Gamer dad ranks on Mashable 'top pops' list for Donkey Kong hack
A gamer dad who hacked Donkey Kong so his daughter could play as the female character topped an online list ranking 10 hilarious and heroic dads.
Mike Mika, a designer with Other Ocean Interactive, a game studio based in St. John's and California, said he was shocked to find out he topped a Mashable list last week, ranking '10 Hilarious and Heroic Dads to Salute This Father's Day.'
Mika came up with a hack for the Nintendo classic Donkey Kong in March 2013 after his then-3-year-old daughter asked to play as Pauline, the female character awaiting rescue by Mario.
Mika said when he told her that wasn't how the game worked, she was upset, and he decided to try and fix that — but never expected the response to be so big.
When I grew up, video games was kind of a boys' club … and it seems even now that she's having problems finding characters she can relate to in video games- Mike Mika
"I'd say gobsmacked is a good word for it, I had no idea it was coming. This stuff happened a little while ago, so I thought it was already 15 minutes [of fame] up and they were done with it, and then wham, it comes up on Mashable," he said.
"It's a little weird 'cause I look at the list and I'm like, 'OK, I can see the Donkey Kong thing getting me on a list, but not number one — I'm not above a guy who took bullets for his kid.' It's a weird thing, but I'll take it, I guess."
A boys' club
Mike said while the was surprised to be at the top of the list — coming in ahead of Tom Hanks and Ziauddin Yousafzai — he's pleased that people seem to feel the same about relatability for young girls into gaming.
"When I grew up, video games was kind of a boys' club ... and I have a son who's older than her, and he didn't really get into video games and my daughter really did. And so seeing even now, after all that's gone on in the world, it seems that she's having problems finding characters she can relate to in video games, and that kind of puts me in action," he said.
Mike and the Other Ocean crew have a game in the works called IDARB, short for It Draws a Red Box, where people can play male and female characters, but also play as pieces of bacon or a glass of orange juice, to name a few.
He said while the folks at Nintendo couldn't really condone what he'd done to their game, they were pretty pleased with it in private.
"I was at a Nintendo party they were having and I felt like at any moment they might pounce on me or whatever, but instead it was kind of the complete opposite," said Mika.
"They thought it was great, but the hardest thing about working at Nintendo is you can't publicly come out and justify hacking one of their games, but they all felt really good about it and thought it was a good thing and, in fact, they said that it actually helped inform them on some of the next games they're working on."
After this experience with his daughter, making sure there's more open gender representation in his games is something he's more passionate about in his work.