Gaming

Double Fine’s Hack ‘N’ Slash Celebrates Women & Tech

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It’s no secret I’m a fan of Double Fine’s adventure games. They’re fun, they’re elegant, and they’ve made me ponder everything from humanity to greed to Halloween costumes. But even I was surprised by the game dev’s latest title, Hack ‘n’ Slash.

Sure, it has a slick premise, vibrant setting, and retro game style, all things I knew I’d probably dig. But diving into the recently released early access version made me realize just how influential the game and its heroine, Alice, have the potential to be.

In Hack ‘n’ Slash, courageous, spunky elf Alice (who bears a resemblance to classic hero Link), must save the world from an evil wizard. Okay, we’ve all heard this story before, right?

But here’s the catch: punning on its name, Hack ‘n’ Slash is about…hacking. Yep, it’s just like it sounds: Alice uses her trusty USB-sword to interact with objects and alter their fundamental parameters. This means hacking into enemies and adjusting their health points, or using a debug mode to reveal hidden objects. It’s even possible to completely break the game with coding errors, forcing the player back to an earlier point to try again.

This is definitely innovative on its own, but think about this: in Hack ‘n’ Slash programming and game development — fields almost completely controlled and populated by men in the real world — are identified with a female protagonist. Players dive into the game’s code — as a woman.

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Now readers, we all know sexism in tech doesn’t start at the corporate level. The push against women in the field starts much earlier, when young girls fail to see themselves in tech roles. We know why this happens: because girls are repeatedly told they won’t succeed in programming and development careers thanks to untrue gendered stereotypes. They’re led to believe they don’t belong in that world, and growing up to find a tech scene steeped in brogrammer culture can almost make it seem true.

Alice shows just how wrong this is.

Hack ‘n’ Slash is a clever, unique game with a lot of potential. But best of all, thanks to Alice, girls can finally see themselves as active participants in the world of programming. It even gives them a chance to experience it in a safe, fun way.

And that is awesome. So good job, Double Fine. This is why I love you.

Writer, knitter, firebrand. Likes superheroes, cats, and changing the world.

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