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WiiU

Link's Gender Doesn't Matter

by Justin Berube - April 14, 2016, 10:26 am PDT
Total comments: 25

I thought about the importance of the Link character and came to some conclusions.

By now I'm sure most readers of the site have heard about the latest rumor in regards to the new installment of The Legend of Zelda series coming to Wii U: that players will have the option to choose between a male or female incarnation of Link. If true, this means for the first time in a main installment of the Zelda series that the player will be able to play as a female Link. I've already seen some people complaining about the possibility of Link being female in this game, but does Link's gender really matter?

When we look back at the character of Link we know he was initially designed to be the player's "link" to the magical land of Hyrule. Very little importance has been placed on Link's own character, making him more of a blank slate for players to fill with their own feelings. The proof for this is the fact that players are given the option to name Link whatever they want at the start of every Zelda game.

As a blank slate, Link's own personality and feelings have hardly been explored throughout the series. Sure, we know the hero has a background of being a reborn soul that tries to muster up the courage to do what's best for the people of his land. But aside from that, and some in game facial reactions, we don't know much about Link as a character. We aren't supposed to fit him into a defined box because, deep down, Link is supposed to be part of us.

Unfortunately for many, the "us" Link has represented over the franchise's 30 year history has been a male. With more women playing video games than ever, now is a great time to allow for a choice. In fact, a female version of Link known as Linkle has just been introduced to the Zelda spinoff game, Hyrule Warriors Legends. So this idea isn't that far fetched outside of the rumor.

Does adding the female option for Link hurt the series at all? No. Those that know about the Zelda series are aware that the storyline takes place over hundreds of years and that a new Link is reborn as the hero, though sharing the same soul, across the multiple Zelda stories. So why would having a version of Link born female hurt the Zelda story? The only way I can see it being an issue is if Link's specific gender plays into the plot. If that's important for any reason then the developers could remove gender choice from that particular game.

I'm not advocating that the old Zelda games get remade to include a female Link option; I think that would be wrong from a historical standpoint. Also because there have been some love interests for the male Link in various Zelda titles. These haven't been fully explored in past games plots, but changing Link's gender in those games could ruin original intent which, again, I'd rather preserve.

One other point I'd like to bring up is that the female version of Link could be implemented in interesting ways. What if the female Link is in fact Linkle and plays much differently than Link while utilizing her crossbows instead of Link's typical sword and shield? Or what if both Link and Linkle coexist in the same game, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and the player can choose who they want to use at various points? There are multiple possibilities.

Overall, being given the option to choose Link's gender in the game and building the world around either choice is something worth embracing since it could open the Zelda series up to a more diverse group of players who want their "link" to Hyrule to be a character who more closely represents themselves. If you still have a problem with it, suck it up, pick the traditional male version of Link, and enjoy the Zelda franchise as you always have. This way everybody wins.

Images

Talkback

Ian SaneApril 14, 2016

If a game had Link and Linkle play differently and you could switch between them I would prefer to have Zelda playable.  The gender choice makes sense for a game where you play the same character the whole time to allow for personal customization.  But if you're playing as two characters, one of each gender, why go with what is essentially a new female character when there already is a prominent female character that has been in the series since day one?

Evan_BApril 14, 2016

I've already said my share on this, but I think that games require context, and giving gender options can either enhance that context or completely ruin it. Some games do it well- with this being Nintendo's first foray into the concept (games like Pokemon and XCX don't really count), I am not very hopeful, but I'll reserve my judgment of its implementation when finish playing the game.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorApril 14, 2016

Quote from: Ian

If a game had Link and Linkle play differently and you could switch between them I would prefer to have Zelda playable.  The gender choice makes sense for a game where you play the same character the whole time to allow for personal customization.  But if you're playing as two characters, one of each gender, why go with what is essentially a new female character when there already is a prominent female character that has been in the series since day one?

