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Video Game: Purple Moon

David and I discovered that we had a question in common, and that was, "Why hasn't anybody built any computer games for little girls?" Why is that? It can't just be a giant sexist conspiracy, you know — these people aren't that smart.

Hm-hm-hm... (giggles) Purple Moon! For girls in the late 1990's, that intro, complete with a winking animated moon, heralded the start of something big.

Purple Moon was a software manufacturer whose two launch titles, alongside Barbie Fashion Designer, launched the "Girl Games Movement" in 1998 after years of research into why little girls who liked games were only given either unplayable crap or games that were marketed towards boys, which were good, but which had an undercurrent of "this is not for you". Whereas Barbie was the figurehead of "pink games", games that focused on fashion and unicorns and things that adults arbitrarily decided that girls liked, Rockett Movado, Purple Moon's own flagship character, became the go-to mascot for "purple games", which focused on what girls themselves said they liked.

The company was very popular, with advertisements everywhere, parents, reviewers, and sociologists talking about the games, and plenty of visits to the website. However, for one reason or another, Purple Moon crashed, was bought out by Mattel, and died an undignified death, taking the girl games movement with it. You'll still see it pop up on 90's nostalgia blogs, though.

Purple Moon's games all focused on one class of girls in a single junior high school, separated into three different "series".

Rockett's World

A Visual Novel series, though instead of still screens with dialogue boxes, the story was told in cinematics — sort of; still screens were played with voices without the player moving pieces along. Choices were made by picking one of three Floating Advice Reminders, and the player could access at any time a parallel universe where they could break into other characters' lockers and occasionally the teachers' lounge to look at their things and read their notes, getting a better idea of who the characters were and what the player should do. This may or may not have been happening in-universe too, but Rockett wasn't aware of it — she insisted that her conversations with a magically projected version of her best friend in the nearest mirror at the climax of each game were "just her imagination", but that logic doesn't add up when you think of what Rockett would actually have been able to know. The games took place in grade eight, and the main character was Rockett Movado, the new girl in town.

This series included:
  • Rockett's New School: Rockett transfers to Whistling Pines when her family moves into town, and the story focuses on her first day and how she tries to carve out a social niche.
  • Rockett's Tricky Decision: Halloween is coming up, and Rockett ends up with two invitations for two different parties, having to choose between — as the ads put it — "the trendy clique or the fun group".
  • Rockett's Secret Invitation: It's now winter and Rockett receives a mysterious note in her locker asking her to join an exclusive club, which she'd like to but for which she may not actually qualify.
  • Rockett's First Dance: The Valentine's Dance is on the horizon and Rockett wants to be voted Queen of Hearts.
  • Rockett's Adventure Maker: Not a VN nor an actual story per se, this was a spinoff that was sorted with the other Rockett's World games. Adventure Maker allowed the player to set up scenes and make videos with the established characters as well as create new ones.
  • Rockett's Camp Adventures: Produced by Mattel after they bought out the company. Rockett and her classmates go to summer camp, and she realizes that she isn't the "new girl" in the social order anymore when another new girl arrives at camp.

Secret Paths

A series of puzzle games set a year before the Rockett games and thus missing their title character. Whereas Rockett's series focused on defining yourself in the outer world of the social structure, this one was meant to focus on defining yourself in the inner world of your own mind, and thus there are more fantasy elements that the characters don't outright deny. Various characters enter a magical structure and confess their problems to the unseen player character and each other, and the player must then solve puzzles down a nature path to collect stones that share a folk tale when gathered. The girl the player is helping is then brought to an epiphany and decides what she should do with her life.

This series included:
  • Secret Paths in the Forest: Had a treehouse as the magical structure and "forest" as the theme of the nature paths. The paths varied greatly upon this theme, though, going from a hike in the woods to a Japanese garden to a desert.
  • Secret Paths to the Sea: Had a lighthouse as the magical structure and "sea" as the theme of the nature paths. These went from navigating Arctic ice floes to rivers in the jungle to one path actually being underwater in the ocean.
  • Secret Paths to Your Dreams: Produced by Mattel after they bought out the company. Not a puzzle game, and in fact bears very little resemblance to the other Secret Paths games. Instead, this one is basically an electronic version of a dream journal, which were all the rage at the time.

