Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Memory Lane Monday: Educational Games of Childhood

NOTE: Sorry this edition of Memory Lane Monday is a day late being posted. I don't really have a great excuse.  I got busy with Real Life. Sorry. I promise this will most likely never happen again.

Playing Girls Like Robots had reminded me how much I enjoy logic games. Then, that reminded me of how much I enjoyed all of those classic educational games of my childhood. How I miss those wonderful old "now-the-teacher-can-go-have-a-smoke-break-while-the-kids-are-learning" games in all their 8-bit glory. Those were the days. Even though many times, they danced dangerously on the line of educational vs loosely based on something you may learn about in school, we didn't care as long as we didn't have to take notes.

My very first learning game was Ernie's Big Splash, which I have discussed in the past. Ernie was essentially my "gateway game" but my mom was hesitant to buy lots and lots of computer games, afraid of turning my brain to mush. So we started simple with educational games like:

Reader Rabbit
Reader Rabbit was a spelling and reading game. I don't remember much about it except that it involved trains and a word factory and you had to fill in missing letters or group together words that were alike. Well, actually that was the whole game, wasn't it? I also remember that it taught me how to spell and read simple words at an early age. I already loved books and reading as a wee one, but I really do credit this game with my ability to read to myself by the time I was four, and also why my reading comprehension levels were off the charts throughout my school days (surely the only thing that saved me and my depression/anxiety-riddled brain from being placed in a "special" class.) I also know this game was a success enough for my mom because she continued to buy me more games. Thanks, Reader Rabbit!

Number Munchers & Super Number Munchers

Number Munchers was a Pac-Man-like game that was a better way to be quizzed on math skills than flash cards. You had to move the Green Muncher around the grid on the screen and make him eat the numbers that met the criteria on the top of the screen ("multiples of 5" for example.) But while running around on the screen munching numbers, you also had to watch out for Troggles, ugly purple guys who would eat the Green Muncher if he caught you.  This game was one of many attempts by my mom to improve my math skills. I had horrible math anxiety as a kid which was not made any better by having two parents who were very good with numbers (my mom trained to be a CPA at one point.)  But the Number Munchers games did eventually help that math anxiety. As an adult, I have discovered that I have a slight dyslexia with numbers, so the anxiety is still there a bit, but it is manageable now. I liked Super Number Munchers the best, not only because the graphics were better, but mostly because the Green Muncher wore a cape. What other reason does one need?

Mavis Beacon

Who remembers this bitch? Who else had this as a staple int heir elementary school?  Since these newfangled computers appeared to be necessary for every day life in the future, all kids in school were required to learn typing skills. What better way to do that than introducing them to a fictional typing expert? One of my teachers in school must have been Gutenberg's typesetter or something, she was so old and crotchety and when you were in her class, it was a dictatorship. If she even suspected you of thinking about looking at the keys (aka "cheating") while typing, you were shamed with being boxed. No, not ear-boxing- I didn't grow up in the South. She would but a modified shoe box over your hands while you typed so you couldn't look at the keyboard. I was "boxed" so many times I had my own. I decorated it and everything. The TMNT and pony stickers did not make the box any cooler, however.  In all seriousness, I did like Mavis Beacon as a program. It was a lot of fun and I much preferred sitting in front of a computer screen to sitting in class taking notes off of an overhead projector (remember those things?)  Mavis was a really great tool that taught me a lot.

And they wonder why texting and driving is such an epidemic nowadays. Thanks, Mavis!

Super Solvers

My dad bought me Super Solvers Outnumbered as yet another attempt to improve my math grades in school. I really enjoyed playing this game. Alone. When I played alone, I could run away from Telly the robot in the hallway that made you do a math quiz. When playing with my dad, he always made me let the Telly catch me, and sat there while I sweated through the pop math quiz. Go away Telly! I don't want to do math!  This game had a lot of qualities I loved. It was a platformer where you wandered around an old TV station at night looking for clues as to the whereabouts of the Master of Mischief. Yes, there was math, but it also involved logic puzzles and word problems, which I never seemed to hate as much as everyone else. Plus there was always immense satisfaction when I earned enough points to get my ranking to go up.

Pro bitches!
The Super Solvers franchise had a lot of other really cool games like Treasure Mountain! which I never owned, but played a lot of at my friends' houses. Now that was an awesome well-rounded game.  Except for those little magic-coin-stealing elves. Those bastards were evil. 

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Long before the iconic red trench coat and hat, and the 90's game show on PBS, this green box came to mind whenever I thought of Carmen Sandiego. This was a game I'm pretty sure my dad bought for himself under the guise of buying it for me. It was a little too advance for me to play all by myself in the 80's and early 90's, plus with my dad being very interested in travel and having travelled lots of "exotic" places for work, he knew a lot more about geography than I did. I loved playing this game with my dad. I credit this game and my dad's love of travel with my interest in other cultures and the reason I can use a map like a champ. This game should really be a required learning tool for everyone, especially for like such as US Americans who don't have maps and such as...

The Oregon Trail
Photo credit: The_Pug_Father via Flickr
What list of beloved childhood educational computer games would be complete without this classic? We learned so much from this game, like...there really was a trail to Oregon and people really loaded up wagons and rode on in the 1800's.  And...also...lots of people died of dysentery...which is basically pooping yourself to death...and...yeah. 
Ok, so The Oregon Trail game danced on that line of "educational game" much like the "inspired by actual events" line that Hollywood likes to dance on, but it didn't matter. If you were a kid in school in the 80's and 90's this game was the greatest thing in the classroom since the A/V cart. 

Thanks to PCMag.com, YesterYear Gaming, and Old-Games.com for inspiration, information, and a stroll down memory lane. *Sigh* now all I want to do is play all these old games again. Argh! Stupid not having administrative privileges on work computer! Er...I mean, playing games on my work computer would be wrong. Yes. Very very wrong...

1 comment:

  1. Mavis Beacon was my favorite, though I never had to use a box because I only used it at home. I could cheat all I want!

    By the way, nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award. The info is on my blog The Fashionable Gamer :)


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