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October 17, 2008 8:56 AM   Subscribe


 
Of all those games, I've only played SimCity and Solitaire, neither of which seemed educational at the time or even in retrospect. However, 9 year old recently started playing the classic SimCity and keeps asking "why are they always complaining about taxes". My response: I KNOW, RIGHT?!

So I guess it does provide some insight into modern politics.
posted by DU at 9:05 AM on October 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Zork is also not really specifically educational. I guess it teaches about problem solving and creative thinking, but most games do that to some degree, right.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:10 AM on October 17, 2008


Pff. Lemonade stand doesn’t show you how to apply marketing to your overpriced “organic” Lemonade and make killer profits.
posted by Artw at 9:11 AM on October 17, 2008


I grew up playing almost all of these games. Except the typing one and windows solitaire (we had a Mac). I guess my parents knew what they were doing?
posted by lunit at 9:14 AM on October 17, 2008


Math Blaster, I remember you but I don't know from where.
posted by Mister Cheese at 9:15 AM on October 17, 2008


Conglomerates Collide, Empire i: World Builders and Flight Simulator deserve Honorable Mention.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:16 AM on October 17, 2008


All ten of these should be Oregon trail.
posted by Rinku at 9:17 AM on October 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


where in the world is San Diego?
posted by sexyrobot at 9:19 AM on October 17, 2008


So...Windows Solitaire is educational in that you learn how to use a mouse, and play solitaire...
posted by Korou at 9:19 AM on October 17, 2008


Three Mile Island deserves an additional nod; the "i" in Empire I should've been capitalized, and there was also a Flight Simulator port for the Apple ][.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:22 AM on October 17, 2008


Man, I played the holy hell out of Carmen Sandiego. It came with a World Almanac. An almanac!
posted by uncleozzy at 9:26 AM on October 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


I played the hell out of Carmen Sandiego, even though I always had stop after one or two cases because of the 'check out your manual' questions.
posted by Memo at 9:27 AM on October 17, 2008


More about Oregon Trail (self-link.)
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:27 AM on October 17, 2008


One last tidbit: Rendezvous was an 80s era Space Shuttle simulator, which helped to inspire Orbiter.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:28 AM on October 17, 2008


What? No Sammy Lightfoot? Everything I ever learned came from Sammy Lightfoot. Not that that's a good thing.
posted by mazola at 9:31 AM on October 17, 2008


Man, there was a game about betting on horse racing, too. Secretariat was in it, and a bunch of other famous racehorses. I don't know why gambling was educational, but we sure played that one a lot in school, when it would actually load from the tape.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:32 AM on October 17, 2008


I was skeptical, thinking there was no way Lemonade Stand would make the list. We played that on the class computer during free times in fifth grade. There was some kind of bug in that every single time the forecast was 30% chance of rain, it would always rain. To this day, if I see 30% chance of rain, I think, don't buy any lemons.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:32 AM on October 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


today's most influential educational video game? Grand Theft Auto IV.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:35 AM on October 17, 2008


Mavis Beacon wasn't real?

I'm sincerely crushed here, guys. I think I need a hug.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:39 AM on October 17, 2008


10. Windows Solitaire
Significance: Eased the transition to a mouse-based GUI for millions of computer users. Showed us games can have an enormous impact on business computing skills.


Riiight, business "skills". I'd love to know how much in hourly wages has been paid out to employees who were dedicating their time to mastering these skills since 1990.
posted by quin at 9:44 AM on October 17, 2008


Rocky's Boots and Robot Odyssey are significant also in that they taught something complex and yet the game was actually fun. Using a computer simulation to teach interactive digital logic makes a lot more sense than basic arithmetic games.
posted by Nelson at 9:47 AM on October 17, 2008


I happen to be home visiting my parents, and I just went down to the basement and found ALL these games. They are the reason I am smart. Now, if only I had a 5 1/4" drive for the MacBook.

