Fans Take Videogame Damsels Out of Distress, Put Them in Charge

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Playing “Donkey Kong” this spring, Mike Mika’s 3-year-old daughter Ellis asked him why it is always the mustached Mario who saves Pauline, the damsel in a pink dress who gets kidnapped by a gorilla.

The game has no option for the girl to save the boy. It just works like that, the dad told his daughter. “She was bummed out,” he says.

So Mr. Mika, a 39-year-old videogame developer in Emeryville, Calif., hacked the classic game’s software to make the damsel into a heroine who saves the plumber Mario. He published his version, dubbed “Donkey Kong: Pauline Edition,” online, where it has been downloaded more than 11,000 times since it was posted in March.

The Big Game Battle

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In a slick two-minute trailer from David Fincher, the director of “The Social Network” and “Fight Club,” a young boy is stolen from his home, turned into a surgically enhanced supersoldier known as “Master Chief,” then set loose to battle hordes of evil aliens.

The splashy preview isn’t for Hollywood’s latest major motion picture. It’s part of the elaborate build up to the release of “Halo 4,” the latest installment of Microsoft’s blockbuster videogame for the Xbox 360. When it debuts on Tuesday, the game, in development for four years, could easily end up bigger than most movie releases. Its predecessor, “Halo 3” sold $300 million worth of copies in the first week following its 2007 release.

Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to ensure that every male under 45 in America knows “Halo 4” is on its way. In partnership with PepsiCo, there will be Halo-themed Mountain Dew and Halo Doritos. Boys can wear Halo Axe deodorant while playing a Halo version of Risk.