Opinion: Nintendo doesn’t owe us FemLink

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[Straight from our community blogs, Jinx has his own take on what he expected out of the gender choice option for Link ~Strider]

A few days ago Nintendo finally showed off its new Legend of Zelda game, Breath of the Wild. I felt like a kid again watching the trailer. It was everything I’d always wanted a Zelda game to be, and finally the epic scope of Hyrule was a reality. Yet while most of us were basking in the warm glow of a wonderful new game reveal, others were expressing their righteous indignation that Breath of the Wild was missing a feature none of us had any right to demand.

Here’s the thing. I really really, really, really want a Zelda game with gender options. Let me play as Zelda or Linkle or a version of Link that was reincarnated female. I don’t care. I always play women in games when given a choice, and I would enjoy Breath of the Wild more, tangibly more, if I could play as a girl instead. Back when the first trailer dropped, showing a Link that looked particularly androgynous, I got really excited. Could it be a female Link? Or a different, female protagonist? The gender excitement got turned up even more for everyone when some of the E3 game art appeared to feature two different versions of Link — one arguably more feminine than the other.

But when the game was finally revealed, Link was just… Link. Boy Link. Regular Link. Vanilla Link. The same Link that Link has always been for the last three decades. I was disappointed, but let’s be honest, it’s exactly what we should have expected. Nintendo never promised gender options, or even suggested that they might be available. We just let our imaginations get carried away.

So yeah. I wanted ‘FemLink,’ too. But you know what? Nintendo owes us nothing, not even an explanation. “We didn’t feel like it,” is all that’s needed. It’s their game and they can make it how they like. It’s their character, and they can portray him or her as they like. That’s their freedom, as developers, artists, and business people. It’s. Their. Character. And believe me, if we had gotten Girl Link I’d be saying the same thing to gamers crying that Nintendo had ‘ruined Zelda.’

While it’s okay to be disappointed — I certainly am — we should respect Nintendo’s right to make the games that it wants to make the way it wants to make them. Criticism is one thing, and just fine. But it’s another to become backseat developers, and to think that a particular game needs to be made in accordance to our own personal desires, rules, and politics.

We should be pushing for more games with female protagonists. We should be asking for more games to offer gender options. We should be getting more women involved in the industry itself. But singling out specific games like this is ridiculous, and criticizing a game series simply for being what it’s always been is nuts. It’s The Legend of Zelda. The main protagonist is a boy named Link. That’s the formula and has been since 1987. While it’s fine to hope for gender options or changes, expecting or demanding them of an established series is unreasonable.

So let’s step back and appreciate Breath of the Wild for what it is: an awesome new Legend of Zelda game. But let’s not act like we’re somehow entitled to have the game made to our own personal specifications over the will of the artists actually making it.

Even as I play Breath of the Wild, though, I’ll now be hoping for a new game starring Linkle. But it’s not something Nintendo owes me.

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