McKenzie & Co
McKenzie & Co. is a full-motion video CD-ROM dating sim game released by Her Interactive in 1995, designed to be played by girls. It was available for Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Mac OS. "McKenzie" is the name of the protagonist's Geo Tracker—an acronym of Marvelous, Cool, Kinetic movement, Ever-lasting friendship, Non-conformist, Zany, Ingenious, and Empowered.
The game was developed with the active involvement of the Albuquerque Independent School District. Through the district, American Laser Games' vice-president of marketing Patricia Flannigan distributed surveys, conducted interviews, and held play study groups in order to design a game that her daughters would play.
The game included a music CD featuring several bands from New Mexico, such as Poet, Cool Notes, Tee Green from the UK, and the Strawberry Zots, whose music video "And You" was also included. Music tracks from composer Jean Rene De Rascon were also included.
The plot revolves around being a high school junior and trying to find a date for the prom. At the beginning of the game, the player chooses between being one of two playable characters. Kim is a cheerleader and Carly is an actress. The opening scene is in the character's bedroom, where all six members of McKenzie & Co are having a sleepover. They look through the yearbook and then ask the player to choose between two guys. For Kim, the choice is between Brett and Steven, while Carly, chooses between Derrick and Brandon. The rest of the game is spent trying to get the designated love interest to ask the player character to the prom.
Both characters have their own rooms in the game where they can read magazines, read their diaries, listen to voice messages, call people, apply makeup, or put on clothes.
When they are away from their rooms, the rest of the gameplay is through short video clips. The player must choose an option of what to do or say at the given time, and the videos will show the outcome. Some choices will lead to the same eventual path as others, and some choices will result in a game over.
At the end of the game, if all goes well, the players date will pick them up and the gameplay will finish with the school yearbook, where the player can see a picture of the player character and their date at prom.
There are 16 different locations accessible in this game, all within Bay City. There are four separate areas of town, each with four unique locations. Most locations are only accessible at certain points in the game.
- Madison High School - All teenage characters in the game attend this school. It is mandatory that the character attend class on certain days or they are 'grounded' and it is game over. There are five classes that can be attended in the game: music, art, math, science, and English.
- Nelsons' - Derrick Nelson's home. This location is closed for the majority of the game, unless there is a party.
- Bartons' - A family that Kim and Carly babysit for.
- Oyster Bay
- Halsey's Farm - Brett Halsey's family farm. This location is closed unless the player is playing as Kim and is invited to a party there.
- Baseball field
- Oyster Bay Arcade - Howie Hooper works here. All mini-games can be accessed through the arcade.
- Mario's Dining
- Community Center
- Chuck's Drive-In
- Bay View Mall - There are five stores accessible: Elsa Ross, Oshman's, Limited Too, Trick Rider, and Sam & Libby's. The player picks out clothes in the store and Kim or Carly will try them on in front of a mirror. If the character have enough money from their job, they can buy them and add them to the closet at their home.
- Under 21 Club
- Work - Kim works at Sam & Libby's at the mall, Carly works at a movie theatre.
- TopHit CD's
Aside from these locations, there is a formal wear store where the player character must go to buy a dress for the prom.
Although major publishers declined to distribute the title, because they didn't believe there was a market for girl-oriented games, the 5-CD game was successful, selling over 80,000 units in its lifetime. An expansion pack, McKenzie & Co: More Friends, featuring new male characters James and Aaron. The expansion pack included 3 CDs - an upgrade of the main game and a disc for each new character.
McKenzie & Co. received a lot of press attention for being one of the few girl-oriented games developed in the United States. Her Interactive was one of the first companies in the United States established to specifically develop games for the female market.
While some think of McKenzie & Co. as an Otome game, a popular category in Japanese markets, it was called a "social adventure" by its creators and classified as such in the majority of US retail outlets.
While American Laser Games, the company that founded Her Interactive, claimed feminist motivations, aspiring to help lead girls down the path of computers and technology, the game was not uniformly well received. Some expressed concerns that it pushed a stereotype of what teenage girls are like, with its emphasis on makeup, shopping, and dating. The Chicago Tribune called the game's objective, getting a prom date, "rather dubious". Salon characterized the game as "much-reviled" in 1999.
- A playable character. Gymnast/Cheerleader.
- The other playable character. Actress.
- Kim and Carly's best guy friend.
- Kim's best friend. Obsessed with shopping and fashion.
- Carly's best friend. Goes out with Bryan.
- A member of McKenzie & Co.
- A member of McKenzie & Co.
- A potential prom date, cowboy type.
- A potential prom date, 'preppy' type.
- A potential prom date.
- A potential prom date.
- In the expansion only. A potential prom date and rebellious biker.
- In the expansion only. A potential prom date who is an animal rights activist and vegetarian.
There are 11 other students in the game, aside from the above listed. There are also 5 teachers, all played by the same male actor.
- Cifaldi, Frank (July 8, 2010). "This Week on Shame Night: Let's date cute boys with McKenzie & Co.". 1up.com. UGO Entertainment.
- "McKenzie & Co. from Her Interactive". SuperKids Educational Software Review. Knowledge Share. 1997. Retrieved September 26, 2010.
- Ray, Sheri Graner (2008). "Chapter 15: Understanding the Game Industry". In Fullerton, Tracy; Swain, Christopher; Hoffman, Steven. Alternatives: Games for Girls and Women. Game Design Workshop: a playcentric approach to creating innovative games (Second ed.). Morgan Kaufmann. pp. 418–419. ISBN 978-0-240-80974-8.
- Grant, Pauline. "Girl Games in the 1990s: McKenzie & Co.: More Friends". Pauline Grant » Blog. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- Al Mubireek, Khalid (2003). "Methodology". Gender-Oriented vs. Gender-Neutral Computer Games in Education (PDF) (Ph.D. thesis). Ohio State University.
- Vogt, Amanda (August 24, 1997). "Even in virtual reality, it is still a man's world". Chicago Tribune.
- Mifflin, Margot (December 13, 1999). "Singing the pink blues". San Francisco: Salon Media Group.
- http://www.csoon.com/issue14/mckenzie.htm —A review
- http://sherigranerray.com/?p=15 —memoir of Sheri Graner Ray, one of the programmers