Since the birth of video games up until the early 2010s, licensed video games were all the rage. Whether it was Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean or, well, Independence Day; if a film with widespread popularity that also had a demographic of child to young adult was released, somewhere in the country a GAME sales advisor would be stacking the shelves with its video game alternative.
Some of them were good, many were bad, but barely any of them garnered as much controversy as the Mean Girls video game. Set to be published by 505 Games and developed by Crush Digital Media, this game turned myth haunted those in lost media forums and communities.
That is until Raven Simone, also known as Bobdunga, made it her life’s mission to uncover the truth not just about the Mean Girls. Further still she made it the subject of her first documentary, Girl Games of Lost Media, which was published on YouTube, taking us on the painstaking journey with her.
Chatting to NME over Zoom from Canada, Simone couldn’t have guessed that her search would catch the attention of so many people.
“The bar was set very low but I think it being attached to such an iconic movie [Mean Girls], it eventually found its way into a sort of notoriety because it was missing. Suddenly, people were like; “wait a minute, wasn’t there supposed to be a game for this really beloved, iconic movie that’s loved by millions of people?” It went from this meme and just like a joke and object of ridicule to like something people were genuinely invested in searching.”
Upon the release of parts one and two of the documentary the news that the previously thought lost Mean Girls video game captured the attention of millions and put Simone in the spotlight for the discovery.
In her pursuit, Simone untangled the facts about the game’s development and unearthed fabricated stories of those in the lost media community claiming to have seen the game in a preowned section of a video game store or whilst on holiday.
The legend that was this game’s existence haunted many and Simone found more than just Mean Girls. A Clueless DS game was also thought ‘lost’ as well as other games for Clueless, Pretty in Pink and Mean Girls. What started off with one game became the discovery of five, though the latter three games were eventually released on PC as part of the OMG High School pack. Notice a sparkly pink theme here?
As discussed in the documentary the mid to late 2000s saw the dominance of Nintendo. With console releases such as the Wii and the Nintendo 3DS becoming some of the most popular and it was during this rise that the Japanese gaming company set their sights on a previously untapped demographic, girls.
Female orientated games that were viewed as more ‘casual’ such as Cooking Mama and the beloved classic Nintendogs were pushed and many studios sought to capitalise on this, including Paramount. With the rights to the remarkably popular and forever quoted films Mean Girls and Clueless, the studio sought to commission the creation of these for the Nintendo DS. Despite the age of some of the films such as Pretty in Pink which came out in 1986 and 1995’s Clueless, this move wasn’t usual for the time, and even Grease got the Nintendo treatment.
The films fit the bill with what studios and developers thought female gamers would desire. The films themselves already had a largely female following so naturally these games would attract the same female demographic. However it speaks to the intense stereotyping that took place initially when tailoring games to a female audience something rarely seen today, making the discovery of these games akin to stepping back in time.
“It’s funny because there are so many games now where the main character is a female protagonist, like in Horizon Zero Dawn, and there seems to be more of an openness and less restriction. When people would say video games that cater to a female demographic, people would automatically assume, ‘okay, female demographic, two years old to six years…they like pink, they like Barbie.’ I mean, yeah, we do like pink and Barbie sometimes, but it just seemed like there was nothing beyond that. It’s not really cookie cutter anymore.”
Though she unearthed the unreleased Clueless DS game and the discovery of the OMG High School pack for PC, Simone’s search for the Mean Girls video game remained by the end of Girl Games of Lost Media Part One. However it wouldn’t be until she posted the first part of this documentary that she hit a breakthrough.
Preferring to remain anonymous, a video game developer who had worked on the Mean Girls video game got in touch with Simone after watching the first part of her documentary, sending a plethora of game development details and a copy of the game. However before Simone could press play and enjoy the game in its entirety, there were a few obstacles.
“First of all, it was a mess. The game itself was not properly debugged. They [Crush Digital Media] shut down production on it before they could finish with the debugging process… I had to go to this guy, TOMYSSHADOW, he’s someone in the loss media community, he was helping me to debug the entire game. When we finally figured it out, it was still relatively unplayable. So I had to play it in sections because it would crash every so often and then piece it together at the end.”
Simone’s documentary highlights the efforts of those in the lost media community. Whether it was to provide clues, offer insight or debug the game the community was a key player in both Simone’s search and her documentary. It speaks to both the power of nostalgia but also a need to uncover mysteries in a world where we take for granted the fact that everything is connected. There’s an unmistakable duality to the members of this group that the internet allows for. By day these members are working jobs and paying rent but by night they trawl through information and corroborate facts, always with an eye open for a possible lead.
“A good part of it is probably because I know when some people start looking for something, it’s close to home. It’s like scratching an itch. People expect things to just have a digital footprint. But when it comes to media that’s not readily accessible online, we seem to forget that not everything can be transported. Physical media is something that’s kind of precious because it can be lost so easily.”
Girl Games of Lost Media brought to the light our love of discovering the past and the documentary’s popularity since it’s release speaks to that. Whether you’re a member of a lost media community, a Mean Girl obsessive or you reminisce about stacking those clunky plastic Nintendo boxes in your room; the discovery of this game has us looking back to the pop culture landscape that seems a little less chaotic than today.
“At first glance the [Mean Girls] video game would have just been in like the bargain bin at like a Best Buy. I think we tend to glamorise the best parts of each decade and we put it on this pedestal because there are so many memories attached to the best parts of it. There’s a draw to it, because even though it’s great to live in the present, there’s something really whimsical about looking back at the past”
You watch Simone play Mean Girls (DS) above – and you can check out her YouTube channel here.