But seriously, holy shit, MATH BLASTER! That game was so freaking awesome. It had lasers, and I was 6. Actually, It didn't matter what age I was. It had lasers.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:48 AM on October 17, 2008


Scandalous omission: Leisure Suit Larry. My ten-year-old brain worked feverishly hard trying to answer and memorize those damn opening questions. I think that game single-handedly introduced me to Nixon/Watergate, who killed Kennedy, what's in a screwdriver, and a ton of other useful information. I certainly learned more from it than from friggin' Solitaire.
posted by Ljubljana at 9:49 AM on October 17, 2008 [10 favorites]


Ok, be honest.. who played Oregon Trail just for the hunting portion? I mean, come on, you get to shoot something in a game... at school!
posted by starman at 9:55 AM on October 17, 2008


"You have died." was so harsh.

I preferred the gentler "You were found unconscious" of Below the Root. Always nice to wake up at home in bed after falling from a tree.
posted by Kabanos at 9:55 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, Rocky's Boots actually looks pretty damn helpful for learning some stuff I've been trying to get my head around. Is there a better modern learning "game" for digital logic, or should I just give it a go?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:55 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]




Scandalous omission: Leisure Suit Larry. My ten-year-old brain worked feverishly hard trying to answer and memorize those damn opening questions. I think that game single-handedly introduced me to Nixon/Watergate, who killed Kennedy, what's in a screwdriver, and a ton of other useful information. I certainly learned more from it than from friggin' Solitaire.

Agreed! It also helped expand my vocabulary. I recall that I couldn't buy any damn condoms unless I specifically asked for prophylactics.
posted by Kabanos at 10:00 AM on October 17, 2008


Oh man... I'd totally forgotten about Number Munchers until I took a trip to my parent's house a few months ago. I was going through a box of stuff from our storage building and found a trophy I'd won in first grade for getting the highest score in my school. I then remembered that I had a nightmare about being eaten by a Troggle (the pink monster in these pictures) at some point in my childhood which caused my mom to put the trophy away in that box.
posted by educatedslacker at 10:02 AM on October 17, 2008


Zork? I loved playing it but...educational? Not so much.
As for my obligatory "How could they forget...?" pick...my kids played the crap out of the Zoombinis Logical Journey.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:02 AM on October 17, 2008


Huh, no mention of the lesser-known Mavis Beacon Teaches Cunnilingus.
posted by Eideteker at 10:09 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


We had Reader Rabbit on a MS-DOS computer. My sister and I really liked it. When you completed the given word tasks, IIRC, the rabbit would take a train across the screen. In the time that took my sister ran around the house. Then we got a newfangled Windows 95 computer and she played it on there. But when the train bit came around, it went really fast and she could run around any more.

Outside of Reader Rabbit, I played: Oregon Trail, Math Blaster, Mavis Beacon, Number Munchers, and Windows Solitaire. Those were good times in elementary school...We also did spreadsheets, drawing, and databases—very simple ones.

There was also this Sherlock Holmes program. Putting houses in a row? If you got the order correct, fireworks would shoot off.

Later on (on the 95 computer) I played a version of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? and SimCity 2000—and SimCopter. Loved blowing up those Arcos...
posted by Korou at 10:14 AM on October 17, 2008


The first title in the Reader Rabbit series was released by The Learning Company in 1989.

Coincidentally, I just corrected this error on Wikipedia a couple of days ago. Reader Rabbit may have came out for DOS in 1989, but it was on the Apple II in at least 1986; maybe even as far back as 1980.

(P.S. The current incarnations of Reader Rabbit suck in comparison to the original Apple II game. They're bloated up with useless animation and a complicated interface. Not that you can play them anyway, since the manufacturers of most educational software still haven't heard about that newfangled "Mac OS X."
posted by designbot at 10:22 AM on October 17, 2008


kids played the crap out of the Zoombinis Logical Journey

Didn't make the list because it was from the mid to late '90s. But it was awesome.

Aslo, does anybody remember the SuperSolvers games? I think it was like a first person shooter but with math. One of them OutNumbered. I don't remember much about it, but I remember it being really intense, and with creepy MIDI versions of a bunch of classical pieces.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:22 AM on October 17, 2008


Carmen Sandiago is how I learned about the currencies of the world. Great great game.

