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A Love Letter to Girl Games of the 2000s

Vienne Molinaro waxes nostalgic about the everlasting appeal of Flash games for girls from the early 2000s.

By Entertainment, Featured

Illustration by Yajurvi Haritwal.

My first love was a soft pink Nintendo DS. Noah, my dad’s friend’s son, had received one for Christmas, which prompted my dad to buy one so we could play with each other. It came with two games: “Happy Feet,” and “Bratz: Forever Diamondz.” Obviously, four-year-old me preferred the latter, and became so enamored with it that that DS became my best friend for the majority of my childhood. Oh, the times we had together!

I fell in love with the loft space in “Bratz: The Movie”, the Y2K pop tracks in “Imagine Fashion Designer New York,” everything about “The Cheetah Girls,” and the seasonal harps of “Disney Fairies: Tinker Bell.” When I couldn’t bring my American Girl doll to my grandma’s house, I could play with her in the sunny pixels of “American Girl: Julie Finds a Way.” Every Christmas and birthday of the late 2000’s, my collection of glittery pink cartridges would grow by at least three games a season. “Build-A-Bear” and “Style Savvy,” the crème de la crèmes of Christmas ‘07 and ‘09, reignited my young love for both fashion and stuffed animals. I seemed to have manifested each and every one of those games, as at the time I had received them, the contents all aligned perfectly with what I was interested in, like they were made just for me.

At the age of nine, the only thing that mattered was getting Barbie to fashion week in “Barbie: Jet, Set & Style!” To celebrate my getting casted as Dorothy in the community production of “The Wizard of Oz,” my dad had bought me the game and sat through countless arguments between my younger brother and I over whose turn it was to have the Wii. What can I say? My loyalty to the blonde will never falter.

My cousins have influenced my preoccupation with these kinds of games, probably more than they think. They would give me the games they grew out of — for example, when they replaced “Nintendogs” for an actual dog; a pug named Juno. Around the time they came of age, so were sites like “Everythinggirl,” the Flash website that housed other games in the Polly Pocket and My Scene Girls, and of course, the inimitable Barbie.com. I associate the days my cousins would babysit me with the annoyingly perfect and pink loading screens of “Barbie Girls,” wishing that younger me could live in Barbie’s endlessly dreamy online world — the enchanted garden, in particular.

During this time, practically every young girl was experiencing this same excitement towards the growth of our favorite characters on fledgling Flash-based websites as I was. Disney had released an MMO in conjunction with the release of the Tinker Bell films, “Pixie Hollow,” where you could quite literally, become a fairy and live amongst the ethereal realm of Neverland. Sites like “HeR Interactive” gave me a home to explore the mysteries of Nancy Drew, and when I needed a palate cleanser after too much sleuthing, “GirlsGoGames” supplied an endless stash of dress up games and the occasional horse game, if “Star Stable” was down.

When my dad sold practically all of my DS games when I was ten (with permission), I didn’t realize how devastated it would make me, years later, in constant fits of grounded boredom. At age 13, I made a commitment to getting the games back into my collection. Throughout my teenage years, I would tag along my dad and brother’s trips to GameStop whenever a new “Halo” or “Destiny” DLC would be released. I remember rummaging through the corners of the discount section in hopes of finding any game that would trigger any sort of nostalgia. When all else failed, eBay became the saving grace of restored childhood. My collection has slowly been restored over the past decade, all that’s left is “Hannah Montana: The Movie” and “Hotel for Dogs.”

After the death of Flash, I mourned the loss of “Pixie Hollow,” all the old games on the Barbie and Bratz home sites, and countless other games from my childhood that the service had hosted. (To Flash, I have to say a very sincere thank you for your service.)  However, around the time the software died, “Everskies,” an online dress-up game similar to the ones I, amongst many other girls, grew up with, emerged seemingly out of nowhere on apps like TikTok and Instagram. Images of uniquely styled avatars popped up everywhere, each with a diverse range in style and design. Still subconsciously grieving the partial loss of these childhood relics, I made an account to put a temporary hold on the grief of what was once really comforting to me growing up. Upon creating an account, I learned that other users had found the same solace I had in the familiarity of these games. It seems like nostalgia doesn’t have to be monotonous, it just has to be special enough to come back around like it never left.

These games, websites, and MMOs provided a safe space for young girls, and remained a sustainable outlet despite the competition of other, more generally popular games. Even games like “Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures,” whose fans were only 18% women, held a space for girls to be aliens, Jedis; even galactic royalty.

The older I get, the more I realize how much of these games and sites still play a part in my present life. As dramatic as it sounds (and is), I find myself referencing certain parts of my life to images from those games. I find myself reminded of these games when dressing up for class, having a girls’ night, or something as simple as watching a movie my mom and I loved growing up. To this day, I try to style the furniture of my dorm to mimic that of the My Scene room makeover game — reflecting my premature knack for interior design that kicked in before I could even ride a bike. While I miss the era where these games set the tone for “girly” aesthetics in the 2000’s, I look forward to a new wave of these games to make a resurgence. While they may be oversaturated in pageantry, as was the era they originated in, they still mean the world to me. And maybe that’s all that needs to be said about their enduring appeal.

One Response to A Love Letter to Girl Games of the 2000s

  1. Hugo says:

    I love your articles, you are truly a talented writer and I’m sure your family is super proud!

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