You may think of Nancy Drew as a quaint relic of the Depression era, and associate her with dusty attics, old clocks and magnifying glasses.
If that's the case, you clearly need to revisit Nancy Drew. Nowadays, the original girl detective not only drives a car, but uses a cellphone and is preparing to star in her thirty-second video game.
Not bad for someone who, despite commemorating her 85th year this week, has never turned 19.
Nancy -- and surely the world is on a first-name basis with her by now -- has a classic can-do attitude and stunning reserves of pluck that make her role model for any time, said Jenn Fisher, president of the series fan club, the Nancy Drew Sleuths. "Her forwardness, her independence and her zeal to solve everything no matter how baffling -- she inspires."
(The Sleuths -- a ten-year-old group of roughly 900 American and international fans of all ages -- are holding conventions at several Nancy-related sites throughout the Midwest this week to celebrate this latest birthday.)
That characterization is exactly what makes Nancy such a good video game protagonist, said Penny Milliken, chief executive of HerInteractive -- the studio that's been making Nancy games exclusively since 1998. It's sold 9 million Nancy Drew games to date.
The newest, "Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness" will debut on May 19, for Mac and PC and is set on a ghostly ship in the Netherlands. The company has also experimented with putting Nancy Drew on mobile devices, with a couple of mystery game apps.
Milliken said that the studio gets oodles of letters from fans who say they love seeing their childhood hero on the screen -- and others who've learned about Nancy Drew first from the game series.
Fisher, of Nancy Drew Sleuths, said that she likes the games a lot because they put players in Nancy's shoes. Movies, she said, can pull you out of the action. But video games, like books, give you first-person perspective and help revamp the older, fussier image of Nancy.
"What I love about the games is that you don't see that," Fisher said. "It allows you to picture Nancy however you want to picture her."
Milliken also likes the fact that the Nancy Drew games give young girls a series all their own -- she estimates that about 90 percent of the games' players are girls. HerInteractive's fan mail also includes a lot of letters from girls who say they've been inspired to make their own games; Milliken finds that encouraging at a time when there's a lot of concern that girls just aren't interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As a result, the studio is looking at ways to provide more internships and scholarships for girls interested in those fields.
"We’re inspiring girls, have been inspiring girls in the importance of STEM -- and I like to think of it as, STEAM adding art to that -- and we're looking at ways that we can increase our presence in that area," Milliken said.