Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Have Fun While Learning

The problem with most games that are 'educational' is that they are actually just boring education related questions with a game-like twist. The game is built on top of the education rather than vice versa. However a few games manage to get passed this problem by building the game and using the education as an element of the game.

Back when I used to be a little kid my school had a sharp contrast of Windows 95 in one room and Windows 3.1 in the other room. Most would expect us kids would play on the Windows 95 computers, though we never did, the reason being the Windows 95 computers never had any fun games. They had 'educational' games which involved cleverly disguised multiple choice questions.

On the Windows 3.1 PCs the games were many and varied however a few inevitably took to our liking more than the others, games like Commander Keen and DOOM, though in between all that was one game called 'Word Rescue'. So just what the hell was (is) Word Rescue?

It's a game that teaches reading words. Gasp? Shock? Horror? Yeah. I used to be terrible at reading but that game kind of helped, kind of really helped. The objective was to run around different levels finding pictures and matching them up to their corresponding words, make a mistake and a bad guy pops up. It was part platforming, part adventure and part learning.

I think what made it really entertaining was the fact the game came first and the education was a part of the game, it wasn't the opposite, the game was not a part of the education. You had an equal chance of falling into a hole as you did getting hit by a bad guy (because you made a mistake with the words match up). It was fun.

Another incredibly entertaining game that anyone can play (not just kids who can't read very well) is 'The Incredible Machine', or its newer clone 'Crazy Machines'. Both these games give you a scenario involving physical and mechanical parts and charge you with fixing them.

I suppose YouTube says it best:

From what I understand Atari is actually working on a modern version of this game *fingers crossed*.

In the end games like Sim City, Civilization, The Sims or even Grand Theft Auto spin around the basic idea of putting the game first and making everything a part of the game. Would Sim City be very entertaining if you were asked to solve some math question everytime you wanted to build something? Sadly this is the case for many 'educational games', and it may be for a long time to come.

Kids will learn more from Super Mario than they will from some generic Multiple choice question test starring Freddy the Frog.

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