Why can’t Link be a girl? The better question is, why can’t Zelda be a main character?
The former is the question asked by the PBS Game/Show in its latest video. The host argues that Link of The Legend of Zelda series is simply a title given to the protagonist chosen by the game universe’s gods. He goes on to say that if that’s true, then having a female Link would work within the lore while encouraging more women to play the games.
But where does this idea come from that all women want from a game is to play as a female character? Every game protagonist doesn’t have to be a stand-in for the player. It’s childish, and a discredit to its audience.
I think I stopped “making myself” in video games when I was like, 12. When I can choose, I usually make female characters in games now. Why? Because it’s different, and it’s fun to do after playing so many male characters in games.
But saying you have to have a “player insert” in a game is ridiculous, and it’s equally ridiculous to think that just because Link is suddenly female that more women will want to play the game. It’s pandering. Men and women enjoy different genres of games, as this infographic shows.
That’s not to say that women aren’t “welcome” playing League of Legends, or that a man is somehow less masculine if he plays Candy Crush. But it does suggest that making Link a girl won’t make thousands of women everywhere play the next installment.
It’s different in a game like Mass Effect, where the main character’s gender is presented both ways from the start. But Link has been around for decades. While he’s what you might call more feminine than other male protagonists, his identity as a character is pretty clear; after all, Nintendo has barely varied from his classic look. You know Link when you see him.
The idea seems lazy. “Gender bending” popular characters doesn’t even solve the problem it sets out to address. You’re not actually creating a powerful female character – you’re just making the character an extension of a male one. Making Thor a girl is a gimmick. However, developing a character like Jean Grey, Catwoman or Black Widow actually means something, because those characters aren’t constantly being compared to their “male version” like female Thor, Supergirl or a girl Link would be.
And it’s especially asinine in a series like The Legend of Zelda because it already has a great female character in it. You know, the one the series is named after? Giving Zelda her own game is such a better idea than throwing a pair of boobs on Link and calling it a day. Develop her character. Make her essential to the narrative. And expand on her portrayal in Wind Waker, where she was already more than just a damsel in distress.
Ultimately, making Link a girl is a lazy attempt at getting women more interested in a series. If doing so magically increased a game’s female player base, companies would be all over that. Women simply like different types of games, and a female Link won’t change that. All it would do is continue a disturbing trend where male characters are lazily gender swapped and actually female, actually intriguing characters like Zelda are left in castles to waste away.