From book to computer: Nancy Drew as inspiration for girls interested in coding, math and science

For many of us, there is something specific from our childhood that brings us instant joy. For some, it might be Disney movies or sugary cereals but for me, it is Nancy Drew.

Many know the famous teenage detective from the fictional town River Heights who first appeared in the 1930 novel The Secret Of The Old Clock. But many might not know she is also a video game character. HeR Interactive, a video-game company that makes girl-focused games designed to interest more girls in coding and math, brought the spunky detective to life in 1998 with its first Nancy Drew video game titled Secrets Can Kill.

HeR Interactive says that it strives to “break the walls down of girl isolation in technology, math and science and inspire, interest, and encourage young girls to learn those “guy” skills…which are skills anybody can have.”

I was first introduced to Nancy Drew after my father decided to buy me a video game bundle since he had bought both my brothers Pokemon computer games.

The video game bundle had three disks for each one. The first was a “plan your wedding” game which featured adult-like mannequins that you could pick a wedding dress for. This was, to say the least, underwhelming. The second game was Barbie Riding Club and gave the player an opportunity to ride horses with Barbie. I found it terribly boring as you could only do one thing… ride horses.

The third game was called Nancy Drew Danger On Deception Island. Growing up in a French household, Nancy Drew was not a character I knew. Instead, I knew her French counterpart, Alice Roy.

My dad helped me download the game to our old Windows 7 computer desktop and as the slow graphics made an appearance on my screen while a voice whispered, “it’s up to you as Nancy Drew,” I knew this game was going to be different.

The game is played from Nancy Drew’s perspective, where you, the player, get to be her. The game starts with the introduction of Katie Firestone, a young marine biologist whose boat was destroyed by a mysterious person. It is up to you to figure out who or what broke Katie’s boat.

I was automatically hooked on the mystery and storyline of the game and even though it took me almost two weeks to complete, the excitement of figuring out all the puzzles and finding the bad guy made me want to play more.

I would go on to convince my parents to buy me another game, which I finished in a week. It wouldn’t be long until I had completed all the games in the series. In my downtime, I would watch YouTube walkthroughs of Nancy Drew video games I had already played. I was completely obsessed with the young detective and her adventures.

The Nancy Drew video games gave me the confidence to solve puzzles I once believed to be impossible. It ignited curiosity in me for everyday things and made me think of creative ways to solve problems.

Whether you are old or young, boy or girl, Nancy Drew has something for everyone and trust me, once you solve the mystery you will feel very accomplished.

Unfortunately, HeR Interactive’s momentum would dwindle and the last Nancy Drew game they put out would be in 2019. Although the company claimed it would make more games, none have been released since then and the company appears to have let go of most of its staff.

I still turn on my old dusty blue laptop and sit down with a nice cup of coffee now and then, to once again join Nancy Drew on her next adventure.

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