But seriously, how is Logo not on that list?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:28 AM on October 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Number Munchers and Oregon Trail were awesome. But I think the only things I learned from Oregon Trail were that life's deeply unfair and achieving some goals requires a level of patience I seem to lack.
posted by Tehanu at 10:29 AM on October 17, 2008


Portal has improved my skills with teleportation no-end. More so than Oregon Trail ever did.
posted by davemee at 10:38 AM on October 17, 2008


Did anyone else watch the Carmen Sandiego game show in the early 90s. I used to love that fucking show. What little I know about geography can be directly attributed to watching that show, because I sure didn't learn anything in the geography classes in school. Context, people, context. Memorizing a map does not work.

As for the games, I'd totally forgotten about Number Munchers. That was way more fun than Oregon Trail, to my eight-year-old self.

Though I did play Oregon Trail to go hunting, yes.
posted by Caduceus at 10:40 AM on October 17, 2008


Bah! I learned FAR more playing Bard's Tale, Lode Runner and Rogue.

Specifically, I learned how if you get sucked into a computer game and don't do your homework, man are your grades gonna be hosed.
posted by darkstar at 10:46 AM on October 17, 2008


From the the link, in regards to Oregon Trail: The hunting mini-game was popular with boys.

Mm-hmm. Boys. Right. You'd ne-e-ever find any of the girls in that awful awful hunting game. Except for, apparently, my friends and I, who all have remember the frequent admonishments: "You have shot..5285...pounds of meat. You can only carry....100....pounds."

Although, being girls, the wagon parties always included ourselves, the name of two boys we liked, and the name of one boy we absolutely loathed, turning the pioneer experience into a cholera riddled Mash.

(Also apparently the Oregon Trail game is now on Facebook. If you're into that sort of thing.)
posted by redsparkler at 10:51 AM on October 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


I once heard this rationale for a multicultural education course: "We'd just like to know a little more about who we're shooting when we're playing Oregon Trail."
posted by Killick at 11:00 AM on October 17, 2008


Did anyone else watch the Carmen Sandiego game show in the early 90s. I used to love that fucking show.

I was a big fan back in the day. I loved the singing and the geographic nerdery.
posted by Tehanu at 11:03 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


No M.U.L.E.? Bah!

M.U.L.E. was the best financial/trading/colonization game of the early to mid-80s. It anticipated the multiplayer era of gaming by more than 10 years (you could hook up 4 joysticks to an Atari 800 and have 4 people compete). You had to plan ahead, control supply and demand, anticipate future events, and trade wisely. Moreover, you had to screw your competitors over without damaging the colony financially; it did no good to get the most money if your whole colony made less than $60k during the year. God, we loved that game.
posted by Palquito at 11:12 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oops, my bad. Didn't see it down there in the honorable mentions.
posted by Palquito at 11:13 AM on October 17, 2008


I remember being terrible at Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego? That's a weird thing to admit considering the game literally came with a book of all the answers in the box, namely an almanac. I was so god damn lazy that I refused to look up the statistics they were using to identify locations, preferring instead to guess which country had a Population of approximately 15 million people and exported a type of salt water fish known for its colorful stripes.
posted by shmegegge at 11:38 AM on October 17, 2008


LEMONADE STAND REPRESENT! By far the best flavored beverage-themed game ever (way better than Kool-Aid Man for Atari 2600)
posted by porn in the woods at 11:45 AM on October 17, 2008


Is there a Firefox plugin somewhere that will disable "Snap" on every website for all time? And punch the creator of "Snap" in the dick?
posted by roll truck roll at 11:49 AM on October 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Taipan! taught me everything I've ever needed to know about international trade.
posted by dontoine at 12:15 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was so god damn lazy that I refused to look up the statistics they were using to identify locations, preferring instead to guess which country had a Population of approximately 15 million people and exported a type of salt water fish known for its colorful stripes.

And I had friends so lazy they would call me and ask cause they knew I had that shit memorized. But yeah, Logo, Oregon Trail, and Carmen Sandiego shaped me.
posted by dame at 12:16 PM on October 17, 2008


Being non-American this is the first time I've played Oregon Trail. I see it is as rock hard as its reputation.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:37 PM on October 17, 2008




Is there a Firefox plugin somewhere that will disable "Snap" on every website for all time?