Starfire Soccer

Well, it was supposed to be a series, but ended up as just a Stillborn Franchise with only one installment. The Starfire Soccer Challenge played out much like the Rockett games, only with a soccer focus and an array of sports-based minigames, and was advertised as Purple Moon's Sports Game. It was A Day in the Limelight for Ginger Baskin, a side character who made her first appearance in the climax of Rockett's New School and had a path in Secret Paths to the Sea.

The only game was:
  • The Starfire Soccer Challenge: The Whistling Pines soccer team frankly sucks, but the individual players are good — they just need to learn to work as a team. Sooner rather than later, since tryouts for an elite soccer team are around the corner. Ginger decides to take charge and get the girls to work as a cohesive unit to improve all their skills in time.

Aside from the games, there was the aforementioned website, which had a number of minigames, a proto-social-networking "postcard" and profile setup, and the ability to find, earn, or buy "treasures" — the characters' possessions — for your collection or trade them around. (There was a glitch where you could duplicate your treasures and send them while still keeping them, which broke the system for rare treasures and buyables, but overall the game was still entertaining.) This contained a lot of new material about the characters, as did the spinoff Rockett's World novels.

Compare Mattel's current Cash Cow Franchises, Monster High and its spinoff Ever After High, which are similarly focused on character relations pulling along the plot and full of Expanded Universe material.

