Real-life lessons I learned from playing Nancy Drew

By the time I was thirteen I had stopped a gas leak with a ladle and exposed a murderer, snuck into the prop master’s closet and pinned down a soap opera saboteur, discovered a speakeasy and thwarted a ghostly K-9 plot. No, I wasn’t some sort of child trained spy, but I was Nancy Drew.

I started playing the Nancy Drew PC games, produced by Her Interactive, when I was 9-years-old. Fifteen years later, I still think about the game and the impact it had on me. In fact, the lessons I learned while playing Nancy Drew still apply to everyday encounters I face now. Don’t believe me? Here are some of the smartest things that retro PC game taught me about life.

#1 Just because a door is locked, that doesn’t mean there’s no way in.

“It’s locked!” If you’ve played Nancy D. enough, you get pretty used to hearing this phrase. There’s always a locked door Nancy has to contend with. However, she doesn’t stop because a door is locked. As Nancy you find secret passages, solve puzzles for a lock combination, or swipe a key from a concierge. Through this process, you learn that just because something is closed off to you, it doesn’t mean you can’t gain access. IRL, there will always be doors that won’t open for us, but if we’re persistent, clever and confident in our own abilities, we can totally find a way in.

#2 Even if you’ve made a mistake, you can always start again.

Nancy, more often than not, gets herself into one dangerous situation after another. Sometimes, as Nancy, you will make mistakes that seem irreversible. You leave the kitchen without stopping the gas leak and BOOM! You are now sprinkled all over town. You get caught sneaking in someone’s office and you’re kicked out of the manor. So you lose, but not really. Sometimes it just takes a little extra effort, and some mistakes, to figure out the right path to winning. And losing momentarily helps you navigate those same hurdles the next time you encounter them. The lesson here is that we’re all going to make mistakes in life, but it’s never really “game over.” You can always start again, and learn from your mistakes the next time around.

#3 Friends are amazing sounding boards

Nancy is often in really random places all over the world in these games. She goes to England, Germany, Italy and yes, Wisconsin—yet she always keeps a few friends on retainer. Throughout the game Nancy can call on her besties for help with puzzles. Even though her friends don’t really know what’s going on, except through Nancy’s testimony, they still provide some good advice. Hey, never forget your friends are there to bounce ideas off of, to support you in your quest for answers and to basically have your back when you need them most.

#4 Networking goes a long way

Nancy meets a lot of interesting characters in her PC travels and makes a lot of contacts. These contacts totally come in handy when Nancy needs a clue or help from an outside source. They’re also a big source of her income. No joke. They tip her off about mysteries that need solving. Basically, work and contacts beget more work and contacts. You never really know when you’ll meet someone who will open a door to a wonderful opportunity.

#5 Be smart about the risks you take

When you’re playing Nancy, and you have to walk through a tunnel (which is inevitable), the first thing you HAVE to do is find a flashlight and batteries in order to proceed. This is a gaming must—you need to take precautions before you get in over your head. While it’s fun to be spontaneous or adventurous, the game teaches you not to be too reckless. Our tunnel could be taking a job in a new state and our flashlight could be having some savings in our bank. What I like is that the game isn’t deterring anyone from taking risks, but rather teaching players to prepare before they leap into a new, unknown sitch.

These games allow girls to experience adventure, to work on problem solving, build confidence, and develop strong decision-making skills. I am so glad I had Nancy D. growing up. She’ll always be my flashlight in the tunnel, my favorite retro game character, and an all-around pixelated guru.

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