Dare to Play: Nancy Drew for a New Generation

Nancy Drew is one of the most celebrated and recognizable characters of all time. Created by Edward Stratemeyer ( also creator of the Hardy Boys) in 1930, the character of Nancy Drew became the super-chic and intelligent heroine of her own series of mystery novels.

Nancy Drew is a fictional 18-year-old amateur sleuth (16 in earlier versions). She lives in the fictional town of River Heights[14] with her father, attorney Carson Drew, and their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen. Nancy’s mother died when she was three (10 in earlier versions). Nancy is often assisted in solving mysteries by her two closest friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, and also occasionally by her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson.

Nancy has often been described as a super girl: in the words of Bobbie Ann Mason, she is “as immaculate and self-possessed as a Miss America on tour. She is as cool as a Mata Hari and as sweet as Betty Crocker.” Nancy is wealthy, attractive, and amazingly talented.

“At sixteen she ‘had studied psychology in school and was familiar with the power of suggestion and association.’ Nancy was a fine painter, spoke French, and had frequently run motor boats. She was a skilled driver who at sixteen ‘flashed into the garage with a skill born of long practice.’ The prodigy was a sure shot, an excellent swimmer, skillful oarsman, expert seamstress, gourmet cook, and a fine bridge player. Nancy brilliantly played tennis and golf, and rode like a cowboy. Nancy danced like Ginger Rogers and could administer first aid like the Mayo brothers” (Wikipedia)
Nancy Drew has undergone numerous transformations over the years to keep her relevant to the generation. In 1998, Her Interactive began a series of Nancy Drew computer games and became my personal heroes. With their 27th game in the series released last week, the franchise is still going strong. Nancy is still the attractive and talented sleuth who is capable of thinking her way out of any situation (but who has also been known to karate-chop and threaten baddies with a gun).
Part of Her Interactive’s mission involves one simple fact: Girls play video games too- just like the executives that spearheaded the creation of the original novels realized that girls also read mystery novels. I’ve been playing Nancy Drew games since I was in the 4th grade. Before that, I really didn’t have any insight into the world of video games or computers. This is what sparked my interest and made me want to learn more. Not just about gaming, but each Nancy Drew games focus on some sort of niche or knowledge-base that the gamer has to call upon (this is usually in the form of a puzzle or a conveniently placed book) and in the process sneakily learn about things they may never have had exposure to. For example: Secret of the Scarlet Hand- you are a junior curator at a museum in Washington, D.C. and explore temple replicas, play traditional games, and explore a virtual exhibit while also learning what its like to work in a museum; Danger By Design, Phantom of Venice, Shadow at Water’s Edge and the Captive Curse all have puzzles involving other languages. I could go on and list examples for all 27 games- but I think I’ve made my point.
However, if you are still not sold that as an adult Nancy Drew is a role model, a friend of mine recently lent me ‘Confessions of a Teen Sleuth‘ by Chelsea Cain in which me learn that everything we thought we knew about Nancy Drew was a lie- invented by her unattractive, jealous college roommate, Carolyn Keene. The novel is Nancy’s true confessions about her life, from her time as the cool, trendy teenage to her elder years. Although it is a parody, Nancy experiences a lot of the same troubles women faced then and face now. Since I apparently all about books that relate to life to help you through issues, pick this book up.
Now I am about to play the crap out of the newest Nancy Drew game with my little bro. Yeah, that’s right. Boys can like Nancy Drew too. Here, enjoy these videos about female and homosexual video game characters:
PS: Oh and did I  mention the Nancy Drew manga?