Nancy Drew never let a locked door, nosy neighbor or kidnapping attempt stop her from solving a mystery. The fearless amateur detective’s cases have taken her to Crocodile Island and Tokyo, Japan, despite warnings from mysterious characters and her supportive father, lawyer Carson Drew. It’s been 85 years and Nancy is still sleuthing.
Nancy Drew’s character has transcended time ever since the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series debuted in 1930, as spin-offs have emerged every decade for audiences of all ages. Written by pseudonym ‘Carolyn Keene,’ the Nancy Drew stories have been told by many women authors who bring spunk, bravery and intelligence to a fiercely independent female character. On April 28, 1930, the first three Nancy Drew stories debuted as an “overnight success."
These days, Nancy Drew has exchanged her River Heights home phone for a smart phone and is able to jet-set easier than ever. Eighty-five years after her debut, Nancy Drew’s sleuthing jumps off the page in the form of Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew mystery PC/Mac computer games. The award-winning games, designed for girls of all ages, put the player in the shoes of Nancy Drew as she stumbles upon complex mysteries. Her Interactive debuted in December of 1998 with “Secrets Can Kill,” which was remastered to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Nancy Drew. Since then the games have sold more than 9 million copies.
“In our games, players get to become Nancy Drew and experience what it’s like to interrogate the eclectic suspects, track down clues, and navigate through rich environments to solve the mystery,” said Jared Nieuwenhuis, Her Interactive’s Director of Marketing. "We’re bringing the books and characters to life in an interactive way.”
Her Interactive’s adventures involve an eventful internship as deputy curator for a major museum in D.C. or going undercover as an Oklahoman university’s storm chaser. According to Nieuwenhuis, the most popular game is “Shadow at Water’s Edge,” in which Nancy seeks out what is haunting an inn in Kyoto, Japan. The interactive games let the players lead the way as fearless detectives.
These games for girls are not simplified for users or outwardly feminine. Her Interactive excels by creating games that challenge users to think critically as they solve mazes and puzzles within two different player levels. Nancy isn’t hot on the trail of the trendiest shoes at the mall. She’s exploring caves and repairing sink pipes. Nancy Drew’s audience expands to more than just girls and women. Nancy has left a mark on generations for the past 85 years and is known just as well as The Hardy Boys. In a society where women are underrepresented as media characters, Nancy Drew has become an iconic character respected by all.
The games have built an immense fan community with message boards supported by Her Interactive for discussing the games’ plots, tips for solving difficult puzzles and future games. The games’ creators also leave “Easter Egg” surprises within the games for players to find, a fan favorite.
It’s not surprising that Her Interactive, lead by CEO Penny Milliken, has inspired girls to follow their technological interests. More than half of the team is made up by women who write, market, design and bring the games to life.
“We’ve been inspiring girls to go into STEM-related careers long before it’s been on the collective conscious of most Americans,” Nieuwenhuis said. “Many of our games are designed and led by women who also take time to speak at schools and do other outreach to inspire STEAM, the ‘A’ being art in games.”
Nancy Drew may have had her 85th anniversary, but she’s still the same courageous 18 year-old girl from River Heights. However, in 2015, she’s using her computer mouse as a magnifying glass.