play thematic importance. What I do know is that after Skyward Sword, Miyamoto is going to do something way different, so why not this?

Pat said...

This is actually a brilliant idea, but I agree that it would have to be handled properly.

If they just did a seamless genderswap where Link behaved exactly the same, it probably wouldn't go well. People would say that they did it just to improve sales.

However, if they played Link as a "typical" video game female character, she would be super fanservicey, which I don't think I have to point out, doesn't fit the Legend of Zelda franchise at all.

BUT if the character was portrayed as a REALISTIC female character, then it could be excellent. By realistic, I mean that they would first have to address the concept of gender politics in Hyrule (which is something they've only ever dabbled in) then they would have to figure out how the standard hero's journey that Link typically follows would adjust based on that context.

However, in order to do that, they would also have to do something no Zelda game has really done before: make Link an interesting character.

Now, I love the Zelda games, but Link has never been an interesting character. He is a blank slate.

In order to make a female Link work, I think they would need to put Link's personal story in the spotlight.

And frankly, that's something that has needed to happen for a while.

If they did it right, not only would a female Link work, I think she could become the best female character in video games to date. It could be a Zelda game that stands apart for the first time since Wind Waker and could be the best selling since Ocarina and it could set a new standard for female protagonists in video games.

I also think it's not outside the realm of possibility because the Zelda series has done a lot of interesting things regarding gender roles with the character of Zelda. The whole Sheik thing is the one everyone remembers, but I'm honestly more fond of Tetra from Wind Waker as far as a less traditional approach to the Zelda character.

Luke Brickner said...

works for me, time to start PROJECT RAIN GIRL and spam nintendo till they tell us to F#@$ off.

Aqua said...

I approve of this 100%. Except Zelda, make her a prince. C'mon, we all know we're gettin' a bit tired of saving princesses, let's save a prince instead this time.

Adam said...

They could and I don't think it would really matter. Sure making Link female would require a little extra consideration on certain things, but otherwise Zelda stories are never really about Link. He's kind of a reoccurring deus ex machina. The Goddesses made him so that he could show up whenever was needed, gave him the Triforce of courage so he could never really lose, and he resets the balance until the next century or so passes and the next baddie (or Ganon) shows up.

But honestly I would much rather Nintendo made a new IP with a female lead. So far Samus is all they really got. So silent protagonist or no, something new with a woman would be much more interesting to me than Link with estrogen.

Darren said...

Well they fucked up with Samus on Other M so I guess why not :/

Jean said...

I like this - it's totally time for a female Link! Though I disagree with those that say the story needs to change - is there anything about fighting monsters, solving puzzles, and saving the world that is fundamentally different for a girl? Stories of courage and overcoming all odds are universal! To say otherwise is, frankly, sexist.

Quick story - first time I ever saw Link(gameplay footage of the first dungeon in Ocarina of Time) I thought he was a girl and was excited by the prospect of an adventuring female character who didn't have a totally fan-service design.

I am intrigued by the thought of a Prince Zelda, I am interested to see how that would play out since Zelda is so defined by her gender.

Perhaps a Fable-esque solution? You pick the gender of your Link right alongside the name? I doubt Nintendo would go for it, judging by how they switched him from left-handed to right-handed for the Wii.

Zogbog said...

Just like with Samus the characters gender means nothing to the games they star in. Samus could be a guy, nothing would be lost for the most part (except with games like other M) and Link could be a girl.

Neither of the games needs the character to be a certain sex and neither one addresses gender problems in the games (again other M, but not worth mentioning).

If they want to make a female link without making a big deal out of it, just swap links gender, it's not like he ever does anything that is specifically male any way (not that men have much of a gender identity now days) just like how Samus never does anything specifically female.

I'd rather see games work towards creating interesting male and female characters (especially interesting male characters since so many are just damned to be space marines or gods above all) before they start switching the genders of game characters that don't actually exude a gender to begin with.

Unknown said...

As a consumer, sure make Link a girl. One of my hopes would be that Nintendo focus on a GIRL Link and not a WOMAN Link. I really don't need to see T n A squeezed into that tunic and as a gamer I don't have faith in the modern developer/publisher to understand that woman characters don't need double Ds and a 30'' butt. Yes some of that is partially to blame on the consumers side, but really you don't need to bend over backwards to sell a profitable amount of Zelda games. However if I were a writer or game developer at Nintendo I would rather pitch a new female hero in the Zelda universe then just wave the gender wand at Link. Think about it, wouldn't it be more awesome to get Link and Zelda's DAUGHTER to kick ass and take names? I mean the story almost writes it self. You could have her either rescuing her father and mother from Gannon Or have her go on a quest to save the next generation of Link from being taken as a baby. Hell throw both those stories in one game make the parents rescue be the girl years and guard baby link the woman years.

