The Gender-Neutral Wind Waker

WW_GenderNeutral

About 13 years ago, Nintendo let players take to the open seas in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The game was first released for the GameCube and later “remastered” for the Wii U in 2013. Like previous Zelda games, The Wind Waker allows the player to become the hero by inputting their own name at the start of the game but then continues to use male pronouns when referring to the player (“Link”) regardless of the player’s actual gender. Link’s physical appearance and grunting vocalizations don’t really identify Link as a specific gender, and there’s absolutely nothing in the story of the game that requires the hero to be specifically male. This matters because male leading heroes are abundantly overrepresented in popular games and I want my baby daughter to see that gender doesn’t define a hero. Anybody can be a hero.

The Zelda games are some of the greatest games in popular culture. I’ve played and replayed all of them over the past 30 years and I’m looking forward to sharing them with my daughter if/when she develops an interest in gaming. I think the old GameCube version of The Wind Waker still holds up well today, so I decided to gender-neutral hack it for my daughter and other non-male gamers to enjoy fully immersing themselves in the experience of being Link and sailing the open seas.

After using one of several methods to extract or “dump” your own The Wind Waker GameCube game disc (specifically, the 2003 North American release) into an ISO file, you can then apply my gender-neutral patch of The Wind Waker as a .vcdiff patch file using the free xdelta utility which outputs a modified ISO file. You can play the modified ISO using a GC emulator or you can play it on an actual GC/Wii using any method that allows custom ISO files to be played on the GC/Wii.

This project is an ongoing work in progress, but here are the gender-neutral patches for the games in the Zelda series that I’ve completed so far and have made freely available:

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2 thoughts on “The Gender-Neutral Wind Waker

  1. Except Link has a gender, his gender is male, he has a confirmed gender, you can name him whatever you like but he is still a he.

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    1. Hi Justin,

      I partially agree. You are correct in that the North American versions of the Zelda games refer to Link as a “he” regardless of the name given by the player, as well as the original Japanese versions though to a much lesser extent. But it’s not clear whether Nintendo used male pronouns for Link intentionally or just by default since most games in North America were heavily marketed towards boys in the 80s and 90s when the Zelda series first began. In one of my previous posts, I quoted Zelda series creator Shigeru Miyamoto and series producer Eiji Aonuma who have both said that they intended for Link to be more of an avatar for the player rather than a defined character. I don’t think that they have ever said that Link’s gender is an important trait or that Link must necessarily be male. I don’t see any problems with making Link gender-neutral so that players can form their own opinions about Link’s gender (or not even think about gender at all) when playing as Link. There are many gamers like myself who enjoy playing the Zelda games with Link serving as an avatar that allows us to project ourselves into the game world. The wonderful thing about this patch using gender-neutral language is that it harms no one and it allows all players to experience the game however they wish to experience it.

      I’m not seeking to change your mind or anybody else’s mind about Link being male. If you would like to play the game and think of Link as being male like yourself, you can play Nintendo’s version or you can play this gender-neutral patched version. The gender-neutral language doesn’t change anything and if you play through it, you will find that it doesn’t stop you from thinking that Link is male, which is perfectly fine.

      It might help to think of this gender-neutral patch as just an accessibility improvement to make the game more accessible to more people. If my daughter would like to play the game and think of Link as female like herself, she can play this gender-neutral patched version and it won’t call her a boy. If a transgendered person would like to play as Link and think of Link as transgendered or not having a gender at all, they can play this gender-neutral patched version and it won’t call them a boy. Other people’s experience of the game should have no bearing on your experience of the game.

      I hope this helps to clarify. If you do play through the gender-neutral patched version, please let me know if you find any errors or problems. Thanks!

      -Tony

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