My nine year old, a reading phenom, loves Nancy Drew. She’s read every book (old and new), watched every movie (old and new), dressed up as Nancy for Halloween, and is now hooked on the Nancy Drew Video Games by Her Interactive. I would be concerned about the video games, except that I’m hooked too.
Like many parents, my wife and I strive to help our daughter strike a balance with screen time. I wish we could say we are winning, but we are not, except when that screen time is a Nancy Drew Video Game. In the games, played on a computer, you are Nancy. Usually you are visiting the relative of a friend or on vacation when something strange happens that needs investigating. As Nancy, you go sleuthing through very elaborate locations. The first game we played was Stay Tuned for Danger, where Nancy was visiting a soap opera star who was getting threatening notes. We had to snoop around the studio, the friend’s apartment and other locations for clues. You open drawers, find hidden passageways, and interview suspects. Along the way, you must also solve a variety of puzzles to access new areas and information.
It’s very fun, but it is also very educational and develops critical thinking skills. Many of the tasks my daughter must complete in the games are variations of the tasks she is being asked to do at school or for homework…the only difference being, in the game, she does it enthusiastically. The game can be a little advanced at times for a 9 year old, still part of its charm is the way it introduces higher order thinking skills, historical figures, and math and science concepts without it feeling like “learning.” I love watching her problem solve and stay focused on a task for a long while without getting fatigued. In education, there is a concept of flow where rewards and challenges are married in such a way as to lead the learner steadily forward, the Nancy Drew games exemplify this type of learning.
My daughter loves how the game doesn’t condescend, but instead assumes she is quick enough to catch on to even the smallest of clues. She also likes getting to explore unique/exotic/dangerous environments and situations. As Nancy, we’ve kayaked in the Great Northwest with an Orca whale, diffused a ticking time bomb, helped renovate a haunted mansion, and solved a murder in a hi-tech laboratory where we used a 3D printer. She also loves that mistakes have consequences. You can (and will) die, get arrested, be sent home, etc., etc. The nice thing is you can always go back to where you made your last mistake.
Finally, on a selfish note, I love that it’s something we can do together and that she’ll actively recruit my participation in. If you have a daughter (or son) who likes to solve riddles and puzzles, read mysteries, and put her (his) mind to the test…these games might be for her (him). If you like those things too, or just like spending a really enjoyable couple of hours a week with your kid, it might be for you too.
*Note: My recommendations are entirely of my own volition. No persons or businesses mentioned are involved in my decision to make a recommendation. No remunerations have been offered me at the time of their publishing. These are straight-up shout-outs earned the old-fashioned way.