Carly A. Kocurek, PhD - Games, Scholarship, Media

Casual Thinking. Serious Gaming.

It’s only a Purple Moon

Category : Gaming, Gender Mar 18th, 2013

Games from Purple Moon are my current eBay obsession. I’ve been very interested in “games for girls” lately — hence the Barbie game I featured a few posts back. I missed Purple Moon the first time around by a few years, as I was well into high school by the time the first games launched, and so I was too busy reading my dad’s old Beat generation paperbacks and cultivating obscure music knowledge to be bothered. Like many kids from small towns, I had delusions that I would move somewhere else and be cool.

Covers of four Rockett games from Purple Moon studios

These four Rockett titles from Purple Moon are part of a recent eBay score.

While I’ve read about Purple Moon in From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games and other places, I haven’t actually played any of the games. So, to rectify that, I’ve been keeping an eye out for used copies of Purple Moon titles, particularly games from the “Secret Paths” series and the “Rockett” series. I managed to get the four Rockett titles shown above, one Secret Paths game, and an unrelated game for $2.99 plus shipping on eBay a couple weeks ago. One of the advantages of studying devalued cultural artifacts is that, well, they’re cheap.

There are a lot of reasons these games are cheap — they aren’t quite old enough to be collectors’ items, and they are still fairly plentiful (especially in the case of the Mattel-released titles). However, part of the cheapness has to do with a more general devaluation. They aren’t just worth less financially, they’re judged as worth less culturally. Who cares about games for girls? If the going prices on eBay and other used software sources are any indication, almost no one. This is a truism that applies not only to titles from Purple Moon, but to the girl-targeted titles I’ve been collecting for various platforms. They’re often among the least expensive items in used game stores, save sports games, which are so overabundant as to prove a source of comedy; I’ve seen sports games heaped in piles under signs begging customers to just take them.

Games for girls aren’t quite so overabundant. There aren’t as many titles released in the first place, and those games that are released under the “games for girls” umbrella often aren’t as heavily distributed. Despite that, though, they’re still sold for bargain-bin rates with rare exception. They just aren’t seen as valuable in the used game market, even in the cases of games that were well respected (or even award winning) at their time of release. It’s good for me, since I can pick them up for pocket change, but it’s another indicator of the disheartening gender politics of game culture generally.