The Institute for Research on Digital Literacies
The Institute for Research on Digital Literacies

Playing Like a Girl: Nancy Drew and Casual Games

March 1, 2023 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Since 1998, there have been 33 video games featuring iconic girl detective Nancy Drew. These mystery adventure games challenge popular assumptions about so-called “casual” games, and turn the investigative work of the girl detective into playable experiences of games and gender. By examining the games’ interface, environments, and movement or navigation strategies we can see how these designed elements create a gameplay experience of anxiety and vulnerability: in the Nancy Drew games, to play like or as a girl is to play in a persistent state of insecurity. The games ask players to experience what it can be like to be in and move through the world as a young woman, providing reflexive assessments of how spaces, places, and games themselves are gendered experiences – and helping us understand why girl detective Nancy Drew continues to be such a resonant figure today.

Andrea Braithwaite, Ph.D., is a Senior Teaching Professor in Communication and Digital Media Studies at Ontario Tech University. Her research examines gendered discourses of sociability and belonging in pop culture. She discusses representations of and responses to feminist activism in online and gaming communities. She also looks at women and crime in detection stories across media, especially Canadian media.

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