Addendum : Yes I realize Zelda's daughter would have the name Zelda by rules of the legend. Two easy fixes A. Princesses only take the name Zelda after the previous Zelda has passed away B. make Zelda and Link lovers yet not married so her child would be a royal bastard. that could even add another aspect of the character. She's doesn't get the title of Zelda so she feels the need to prove herself to the world that she's somebody important/capable. Maybe for a twist at the end we could have her become the sheik for Zelda's second daughter.

Ultima Black Mage said...

Yeah I can see it being shot down by super purist. I welcome the idea because it would be a nice change and considering Wind Waker actually gave Link a sister, it could work really well as a bloodline trait.

They could keep the same look but slightly more feminine and actually make it a game with the return of a fairy companion too. I guess they'd also have to make female Link a tomboy too just to even out the whole thing but I'd rather keep the normal girl attitude and have the female Link gain stength through adversity.

Adam said...

Actually now that I've thought about it why not just take the series' headline female Zelda and make her the star of her own game? Or perhaps have her and Link do a full cooperative game? In Ocarina and Wind Waker she proved she could be more than a pretty face if allowed, and in Spirit Tracks she was along helping you through practically the whole game.

The intent of making Link a girl is noble, but in practice it's essentially lazy. Link IS a character not unlike Samus. See Extra Creditz video on Other M:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/3126-Learning-from-Other-M

Would I care if they made Link a girl? No. I'd buy the game and have just as much fun as ever. But gender swapping just for the sake of diversity is an appathetic way to go about it and bound to please very few.

a said...

As long as they don't look to a third party to 'realize the character' a la Metroid Other M

RocMegamanX said...

@21464

About that picture, why am I suddenly reminded of Bob's very first Game Overthinker video? You know, the whole "scruffy, unshaven, self-employed landscaping contractor" thing?

Also, people keep saying to watch the Extra Credits episode on Other M, but I can't help but think that the Extra Credits guy will have ZERO positive things to say about it. And that worries me, because I don't care for the Prime series.

Adam said...

@RocMegamanX

If you haven't yet you should watch the ExtraCreditz episode on Other M you should. I actually liked Other M (primarily for the Gameplay; was rather "eh..." on the story) and they do a fair critiquing the story which is all they really talk about and the missed opportunities. You may not agree with everything they say but I doubt you'll be disappointed by it.

Christopher Delvo said...

Great Idea...but I think we all know it'll never happen. I know you hate when people harp on Japan's cultural sensibilities, but just as the chances of a female Red Ranger or a male Pink Ranger are slim to none, the same applies, I'm afraid, to Link.

This is just a culture where, except in a select group of people who prize androgyny above all else, gender roles are still very prominent, and maculinity/femininity is very important.

toosoo said...

this actually happens alot theres something called rule 63 in the same family of rules as rule 34 except rule 63 says there is a opposite gender version of every character

ive seen people " rule 63" street fighter characters,kratos form god of war, pyramid head

basically if youve seen it its been drawn as the opposite gender

holyjunkie said...

I recall Flute Link... and I'm given much incentive to agree.

Very very much agree.

Avistew said...

Funny thing: I own pretty much all the Zelda games and play them regularly. Recently, as I was getting overexcited about Skyward Sword I started ranting to my fiance about it.
At some point he stopped me and asked "Wait. Link is a guy?"
He's played some of the games, too. That was funny.
Anyway, all of that to say that it probably wouldn't make for a very big change.

Jakob said...

You know, I think the question isn't whether it's possible, but rather whether it's necessary.
As you said, Link lacks most characterization, and a good female character establishes herself by her characteristics.
Now, the only rational reason to make Link female would be be able to interpret the story with a different character.
But what characteristics has Link shown so far throughout the games?
Most of them are gender-neutral, with little signs of romantic relationships (Skyward Sword seems to include more, but we can't say for sure yet).
Changing the gender would have little to no significant impact towards the story, unless you'd add more and more characteristics, which draws away from Link as the silent hero.

Samuel said...

They could just...

you know...

give Zelda her own game. God. You make a woman a ninja, and you don't make a game about that?

I'm thinking a Legend of Zelda based around Zelda/Sheik using the controls and combat of Assassins Creed would work WONDERS, and be the perfect "mix-up" that so many anti-Nintendo speakers are asking for.

Daedalus said...

THIS.

This needs to happen.

Melissa Rubbo said...

I think it would be a great idea for them to make a female Link but the give the people a choice to be ether female or male like character creation.

Melissa Rubbo said...

I think it would be a great idea to have a female Link but give the fans a choice to ether be male or female like character creation.