Winda Benedetti reports that Mike Mika “didn’t have an agenda when he changed Donkey Kong” by hacking an old NES ROM and turning damsel in distress, Pauline, into Mario’s potential savior in what he has dubbed the Pauline Edition of Donkey Kong. No other agenda, that is, than to just “keep my daughter playing games with me” (“Damsel (not) in Distress: Dad hacks Donkey Kong for his daughter”, NBCNEWS.com, 12 March 2013). Nevertheless, clearly the alteration that he did make to the game, the role reversal of the game’s protagonist and the game’s object, has an effect on how one sees the game and what it communicates.
After all, Donkey Kong is in many ways the proto-damsel-in-distress, the proto-saving-the-princess game. It would lead to the “plumber saves princess” motif of Super Mario Bros. (and, yes, yes, I know that he was Jumpman before he was Mario, but, yeah, same guy), to saving Princess Zelda, and to the general tone that Nintendo struck with their boy friendly foray into the console market back in the mid-1980s.