Chances are, the Princess Zelda in the new game will essentially be a brand new character as well. ;)

fred13April 14, 2016

I'd LOVE a co-op game where 1 player played as Link while the other Played as Linkle. They could even split up and use the gamepad as a second screen.
I have playing co-op with Hyrule Warriors and I really hope (though I also really doubt) that this will happen.

DonkeyBilly KongApril 14, 2016

There are different types of games, and I think Nintendo has told us that Zelda is one, while making games like the other.

One of the hallmark features of Western RPGs is choice.  Not just dialogue boxes that lead to the same result, but truly choosing how you want to play the game.  You may choose to be noble, never stealing or mistreating even terrible people.  On the other extreme is playing as a complete psychopath, killing everything that moves, from enemies to little old ladies walking their dogs.  The dog too.  While many games fumble in execution of true choice and the fully realized consequences, the character that you play really feels like the character you've created.  It is your avatar.

Nintendo has said from the beginning that Zelda is this type of game.  They let you name your character for that reason.  As a longtime Nintendo fan, I've always considered that gospel.  The whole discussion around this topic has made me realize how empty that is, though.  As much as Zelda or Groose or Ganondorf, Link is an established character.  When I play a Zelda game, who Link is and what he does are predetermined almost entirely.  The actions I take don't define him at all.  Instead, the actions the game allows me to take teach me who he is.  He cares about Zelda and would die for her.  No creature's pain is too small for him to overlook.  He never thinks of himself, but with a mystical courage, is always moving towards danger; not with recklessness, but with purpose.  He is innocent.  The world is all new to him, outside of his little town.  With each new vista or culture or experience, his face is full of wonder.

Yes, most games feature a different reincarnation of Link, but they all carry the same spirit.

I am not saying that a female Link would be bad.  There are arguments for both sides, and Nintendo has likely had them in many ways internally.  I do agree with Ian that there is already a strong female lead and would like to see more done with her.  There is also the option of having no Link, Zelda, or Ganon.  Carmine was getting at the heart of what Zelda was to him in the other thread, and that sense of adventure could be even stronger if we were given a blank avatar character going on a unique quest (or just exploring) in Hyrule.  Perhaps our actions may lead to a pivotal story point where our character is endowed with the triforce of courage, wisdom, or power...

nickmitchApril 14, 2016

I'm fine with a female Link, but if it's Linkle and she plays differently, I'll be a bit upset. Ian's point about "why not just let me play as Zelda?" Is valid, but I also don't wanna have to play through the new Zelda twice. Unless you can just switch back and forth. That would be ok.

StratosApril 14, 2016

Or you just go Donkey Kong 64-style and be forced to play as different characters to collect different colored triforce pieces on each level for each character and call that "gameplay depth". ;)

ShyGuyApril 14, 2016

As long as Tingle remains female I'm happy.

StratosApril 14, 2016

Tingle is asexual.

Of course it matters. Gannondorf is just gonna be laughing when Linkle shows up at the final battle.

Quote:

G: So the gods have sent... a GIRL?!

Linkle: . . .

Quote:

Choice is something worth embracing since it could open the Zelda series up to a more diverse group of players who want their "link" to Hyrule to be a character who more closely represents themselves.

It will certainly open up the series... to retarded complaints. From now on, every time the snowflakes don't get their way, the developer will be accused of not being PC enough.

ShyGuyApril 15, 2016

If they don't make Link fat, old and bald to represent me, I am going to go on twitter and call for a blacklisting of Japan.

Ian SaneApril 15, 2016

Quote from: ShyGuy

If they don't make Link fat, old and bald to represent me, I am going to go on twitter and call for a blacklisting of Japan.

You joke but when I played Mass Effect I was actually a little annoyed that my character was in such good shape.  What kind of fantasy is the game providing if I have to be handsome to get busy with alien babes?  Isn't it better wish fulfillment if I can pull that off looking like myself? :)

In Zelda's case do I want to fantasize that I'm a young elf in great shape saving the world or that I can save the world as a slightly overweight 35 year old geek with a bad back and asthma?  I tried to make my Xenoblade X guy look like me and the best I could do was Lau Chan from Virtua Fighter with his pony tail cut off.

