Did you ever want to be the Princess instead of Mario or Luigi when you were a kid? I’m talking like, the original Super Mario Bros. on NES. The one that came with Duck Hunt. Not the World/Kart games that came later and gave us the option of being like, 12 different characters. (Big ups to King Boo!) I’m talking like, World 8 domination in a pink, pettycoat-supported gown. Calm down, Mario. I won’t let them hurt you!

I definitely wanted that. And it seems as if a 3 and a half-year-old girl named Ellis wanted that too in her game of choice, Donkey Kong. In Donkey Kong, the damsel in distress is named Pauline. And Ellis wanted to be Pauline instead of Mario. (Yep. A short, stocky Italian plumber gets all the girls in all the games. Go figure.)

When I was Ellis’ age, this is where Barbie-play would come in. I’d take it from the screen to the floor of my bedroom, and Ken would be totally helpless on top of my bookshelf, guarded by the great and powerful Skipper. But after Ellis was exposed to Super Mario Bros. 2, where she happily played the part of Princess Toadstool, she was upset to discover she couldn’t do the same in Donkey Kong. Lucky for her, Ellis’ dad Mika makes video games for a living.

Mika managed to tweak the game and turned Pauline into the heroine (you can see the finished product here), but little did they know that Ellis’ innocent request would spark some serious dialogue:

The majority of video games have stuck with the guy-rescues-girl formula over the years, and when Mika flipped those roles, the internet got involved. Is that something you think about as a girl gamer? Which character gender do you prefer? Does it matter? Do you kind of secretly wish we could all still wear pettycoats? (I do!)

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