Her Interactive Collections at ICHEG

Her Interactive, creator of the popular Nancy Drew games, has donated a large collection of games, design drafts, memoranda, press materials, focus group studies, player correspondence, and other materials that document the company’s history, the development of their Nancy Drew games, and the attitudes of girls towards gaming over the past 20 years.

Nancy Drew has captured the imagination of girls since her fictional debut in 1930. Originally created by Edward Stratemeyer—whose Stratemeyer Syndicate also produced the Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift, and other mainstays of popular juvenile literature—Nancy Drew epitomized the “New Woman” of the era. The 19th Amendment gave the sexes equality in voting in 1920, female participation in workplaces and universities soared during this period, and the automobile offered many women newfound mobility and freedom. Nancy Drew fired the imagination of her readers as she raced across the countryside in her blue roadster, hunting clues, collaring bad guys, and solving mysteries.

Sixty-nine years after Nancy Drew’s literary debut, Her Interactive began creating games infused with her trademark smarts and spunk. Begun as a division of American Laser Games (the donation includes an arcade game from American Laser Games), Her Interactive released its first game, McKenzie & Company, a dating-sim targeted at girls in 1995, followed a year later by The Vampire Diaries, based on Lisa Smith’s series of teen romantic thrillers. In 1997 the company began making a game based on the Nancy Drew books, and in 1999 it released Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill, the first of more than 20 titles about the girl detective. These have sold, collectively, more than nine million copies.

Her Interactive’s singular focus on games for girls separates it from almost every other game company over the last two decades. Guided for many years by Megan Gaiser, currently the company’s Chief Creative Strategy Officer, Her Interactive persevered in the face of conventional wisdom that gaming was for boys—an early company slogan proclaimed that Her Interactive made “games for girls who aren’t afraid of a mouse.” As the number of female players of video games has grown, the company has continued to produce for girls high-quality, high-fun games that emphasize problem-solving and exploration.

The design documents, walkthroughs, press materials, business studies, and other materials in this collection show how Her Interactive has taken games like Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger from initial concept to final product. Historians interested in the relationship between gender and gaming will find these records particularly valuable, as focus groups studies, surveys, and correspondence from players offer insights into what girls look for in games and how Her Interactive has created games that connect with them. The letters from girls who have played these games offer a rare look at the meaning players have found in the games the company produces.

Particularly powerful is correspondence with the family of Rachel Vaughn. Rachel loved the Nancy Drew games, and when she received a diagnosis of terminal kidney cancer, she wished to visit the studios of Her Interactive and have a character based on her put into one of their games. She was not well enough to visit the company’s offices, but Her Interactive staff members visited her before she died, dedicated Tomb of the Lost Queen to her, and named a character after her. The thank you letter from her parents to Her Interactive brought tears to my eyes. It’s a testament to the impact great games can have on people’s lives.

ICHEG is proud to provide a permanent home of this collection for Her Interactive materials.