The fact NWR felt the need to write an article explaining this tells me maybe I'm getting too old for internet gaming forums.


That, or it's a sign of how starved for something to write about the NWR staff is.

Or it's something Justin felt the need to write about.

Quote from: Shaymin

Or it's something Justin felt the need to write about.

My comment was in no way a criticism of Justin's article. 

Mop it upApril 19, 2016

I ain't touching this one with a ten-foot Master Sword.

TomatoApril 19, 2016

Quote from: Zap

It will certainly open up the series... to retarded complaints.

Idiotic complaints about Zelda games make up about half of their discussion anyway, historically: "Why doesn't this look edgy?" "Why is this so linear?" Making the games more inclusive isn't going to change that. For example, you're complaining because you're terrified that ONE of a dozen iterations of Link having the OPTION of being female will somehow force all  future developer decisions to succumb to the evil desires of "progressives". You're so scared of losing your special male access to representation in mainstream media that you don't even want the choice of gender to be available.  Maybe you've been the snowflake all along.

pokepal148April 19, 2016

Isn't the entirety of Skyward Sword just one big idiotic comment by the Zelda team themselves?

Quote:

Idiotic complaints about Zelda games make up about half of their discussion anyway

lol true

Quote:

you're complaining because you're terrified that ONE of a dozen iterations of Link having the OPTION of being female will somehow force all  future developer decisions to succumb to the evil desires of "progressives".

of course, because progressives never force people to do something they don't want to do.

BRB, gotta go check my male privilege; I think I left it in the bathroom when I was standing up taking a leak with one hand while reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire with the other.

Evan_BApril 22, 2016

"The decline of Rome was natural and inevitable- instead of inquiring why Rome was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that Rome remained so strong, for so long..."

RABicleMay 22, 2016

Quote from: Zap

Of course it matters. Gannondorf is just gonna be laughing when Linkle shows up at the final battle.

Quote:

G: So the gods have sent... a GIRL?!

Linkle: . . .

This would be pretty good actually as the misogyny and underestimation of a girl would help cast more negative light over Gannondorf's character.

Quote from: Zap

It will certainly open up the series... to retarded complaints. From now on, every time the snowflakes don't get their way, the developer will be accused of not being PC enough.

You know there's nothing stopping that right now right? Why do you hate free speech and choice so much anyway?

gayla8May 23, 2016

It would be awesome if gender-bender Link will become a redhead.  ;D

supermario2kMay 23, 2016

If you really want to get into a topic of this nature there is a whole can of worms waiting to be opened.
The Link Avatar doesn't need to be a female to represent females or for females to identify with. They could always just assume Link is transgender and is a girl trapped in a mans body living in a mans world.
I personally am all for giving players options so I have problem with that but I am also a fan of tradition. Nintendo has a long history of traditions and it is mostly when they break from that things go south, when they do things the traditional way people feel safe and warm inside, like Nintendo is a safe place they can return to their childhood if they need to. Make too many "modern" changes to a game as traditional as this with a long history and you are bound to get negative feedback from the community.

This takes me to my real issue. I am all for change, I am all for improvement and I am all for giving the players options, but if you are going to change the game so much it is no longer recognized as Zelda, then why not just make it an entirely different game? Nintendo has been hurting for new franchises for a while why not just not make this game Zelda and just throw out a new game set in the TP engine since they got that all retooled anyways? Minor changes though are tolerable enough as long as the core game is still the same.

Quote from: RABicle

You know there's nothing stopping that right now right? Why do you hate free speech and choice so much anyway?

I'm all for free speech, I'm just against listening to it.

nickmitchMay 23, 2016

Quote from: gayla8

It would be awesome if gender-bender Link will become a redhead.  ;D

Pretty sure it's cannon that Link has a soul, so that's a no-go.

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