I’d committed the cardinal sin of forgetting to say “soccer” before “balls” while coaching practice. You should never, ever shout, “I need balls!” at a bunch of fifth grade boys. After the giggling subsided I announced, “Balls said the Queen, if I had ‘em I’d be King,” (which, for the record, I’d learned from my mother).
One kid looked up at me, confused, and asked, “Wait. Which is better? King or Queen?” Thereby supporting my theory that today’s generation of boys aren’t as likely to think that female things are lesser things. At least, as long as they aren’t Barbie pink.
So yesterday morning, I told my 13-year-old son, Nicholas, about the lunch I was going to have with Megan Gaiser, CEO of HER Interactive, which produces the Nancy Drew video game series.
“It’s the only company making video games specifically for 10 – 15-year-old girls,” I said. “Maybe you’d like to try out a Nancy Drew game?”
His face scrunched and he looked at me as if I’d just suggested he eat kitty litter for breakfast. “No!” he protested.
“It’s not all lip gloss and clothes,” I said. “It’s not Hannah Montana. It’s a mystery game, that’s all.”
He shook his head.
“Well, was ‘Alice in Wonderland’ a girl movie?” I asked. He looked confused, as though I’d said a non sequitur about dolphins or “Cake Boss” or soccer balls.
“It starred a girl, so is it a girl movie?” I asked, and he shook his head. “So why can’t you play Nancy Drew?”
“It’s the label,” he replied as if giving directions to the Village Idiot. “It’s labeled for girls.”
I told this story to Megan at lunch and she chuckled.
“We’re about making meaningful content,” she told me. “We are sick of stereotypes of women and girls — and the same goes for boys.” After all, she explained, “not all boys love violent video games.” I thought about our collection of games: FIFA Soccer, Super Mario Brothers, SIM City. Except for the part when Nick blows up the city he’d spent all afternoon building, she was right.
Megan says that the Nancy Drew series is as much for mystery lovers as it is for the girls they are created for, citing fans who are grandparents, middle-aged men and yes, even boys.
Try telling that to the retailers who wouldn’t stock the games back in the ’90s, telling Megan, “Girls don’t play video games.” So HER Interactive put the games up on Amazon, where they sold so well, the retailers came back to them a few years later, asking for them.
Since 2004, the Nancy Drew video game series has outsold Harry Potter, Myst and Tomb Raider. HER Interactive asked girls what they want in a video game and it turns out, it’s what non-girls like, too.
Today, they are launching a new game, “Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister,” which is Rated E. And wouldn’t you know, both of my boys have been playing it since I came home with it (and a bag of cookies…thanks, Megan!).
See? Megan and my son were both right: Don’t put a label on it.
As for Megan, well, she nearly quit the company when she was promoted to CEO from Creative Director, telling her then boyfriend (now hubby), “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” But he persuaded her to stick it out for three months and try to learn to do the job. She took classes in accounting and such, and interviewed CEO after CEO for nuggets of wisdom. In the end, she kept the job and now? Well, I do believe I have a entrepreneur’s crush on her.
Hmmm. I guess it’s good to be the Queen.