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Game Changer: Dad has princess save Mario!

  • Daughter wanted to play 'Donkey Kong' as female character
  • Dad: Most modern games let her pick character to control
  • 3-year-old loves Donkey Kong, maybe because 'Mario looks just like her grandpa'
Game Changer: Dad has princess save Mario!

The tired old "damsel in distress" trope has just been blown to 8-bits.

And the fuse was lit by the 3-year-old daughter of a video game developer.

Mike Mika's little girl came to her dad one day with a pretty simple question. "Simple" in that perfectly peculiar little kid way of sounding simple, but actually being far more complicated to answer than it seems. Think: Why's the sky blue, why can't I watch more TV, why is Justin Timberlake called a singer when all he really does well is act and dance?

In this case, it was: "Why can't I play as the girl in the 'Donkey Kong'?" And while "Um, because the controller only makes Mario move," would have been an entirely acceptable if overly simplistic response, Mika gave this one some serious thought. And eventually, he did something about it.

"It made sense," he wrote in Wired. "We had just played 'Super Mario Bros. 2' on the NES a few days before, and she became obsessed with playing as Princess Toadstool."

In a perfect collision of professional know-how and daddy heroism, he hacked the classic video game and went all "Face/Off" on it, swapping Mario with Pauline (precursor to the eventual Princess Peach) so that his daughter could control the female character and save the caterpillar-stached plumber.

Even for a pro, Mika found himself presented with plenty of challenges (including that he "needed to reduce Pauline’s height -- she is three tiles tall to Mario’s two, a throwback to when "Donkey Kong" was going to be a Popeye game) in giving Mario the most extreme of makeovers. But the end result is an undeniable success:

Mika had posted progress updates on Facebook, one of which wound up on Reddit, drawing attention to his kick-ass act of daddy devotion.

"Of all of the older games, she most enjoys playing 'Donkey Kong,'" he wrote. "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. 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."

Clearly the Internet has embraced his reworked video game with the enthusiasm of a barrel-chucking gorilla. But how did it go over with his most important critic?

After staying up almost through the night to complete the game, Mika says, "Just like clockwork, she woke up and sat on my lap asking to play 'Donkey Kong.' Only this time, she could play as Pauline. She was excited! But for all she knew, I just figured out how to get Pauline to work. And that was fine. I wasn’t expecting it to change her life."

Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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