Why can’t Link be a girl?

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A female protagonist in The Legend of Zelda would be a great idea, and a much needed step forward for the industry.

If you haven’t already wet your pants and screamed at up to the heavens at the beauty that was the Zelda Wii U reveal at this year’s E3, let me tell you, you’re missing out. What we got was a brief snippet of footage showcasing a huge open world. Everything’s nice and peaceful, farmers farm while the cattle cattles and a lone figure sits on a horse surveying the tranquil scene. Then, as if from nowhere a big tentacle monster thing shooting lasers gives chase to the figure on the horse. In a very pretty series of high definition explosions and flames, the figure pulls of a hood and boom, it’s Link. He proceeds to lay the smackdown on the big tentacle beasty with some well placed arrows and that’s the end of the trailer. Cue applause.

Only, it might not have been Link in the trailer after all. Eiji Aonuma, director of the Zelda franchise stated that “he never said it was Link”. Predictably, a great deal of the internet lost its shit. Half of the fanbase set about claiming that this new character could be a woman, while the rest of the fans moaned about the fact that it wouldn’t be Zelda without Link. One particular genius commented that the figure in the trailer couldn’t be a girl because they didn’t have boobs. Leaving aside this particular mouthbreather’s ignorance on the many varieties in which the female form can appear, I was disheartened to see so many people react with such vehemence at the mere whisper of a rumour that Link could be female.

As quickly as the rumour began however, it was quickly quashed by Aonuma. The majority of the internet breathed a sigh of relief, which left me annoyed. It got me thinking, why can’t Link be a girl?

The Legend of Zelda 1

Before you shout out the entirely predictable (“Because he’s a boy!”) let me point out that for the last thirty years he has been wearing a cute green dress. In all seriousness though, since the very first Zelda game we’ve been able to name “Link” whatever we want to name him. For most of us, that’s our own name. Link is and has always been an extension of the player and can be anyone from Bob to Jack to Mr Bojangles, should the player choose. At this point in time, it shouldn’t be a secret to anyone that girls play video games (I mean, it’s almost as if they’re actually people too, right?). So, for the girls that play Zelda, Link has been a Sally or a Joanne or a Martha (or other names for women that don’t come from Emmerdale).

My point is, that if Link is always an extension of the player, and we dare to suggest the tremendous notion that females have indeed played a Zelda game in the past, then Link has indeed been a girl before.

There are no doubt people that will complain about this and say that technically, even if the character of Link has a girl’s name, the actual character is still a boy. Of course, they’re right, but that doesn’t mean that that shouldn’t be able to change in the future. Frankly, the more I think about it, the more bothered I am it hasn’t already happened in past games.

Link doesn’t speak. Link doesn’t exactly make massively masculine sounding noises (and even then, it wouldn’t be hard to record some female sound effects too) and his features would really only have to be altered very slightly, or not at all in some cases to make him look more feminine. It wouldn’t be difficult to give players the option to make Link a girl, or even just make him female and give players no choice.

The Legend of Zelda 2

Anyone that suggests a female Link would be too different character wise would do well to look at the likes of Samus Aran, Lara Croft or Bayonetta. All female characters, and all pretty awesome. Can you imagine what a boon it would be if one of gaming’s biggest icons was made into a girl? People would see that the world didn’t actually end, Zelda would still be an awesome game franchise and the character of Link would hardly be sullied. Lets’ be honest, he doesn’t have a consistent character anyway. We have Young Link, Toon Link, adult Link… why not girl Link?

As a brief aside, I can almost hear the cries of male fans complaining about how they’re supposed to feel about giving a female character a guy’s name and I would remind them that the girls have had to suffer through a similar fate since the late 80s.

Anway, while the likes of Samus Aran and Ms Croft are indeed awesome, they do in their own ways contribute to the unobtainable beauty standards for women that the media is so very well known for. Having a “tomboy” female Link (for lack of a better word) would be cool. A female role model in gaming that doesn’t have huge boobs or constantly perfect hair would be a nice change of pace.

I don’t think for one second that there aren’t people out there who would probably claim that if Link was a girl, they would never play Zelda again. I also don’t think that these people would hold out on that claim very long, because Zelda Wii U looks awesome. I think it’s a sad commentary on the majority of male egos out there that they couldn’t handle a character they look up to and love suddenly being a girl. Frankly, if fans can get over Link being turned into a cel-shaded cartoon character, I’m sure they can get over him having a vagina.

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