These games provide examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Ruben's father was abusive towards him. Ruben himself has come to terms with the fact that it wasn't his fault his father treated him that way.
  • Alpha Bitch: Nicole defines it.
  • Arboreal Abode: One possible form that the treehouse in Secret Paths in the Forest can take.
  • Art Shift: The Secret Paths games had a softer and more realistic art style.
  • Artsy Moon: The company logo. It has a face and hair.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Miko is Asian and plays chess, wears glasses, and gets high marks. She points out her ethnicity multiple times, and in The Starfire Soccer Challenge, she imagines herself as a samurai while playing soccer.
  • Badbutt: Sharla has a punk hairstyle, sometimes cuts class, and pretends to smoke cigarettes. This makes her just enough of a Dangerous Rebel without actually being dangerous so she can still be sympathetic.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: The climax of Rockett's New School has Rockett overhear Dana complaining about her. In one of the novels, Dana overhears Rockett talking in the washroom.
  • Batman Gambit: In the book Who Can You Trust?, when Nicole discovers that Rockett has blackmail on her and a good reason to use it, she immediately spreads a rumour that Rockett's photo is fake to make sure that no one will listen to her because she knows Rockett will at least bring it up to ask what she should do.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Felicia "Raven" Ravenswood, who appeared only in a website storyline, gave Nicole a run for the position of most popular girl in school. She was nice to everyone but looked down on them all as backwater hicks and talked behind their backs. It turned out that she was just trying to rack up acquaintances to show off the size of her address book. When those she'd wronged teamed up to expose her, the entire school abandoned her and later rejoiced when she was Put on a Bus.
  • Black Best Friend: Even if Nakili isn't Rockett's best friend, she absolutely reflects the character type, being laid-back, sassy, and constantly with the other CSGs. She does have her own character and her own interests, though, which defies this at the same time.
  • But Not Too Black: It's not dwelled upon, but there are definitely undercurrents of colourism in the tension between Stephanie and Nakili, particularly in Rockett's Tricky Decision when Stephanie is picked as a representative for African-American Leaders of Tomorrow.
  • Cassandra Truth: Mavis has a tendency to have this happen to her, though mostly it depends on the choices you make.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: The book What Kind Of Friend Are You? has Rockett cast out of the school election and under suspicion from everyone when she's framed for cheating, and Whitney is also made to step down when it's proven that she was the one who cheated on the test.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Where did Minh go after Secret Paths in the Forest? She doesn't even appear in Rockett's New School, and that was a launch title. For a series with piles of Expanded Universe material, nothing mentions Minh again or tells the player where she has gone.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The birthday security measure on the computers in Rockett's Secret Invitation. What were the odds that the measure to prove that the students were who they said they were would be the exact criteria that would make or break Rockett's eligibility?
  • Cutting Off The Branches: Some decisions are canon to later games, even if they can be avoided in the game they take place in. For example, Rockett having Mavis' elf rune from Tricky Decision on means she helped Mavis open her locker in New School.
  • Delinquent Hair: Sharla's bleached pompadour in most of the Rockett games. A website storyline gave her a makeover with short, spiky hair that she let down, which is a more muted example, but still counts — particularly in contrast to her natural hair, seen in Secret Paths to the Sea.
  • Disappeared Dad: Sharla's Freudian Excuse for acting out. In Secret Paths to the Sea, her worry is that her father's left home and he won't be interested in taking her to the father-daughter water park day at school. By Rockett's New School, which was released earlier but takes place later, she's got Delinquent Hair and a leather jacket and she's become known for causing trouble.
  • Disco Dan: Mr. Baldus still thinks he's cool.
  • Dresses the Same: Rockett and Dana wear almost identical outfits to school in Rockett's New School, and Dana dislikes her at first sight and lets her know it. It takes a month and a half to even get Dana to snark less at her (in Rockett's Tricky Decision at Nakili's party if you decide to joke around about Dana's gossip) after that.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Whitney goes by her middle name because "Barbara Weiss" sounds dowdy.
  • Enemy Mine: A website-only storyline has Nicole, Sharla, and Mavis team up to expose Raven's schemes. The three of them don't like each other at all, but Raven had just stolen Nicole's boyfriend and social status, broken Mavis' glasses because Mavis' psychic powers saw through her friendly outer image, and was just the type of person Sharla didn't like.
  • Expanded Universe: Ohhh boy. Two series of games and one third stillborn series, novels, trading cards, and the behemoth that was the official website.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: See Fallen Princess below. Despite all the games and side material showing that Nicole really isn't all that bad, and despite ads playing up the idea that you could, the game wants to railroad you into not joining The Ones. In Rockett's Tricky Decision, for example, Rockett will play soccer on the field and she will accidentally trip Nicole and rip the latter's pants, even if you try to play conservatively or sit out the game.
  • Fail O'Suckyname: With a name like Mavis Wartella-Depew, it's no wonder the poor girl doesn't have many friends.
