The parenting story that has gone viral today is that a dad named Mike Mika hacked the classic Donkey Kong video game so his daughter could play as Pauline, the girl who Mario tries to save. So instead of Mario saving Pauline from Donkey Kong, she saves Mario.
Mike’s daughter had been enjoying playing as the Princess in Super Mario Bros. 2, which happens to be my favorite video game of all time, and she was disappointed to learn she couldn’t be the princess in Donkey Kong as well. So her dad took care of it.
“Having kids is incredible. And having a daughter is something special. I get the opportunity to see the world through her eyes. 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.
I didn’t set out to push a feminist agenda, or try to make a statement. I just wanted to keep that little grin lit up on my daughter’s face every time we sit down to play games together.”
Sure, a good number of video games throughout history have featured a male hero who saves a female; that concept caters to a male audience who is wired to solve problems and earn the love and respect of a beautiful female, not to socialize and network with friends like Farmville on Facebook.
The earliest example of an action-based video game where the lead character is a female hero is Metroid; though you wouldn’t know the character is a female until you beat the game.
That’s one of the many reasons I always loved Super Mario Bros. 2; because it was fun (and weird) to play as a female in an action game. I wasn’t ashamed to play as a character who wore a pink dress. I just wanted to win!
In fact, Super Mario Bros. 2 is still often referred to by those who didn’t own the game growing up like I did as “isn’t that the one where you can play as the Princess?”.
Today, Mike Mika has earned cool points with parents across America for thinking of such a clever idea to help his daughter feel special and loved.
It’s a big, dangerous world out there and it’s my job to keep this little bambino safe. But I must channel my fears into positive, rational energy.
There is plenty of truth in the stereotype that parents are over-protective with their first child. I know, because I’m living it right now. Subconsciously, I preview every potentially dangerous situation for Jack; no matter how improbable.
I am Jack’s protector- I can not let anything bad happen to him. Like Bruce Banner (the Incredible Hulk), I can instantly turn into the biggest beast of a monster in an effort to protect him. So while I am an average-looking, mild-mannered man, all it takes is Jack being in potential danger for me to transform into a potential killing machine.
But what is most relevant is that I prepare for Jack’s safety in every situation. So that I never have to rescue or save him. Being over-protective means preventing dangerous situations; not just worrying about them happening all the time.
For my 10th birthday on April 20th, 1991, my parents bought me exactly what I wanted the most: Bible Adventures, the Nintendo game. (Yes, it actually existed!) The game was modeled after my favorite video game ever, Super Mario Bros. 2, in that you could carry items above your head and throw them at enemies.
The most interesting (and disturbing!) thing in Bible Adventures was that if you played as Moses’ sister Miriam, you held baby Moses over your head and for some unexplainable reason, if you pressed the B button, you would throw the infant Moses onto the ground…
Miraculously, he would never be injured; whether you tossed him onto the hard concrete sidewalk, on top of a giant mutant spider, directly into a guard throwing spears, or into the river. But I was a 10 year-old boy, so I didn’t let the physical practicality or the Biblical incorrectness of the game bother me too much. But I did have a lot of fun repeatedly throwing baby Moses onto the sidewalk and watching him bounce, cry for a second, then instantly start smiling again. Needless to say, Bible Adventures did not receive the Nintendo Seal of Approval.
Since the day Jack was born, I have always been fearful that I will drop him; knowing that unlike the invincible Nintendo version of baby Moses, my son would not simply bounce and smile afterwards. So now that he is beginning to crawl, it means I carry him around less. Which means I worry less about dropping him, and more about him getting into all kinds of other troubles.
With good reason, I worry about him drowning, being run over by a car, getting electrocuted, choking, falling, getting attacked by a dog, or maybe even getting swooped up by a long-lost pterodactyl. It even scares me to type my fears aloud, even if the last one was a joke.
I am the Papa Bear. I will do whatever it takes to protect Mama Bear and Baby Bear. Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.