Purple Moon was a software company that tried to create a new market of software for girls, singlehandedly. They performed extensive research on what interested girls, launched expensive advertising, and created some remarkably poor titles. They also created the Purple Moon web site. This became quite the phenomenon, and is still hugely popular among the target audience. Purple Moon's expenses went far beyond its income, however, and the company was purchased from near certain death by Mattel Media. From there, Purple Moon proceeded to make a few titles of much better quality (Rockett's Camp Adventures and Secret Paths to Your Dreams). However, the uncertain future of Mattel Media casts a dark shadow on the future prospects of the license.

Purple Moon's anti-phallocentric titles usually concerned a character named Rockett Movado (!), who went to Whistling Pines Junior High. Painfully didactic and oh, so politically correct, with a multicultural cast just loaded with positive ethnic stereotypes (Nakili, the Obese Motherly Black Girl, Stephanie, a wise-ass African-American into track and music, Arrow, the Mystical, Pacifistic Native American, Miko, the Smart Asian with Glasses) the choose-your-own adventures hammered home lessons on, say, choosing a small party with your best friend (who is handicapped) over a large, glamourous party with strangers on the same night. It was all so very "different voiced", upbeat and empowering: by clicking on the proper choice of the three ususally offered (Smart Confident, Shy and Withdrawn, and a neutral choice) you could win the game for Rockett (although, in order to make the game non-threatening, you couldn't exactly lose, since all choices led to the same outcome). During the game, you could find out what other people were thinking by breaking into their lockers, and snooping around -- otherwise there was no real feedback or scoring ("right" and "wrong" being an invention of the Patriarchy). There was also a backpack with a diary, and a paint program (for those thoughts that might be better expressed in a non-verbal fashion), for your deepest, darkest secrets to be kept safe (at least until some wiseass cracked into the program to find out what you thought of her). In short, a "pink box" toy, all about clothes, boys and popularity.

In Secret Paths series, you could explore your dreams (as in the ones you had at night) and collect secret treasures and crystals to share with your friends, in a safe, girl-friendly environment. This was even more "different voiced" than the main series, to the point of being New Agey, while reinforcing the notion of safety, nurture, and caring to the max. Again, while you were able, and even encouraged, to pry into the secrets of others, yours were safe within the program (at least until your brother cracked in and tortured you with what he found).

This series of titles were rolled out in 1997, with great fanfare by Brenda Laurel, who spent a great deal of time talking about how girls were being "excluded" by the overly warlike tenor of most computer software, especially games. Since most parents were anxious to see little Ashley do as well as Josh, this sounded like a noble enterprise, something to stop the "silencing" of young girls and turn their little angel into an MBA. Investors, dazzled by the fact that this was new software territory being explored by a woman programmer (aided and abetted by Paul Allen, the series got a lot of press. For a while, you could get Rockett dolls, plastic gemstones, "secrets" (various doodads to "share with friends") and the like. The problem was that most girls 8-14 didn't exactly like it.

Part of the problem, I think, is that the software was written less for girls (or at least by girls or people who remember being a girl) than at them. What made traditional game software great was that it was devised mostly by people (not all men, but most) with rich inner lives who sought to express their own fantasies, private obsessions and secret fetishes -- whether they were considered "good" or even "sane" was beside the point. Likewise, software written by 12 year old girls, ceteris paribus, would have lots of mystical-princess stuff, tons of description (or at least great graphics), exotic locales, fun characters, and incredible amounts of dressing up in glittery/wild outfits, altered states of consciousness, hex-throwing and entry-level sex or at least romance. Making software that is Good For Them has (or had) all the allure of the author of ADVENT nixing Colossal Caverns for a labyrinthine exposition of his failing marriage. In short, it was too much like work.

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