  • Fallen Princess: If you try to befriend Nicole in the Rockett's World games, some disaster will happen and she will turn on you. Every time.
    • Nicole herself during the Raven plot.
  • Floating Advice Reminder: The choice menus in the Rockett's World games.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The Secret Paths games, being set the year before the others, have shades of this, especially in Nakili's path (Dana's not going to steal Miko because the three will become best friends) and Viva's Sea path (Viva will transfer to Whistling Pines in the middle of grade seven and she will like it).
  • Fourth Wall Mail Slot: "Rockett Talk" on the official website, which later expanded and began to cycle other characters through to answer questions instead.
  • Girl Posse: The Ones, meaning Nicole and her sidekicks Stephanie and Whitney.
  • Hacked by a Pirate: Bo Pedanski coded a virus called "Jawbone" that does this to computers. As he isn't too bad a guy, that's really the only thing it does.
  • Hate at First Sight: Dana for Rockett, since they were dressed the same on the first day; naturally, you can choose whether or not Rockett reciprocates.
  • Hot for Teacher: Miko has a crush on Mr. Rarebit. Dana finds it squicky, but Nakili says it's normal and assures her that Miko will find someone their own age one of these days.
  • Idiosyncratic Ship Naming: "R&R" was used In-Universe for Rockett/Ruben. It even showed up in the school paper.
  • The Lost Woods: Secret Paths in the Forest is... a game full of forest levels.
  • Max Trope: Max Diamond, one of the popular boys.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: How much of the Secret Paths stories actually happened? Is the Hidden Hallway real? Are Meg's appearances in mirrors really just Rockett's imagination?
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: Rockett's middle name is absolutely classified.
  • Nerd: Arnold Zeitbaum, with his acne, pocket protector, awkward hair, nasally voice, and hopeless crush on Rockett, hits nearly every qualification on the list. In Jessie's words, "he's got a humongous brain, but he's... slightly strange."
  • New Transfer Student: Rockett in her own games.
  • The Nicknamer: Mr. Rarebit gives all his students flower names.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: There are a few obvious equivalents of celebrities in the Purple Moon world, like the obvious Bill Gates analogue who complains in the news that even his computer wasn't safe from the Jawbone virus.
  • No Ending: Developers thought players might get bored of a game they could beat with fanfare, so the first few games have you just sit there at the end with nothing to do and no indication that the game is over aside from knowing you've probably done everything. Rockett's Tricky Decision and later introduced endings and credits, presumably to reduce the amount of tech support calls.
  • N-Word Privileges: Mavis can use the G-word because her mother was Romani.
  • Official Cosplay Gear: The first game in each series came with a copy of Rockett's backpack, among other merchandise.
  • Opposing Sports Team: In The Starfire Soccer Challenge, one is set up as an antagonist, though the real antagonist is the girls' failure to work together well.
  • The Other Darrin: Viva got a new voice actress in Secret Paths to the Sea, and in the Mattel games, nearly every VA was replaced.
  • Pass Fail: Averted. Both Jessie and Mavis are white-passing PoC, though neither makes any effort to hide it, and in fact they'll bring it up themselves without any prompting.
  • Playing a Tree: The school's mascot is Chaz in a tree suit.
  • Positive Discrimination: This has been levelled against a number of the characters, Miko taking the brunt of it.
  • Preppy Name: Nicole Whittaker. Felicia Ravenswood is both this and Darkness von Gothickname, even though she's closer to a prep than a goth. Barbara Weiss goes by Whitney to try and invoke this.
  • Product Placement: Some of the characters wear clothes you could get in real life — because the designs for their entire wardrobes were supplied by GAP.
  • Redheaded Hero: Rockett in her series and Ginger in Starfire.
  • Remember the New Guy: Elfin from The Starfire Soccer Challenge appeared out of nowhere and was not formally introduced.
  • Repetitive Name: Whitney Weiss just means "White White".
  • Sassy Black Woman: Nakili Leilani Abuto, you can't even deny it. She's got the voice, the mannerisms, the cheer, and the "y'know, girlfriend?" word filler.
  • Second Year Protagonist: In the Rockett's World and Starfire Soccer games. Secret Paths is set in the previous year.
  • Shipper on Deck: A few characters strongly support Rockett's crush on Ruben, particularly Jessie and Mavis.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Sharla's path in Sea is in an ice cave, and yes, there are ice block puzzles.
  • Summer Campy: Rockett's Camp Adventures is set in, well, a camp. In Secret Paths in the Forest, Jessie fears going to camp because she's heard all the stories (mostly about the wildlife).
  • Supernatural Aid: The "elf rune" Mavis gives Rockett in New School is supposed to be this, though we don't know how much help it is.
  • Talent Contest: The plot of the book Who's Running This Show? has Rockett trying to help put together the school's talent show.
  • Totally Radical: So much 90's slang.
  • Treehouse of Fun: The treehouse in Forest. Note that it's always called a "secret treehouse", even when it's a cabin or a hollowed-out tree instead.
  • Under the Sea: Secret Paths to the Sea is an entire game of water levels. Arrow's path is actually underwater.
  • Western Zodiac: Many of the characters are interested or outright obsessed with astrology, particularly Mavis and the CSGs.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Rockett's parents got a little creative naming their children.
  • Wild Wilderness: Secret Paths in the Forest is set here. The definition of "forest" starts to vary once you go out the treehouse door, though...
  • You Don't Look Like You: Secret Paths to the Sea features Sharla before she bleached her hair and started wearing leather jackets.

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