Her Interactive is a video game company based out of Bellevue, Washington. Their mission and vision is to be a pioneer in creating games that engage and entertain young female gamers. Their core values of quality in games, quality in environment, and quality in staff is reflected in their long line of successful products. Her Interactive has produced games for mobile devices, gaming consoles, and computers. They are by far most well-known for their mystery adventure Nancy Drew computer game series. With their release of their thirty-second game, Sea of Darkness, in May 2016; Her Interactive is constantly creating new content and producing trailers to garner up excitement amongst their rather large fan base .
The Her Interactive division of American Laser games was created in May 1995. Her Interactive eventually parted ways and became independent from its parent company a few years later.
In the Nancy Drew computer game, the player plays the role of a teenage detective, Nancy Drew, as she travels the globe to solve life-threatening cases. Many of these games are based on various Nancy Drew novels, mostly published under Simon & Schuster. The entire game is from the perspective of Nancy Drew. The player can choose to be a Master, Senior, or Junior Detective depending on the difficulty level that they prefer as well as the game they choose. If a player chooses Senior Detective they will have to solve more complex puzzles in a shorter amount of time and receive less hints from Nancy’s friends in the game. The player attempts to solve cases by investigating crime scenes, talking to key suspects, and searching for potential leads. Each game is a different case that is filled with complex puzzles, plot twists, and tend to end with an intense chase scene. Once you have solved the case, you have completed the game.
The character of Nancy Drew is often lauded as an iconic figure celebrated by many prolific women including Hillary Clinton, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Sonia Sotomayor . Due to changes in publisher, culture, and authors, the character of Nancy Drew has changed significantly over time. Many of the Her Interactive games are based off of early 1980s Nancy Drew Books. In many early stories of the Nancy Drew series, Nancy often breaks laws but is still celebrated after solving cases. In the second volume of the stories,The Hidden Staircase, she receives a revolver from her father at the age of 16. In addition, she is held hostage, knocked out, and goes undercover to a cult meeting.
Nancy Drew is one of the few video games geared specifically towards girls. When this game came out, it gained a ton of hits from girls. Nancy Drew was different in that there was not gore, violence, and feelings of competitiveness in most other video games. Although it is a video game, this still promotes girls in a technical field. It encourages female interest in gaming which could lead to computer science and engineering. The game itself focuses on solving problems creatively and thinking out side of the box in order to accomplish different tasks including puzzles, games, and riddles. There is a combination of doing individual work and asking other characters in the game for help.
Girls who play games targeted to girls, such as with the game, Nancy Drew, are proven to gain a boost in self-esteem and feel more connected to their families. They also feel less depressed and have a better mental health . Game modules such as allowing Nancy Drew to accomplish a certain goal in the game gives girls the confidence that they can achieve goals in real life. Because girls prefer games that require less action and competition, Nancy Drew games are a great fit for girls to learn from. Nancy serves as an excellent role model for young girls as well. Nancy defies gender roles, and shows young girls how to be self-driven, bold, confident, and self-reliant.
Since Nancy Drew has known to be a great model to young girls, girls who play Nancy Drew as the narrator in the game will feel like they are in control and possess the qualities that Nancy Drew has. Girls will feel connected to the character and the choices that the girls make in the game will be reflected in their own life. If a girl makes the wrong choice in the game, she will realize it is wrong since Nancy Drew will get hurt, and her connectivity to the game will allow her to realize to not make the same choice in real life. Girls will enjoy a game more if they can feel like they have a sense of belonging in the game.
The Difficulty Level
As previously mentioned, the player has the option to choose between Junior and Senior Detective. There is a big difference between the difficulty levels. The game at Junior level is already hard enough, but Senior Detective takes it to the next level. On Senior Detective, characters that are meant to assist the player refuse to give advice and pivotal points in the game and difficult puzzles must be solved in half the time. The games are rated for ages 10 and up; however, the difficulty level of the puzzles and tasks for surpass the ability of some adults. It is clear that the company is aware of this dilemma because whenever they come out with a new game, a strategy guide is released the same day for $9.99 in addition to the game that costs $19.99 .
The company seems to contradict its core value of quality in games. Yes, the games are well made. However, if the target audience cannot complete the game without purchasing a strategy guide is that truly a quality game?
The company has created a space for online community on their site through message boards. The problem with the message boards is that they have a number of restrictions. Most of the rules are there to benefit the users such as no bullying, harassment, sharing personal information, etc. However, the rules prevent users from giving each other step-by-step advice, or walkthroughs. They want users to give each other hints, but when a player has been stuck on the same puzzle for weeks sometimes hints are not enough . Users often share spoilers regardless, but they will black it out so that it can only be seen if a user highlights over the section.
The attempt of restriction or censorship of step-by-step instruction, explicit answers, or external links is simply there to benefit Her Interactive. The strategy guide is meant to be that step-by-step instruction. The creators of the game have created the game knowing that users will need external help to complete the games; thus many players have turned to external sites for walkthroughs in retaliation to the censorship and the charging for a strategy guide that should be free.
Lack of Consequences
The games are meant to target young girls that are still developing their concept of what is and is not morally correct; yet the game presents some pretty serious moral issues. In the game, Nancy faces decisions that could lead to her death, she steals, and could easily be convicted of breaking and entering hundreds of times per game. It is almost impossible to create an action detective game without these issues coming up; however, there are some serious lack of consequences to Nancy actions. First of all, Nancy can die in the game if she makes a poor decision. In a way that is great, because it shows that there are consequences to making bad decisions. On the same vein, when Nancy “dies” the screen goes black and the player is given a prompt that immediately lets them try again. The game never explains what was the consequence for the action of Nancy’s fatal error. Sometimes the error is because she is caught before solving the case or she falls of a ledge, but the users is never given an explanation for why their decision was a bad one. Lastly, Nancy constantly breaks the law. She steals evidence and breaks into places without permission. The game constantly teaches girls that the only way to win the game is by breaking the law. At the end of the game she is applauded by authorities and is never charged or reprimanded for the many laws she has broken.
Most of the Nancy Drew novels in the series were written decades before the creation of Her Interactive. Many trails that Nancy Drew experiences would be considered much more odd and dangerous than perhaps in the context of the times. Using a cultural icon for the past also represents a different set of ethical issues. Would changing the essence of Nancy Drew to be a rule-following detective alter the significant value her persona has had for many women?
- Her Interactive: About Us, 22 February 2016 http://www.herinteractive.com/about-us/overview/
- Teen girls may benefit more from playing video games with their parents than boys, a study finds, 01 February 2011 http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/01/news/la-heb-video-games-20110201
- Her Interactive: Shop Games, 22 February 2016 http://www.herinteractive.com/shop-games/all-games/
- Her Interactive: Message Boards Rules, 22 February 2016 http://community.herinteractive.com/faq.php?faq=rules2#faq_ruleslist