In the classic arcade game, "Donkey Kong," Mario dodges fireballs and climbs ladders to save damsel in distress, Pauline.


BLOCK: But video game developer Mike Mika's three-year-old daughter, Ellis, wanted to play it the other way around, where Pauline would rescue Mario.

MIKE MIKA: She goes right out of the - right out of the gate was like: I want to play the girl.


That's Mika, chief creative officer at the game company Other Ocean Interactive. He's been in the industry for more than 20 years and has worked on games from the Atari 2600 to the X-Box 360. But this latest project was on a smaller and more personal scale.

BLOCK: It started when he had to explain to his daughter why she couldn't play the heroine in one of his favorite old games.

MIKA: I had to kind of tell her that this game doesn't let you do that. And she was actually bummed out by it. And it was totally a weird moment because I'm like, well, she really is bummed by this. And she likes "Donkey Kong" more than the other game because she can actually play it.


BLOCK: But the idea stuck with him. So the next night, he started tinkering with the system.

MIKA: And once I started going, it was almost like when you pull a string out of a sweater, one thing led to another and another. And it was just really exciting. And as I started doing it, I'm like, Oh, I should put this on Facebook so my friends can see what I'm doing 'cause they'll like it.

CORNISH: By morning, Mika had Pauline jumping barrels and climbing ladders on her way to save Mario from the giant ape. One of his friends posted a screen grab of his modified "Donkey Kong" to Reddit. It quickly went viral; more than 600,000 views on YouTube and more than 1,000 comments.

BLOCK: The video has ignited a gender-role debate. But Mika says he didn't hack "Donkey Kong" to make a statement. He just wanted to do something special for his daughter.

MIKA: I wish I had a camera because when she saw that she could play Pauline, like, it was a quick glance and a big smile and then it's like, OK, that worked.

BLOCK: A tough question from his three-year-old daughter, answered by hacking "Donkey Kong."

MIKA: For me, it's like I'll be asked probably so many times, and I have been, of things that are just impossible, like, No, we can't go to the Moon tonight to eat cheese or - those sorts of things. But when she asked like, Hey, can I play the girl on "Donkey Kong?" It's something that, like a light went off. It's like, this I can do. I know I can do this. I have the tools. I have the power.


MIKA: This is something - the one thing probably I'll ever be able to do that's outrageous, it will be this one.


BLOCK: And for Mike Mika, that was worth all the points.

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