Adblock, apparently, since I had no idea what you were on about until I looked at my blocked list for the site.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:42 PM on October 17, 2008


"Pepparony and chease."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:47 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hidden Agenda & Balance of Power.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:47 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


The real Mavis Beacon is the Mavis Beacon we all have...in here.
posted by everichon at 12:57 PM on October 17, 2008


Can you get a business loan by citing extensive experience with Capitalism?
posted by ersatz at 2:35 PM on October 17, 2008


Seven Cities of Gold was one of the first of many PC games that I bought with allowance money. It's really amazing how much gameplay they packed into a 128K disk.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:39 PM on October 17, 2008


Oh man, talk about a trip down memory lane. I haven't thought about Sammy Lightfoot in YEARS but now I have his death sound effect stuck in my head. Rocky's Boots was fricken awesome too, but the side B of my (totally legal, I assure you) disk was corrupted so I never got to play more than the first half! And yes, glorious Taipan, which taught me that trading anything but opium was for suckers.
posted by TungstenChef at 2:49 PM on October 17, 2008


Seconding Balance of Power and adding The Halley Project; the best sims of the nightmares and dreams of growing up in the 80's.
posted by Dr. Grue at 3:00 PM on October 17, 2008


Let's not forget that The Oregon Trail was put out by the great state of Minnesota.

Socialism: It's Fun and Educational!
posted by Kattullus at 3:57 PM on October 17, 2008


No Granny's Garden? Not as educational as Logo, but it had a catchier theme tune.
posted by penguinliz at 5:05 PM on October 17, 2008


Jon_Evil: Supersolvers! YES! I downloaded Gizmos and Gadgets a couple of years ago. There was also that one where you ran around the school taking pictures of robots. I only ever played that at this peculiar Christmas Party my family went to every year, so I don't have such very strong memories of it.

In fairness, I am currently Hot Blooded (actually Hot Blooded.2), so pretty much everything might seem peculiar to me right now (I get a bit loopy as my fever goes up -- I have a vague sense that I have been complaining about the lack of kangaroo doctors with stethoscopes for the past half hour or so, though I might be mistaken. I do know that I accused my husband of being a sleeper agent for either the Vikings or the Packers since he took my Bears hat away in an attempt to lower my fever), but yes, Supersolvers was really freaking awesome.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:33 PM on October 17, 2008


Mavis Beacon turned me into a freak. I still type everything everyone says when I get bored or nervous or excited or super focused. I am at least one of things almost all of the time.

MAAVIIIIIIIS!!!! :shakes fist:
posted by nosila at 6:00 PM on October 17, 2008


Mrs. Pterodactyl: "Jon_Evil: Supersolvers! YES! I downloaded Gizmos and Gadgets a couple of years ago. There was also that one where you ran around the school taking pictures of robots."

That was Super Solver's Midnight Rescue. That's the one that I played. In fact, I wasn't aware that there were other Super Solver's games until I read this thread.

Jon_Evil: "I don't remember much about it, but I remember it being really intense, and with creepy MIDI versions of a bunch of classical pieces."

I remember how tense they were. I would nearly freak out when anything happened as all the game events were seemingly impossible to predict. It created a definite sense of dread. Or perhaps it was the endless loop of "In the Hall of the Mountain King".
posted by mindless progress at 10:09 PM on October 17, 2008


I can't sleep so I'm trying this Western Trail is Oregon Trail on the internet thing. Hillary wants to turn around, Joe has severe diarrhea, and we're down to 2 oxen at Fort Laramie.
posted by Tehanu at 10:44 PM on October 17, 2008


Whoa. I don't remember suffers from hallucinations being one of the health conditions before. That's scary.
posted by Tehanu at 10:45 PM on October 17, 2008


The old Sierra games (before they went point-and-click) forced me to learn how to type quickly (even the later type-the-action games paused when you were typing; the earlier games, not so much).

