Tribune Print Share Text

Meet the 'Big Fish Babes'!

Gamers make friends and influence people—online!

Created date

March 22nd, 2011

Engaging mysteries, thrilling adventures, and challenging puzzles have made the Mystery Case Files game series a huge hit. First introduced in 2002, the games have been played by over 100 million gamers and the series is widely credited with popularizing the hidden object puzzle adventure game genre. It is also the unlikely catalyst behind a deep friendship among nine women from all over the country. Mystery Case Files is the flagship brand of Big Fish Games (, which recently celebrated its one-billionth game download, an industry record. Surprisingly, the company says that 75% of their customers are women between the ages of 25 and 65.

Birth of the Babes

In 2007, Big Fish Games quietly opened an online forum for the Madame Fate edition of Mystery Case Files. Before long, a group of women who loved playing Madame Fate found themselves visiting the forum regularly. Soon we were chatting daily, says Fran McNally of Midland, Mich. Recently retired, McNally found her social life dwindling since most of her friends were coworkers. The forum allowed her to connect with new friends. Most friends and family don t understand my love of playing games. I hooked up with the Babes because we had that love in common. Who would think that this kind of relationship would develop? says Big Fish Babe Gena Yousoufian of Seattle, Wash. We were brought together by a common interest. The Internet allows that to happen regardless of where we were geographically. Like our games, our forums are stress-free and family-friendly. We have very gifted moderators who ensure that people on our forums follow our forum rules, says Big Fish Games president and CEO Jeremy Lewis. As a result, our forums are a warm, caring, community-oriented place to mingle and bond. As the friendship grew, the Big Fish Babes as they started calling themselves shared their joys and triumphs, their losses and disappointments, with each other. I now consider the Babes to be an extended family, says Yousoufian. I don t see this friendship dying. We will always be able to reach out whenever we need to, and someone will always be there. It s comforting to know that.

The next level

When they wanted to take their friendship to the next level, they chose Seattle, home of Big Fish Games, for their first in-person meeting. While they were in the neighborhood, they thought it would be terrific to tour the company that made their friendship possible. Not only did they get their tour, they soon found themselves as special guests at a major conference the company was having, culminating with Lewis introducing the women as their special guests on stage. The Seattle trip was a blast, and they enjoyed each other s company more than they ever would have imagined. It s unbelievable how different we are from each other. In real life, if we lived next door to each other we probably would never have been close friends, says McNally. The story of the Big Fish Babes does not end there. Next, Big Fish Games asked them if they would be interested in testing games the company was developing. They would play the games and provide feedback to the developers, a job that gamers worldwide dream of. Lewis says, For Drawn: Dark Flight, the Big Fish Babes tested three different builds of the game and shared their input via video conference calls with our development team. Based almost entirely on their feedback, we made modifications to the story, navigation, and certain puzzles. In fact, giving credit where it s due, we noted the Babes in our game credits. We recognized them in the credits for another game too... Mystery Case Files. The Babes took their role seriously and can see how their suggestions were incorporated into those games and others. The female characters were always these young, sexy-looking girls. Who s playing these games? Middle-aged ladies. We said, Hey, that s not us. We don t identify with that. says Yousoufian. I recently saw a new game, and the woman character is wearing a turtleneck sweater and she s a normal looking person. I ve noticed that in the last couple of games; they seem to have responded to our comments. McNally agrees. Before, they would put dark objects against a dark background and I said, You ve got to stop that. You re talking mature players who may have vision issues. Make it difficult but not impossible. When they went looking for advice in the online forum, none of the nine women could have predicted how significantly it would change their lives. Madame Fate does indeed work in mysterious ways. As they look to the future, the Big Fish Babes are confident of two things. They will be lifelong friends and lifelong gamers!