I *wished* that the Police Quest games taught me how to evade the police, but I either didn't learn the lessons or they didn't teach them very well; having seen the insides of a prison cell over the course of a night a couple of times.

The new FPS games? I figure it's aliens trying to make human s less good at *actually* killing aliens vs being good at it with a mouse or a game controller.
posted by porpoise at 11:38 PM on October 17, 2008


Imagine what a modern sequel to the Oregon Trail would look like. (self link)
posted by clockworkjoe at 2:41 PM on October 17 [+] [!]


I don't have to imagine, thanks to that complete piece of shit you just linked to. Seriously - it's fucking pathetic.
posted by item at 12:05 AM on October 18, 2008


Actually, this is the modern sequel to Oregon Trail. Officially, it's a marketing tool, I think, but the game plays exactly right.
Oh no!
"One of the cds is scratched and won't play."
Oh no!
"A fellow motorist is riding your bumper and using what appears to be sign language."

Scenic byways, minimarts, and turtle races in parking lots.
posted by redsparkler at 11:00 AM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


SimCity is the game that introduced me to circumventing copy protection. Our grade school computer lab installed it on the network. When loading, it popped up a question that showed a set of patterns, which correlated to a city name or city population in the instruction booklet. Our fearless lab administrator posted the list of patterns on the bulletin board.

Not that it mattered. The residents of Jeremyville didn't care for the all-rail no-streets infrastructure, and the 18% marginal tax rate.
posted by hwyengr at 3:53 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, man! Robot Odyssey/Rocky's Boots!

Those two games should have made me realize that I would never be a computer programmer. Man, I sucked. Got as far as I could in them without using the more complex logic, though.
posted by graventy at 7:25 PM on October 19, 2008


Two of my favorite games that taught me something were Stalin's Dilemma, and Floor 13.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:44 PM on October 19, 2008


And... choose your own old testament adventure; hilarious.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:45 PM on October 19, 2008


These were all awesome games. Yay! Although I personally was a huge fan of Odell Lake. And it was educational because, you know, everything eats Chubs, and if you're playing as a Chub and a Mackinaw Trout swims up then you're screwed. Also, fishermen are sneaky bastards.

But I think my favorite and even more educational game was Freedom! The wiki page is really sparse but, basically, you were a slave trying to get north to freedom, you started in a random place, and you got one of three skills: reading, pepper (for dogs), or swimming.

Basically from that game I learned that even if you can swim you'll probably drown in some deeper part of the river (they all look exactly the same), and even if you do have pepper the dogs will probably still find you, and that even if you can read you rarely come across a sign that does you any good.

It was a fun game. I think I may have 'won' it once.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:39 AM on October 20, 2008


Matt Yglesias on Oregon Trail:
I’ve been wanting a better name for my generation than the derivative “Generation Y” or the vacuous “millennials.” My propsal is that we’re Generation Trail. This is little appreciated among members of other cohorts, but as best I can tell everyone of a certain age was forced, at one time or another, to play Oregon Trail in school. I think it’s people born approximately 1976-86 who played the game, though I haven’t undertaken the scientific survey that’s necessary. Many younger kids played O-Trail sequels, but adoption seems to have been less widespread and the game itself less memorable.
His post on the subject generated a lot of discussion by the standards of Yglesisas' blog.
posted by Kattullus at 4:41 PM on October 20, 2008


lunit your folks didn't have a clue, they just liked collecting games. I bet they still have that old Mac system...
posted by DesbaratsDays at 7:33 PM on October 27, 2008


Do any of you remember a Commodore game called Agent USA? I'd be so happy if someone remembered it.

The point--I think--was to learn about US geography and how to read time and distance. The plot involved an outbreak of zombies (maybe?) signified by little blurry dots moving around the screen. You had to travel around the country by train feeding the zombies money, which eventually turned them back into normal people.

But the funny thing was, even if you got turned into a zombie, you were still "playing." You could watch your zombified character bounce around the screen until it found money and turned back into a person.

I've tried searching for an emulator at various times, but to no avail.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:53 AM on October 28, 2008


Holy shit. I did try to search for this before, I promise. I must have been spelling "Agent" wrong.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:57 AM on October 28, 2008


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