I think they called it Edutainment.
Haven’t heard of that word in a long time.
What happened to the educational game genre anyway?
They used to be hugely popular and there were a wide variety installed on school computers. Back in elementary school, we used to be brought to the computer labs at least once a month to “learn” by playing through multiple variants of typing games and interactive novels. It was pretty interesting for awhile; its a break away from the curriculum, but the games became more of a chore as time went by; everyone just wanted to finish their “game” so that they could start surfing the net for cooler stuff.
Not to mention, I grew out of this pretty quickly too.
Promised hours of “fun” at the computer lab are almost invariably accompanied by moans and groans.
On hindsight, these games were never that good to begin with. Perhaps it only made sense for them to die out. It might be just another one of those passing fads. Once the masses got tired of that sparkly new label they once admired and endorsed, it just slowly descended into the abyss until its last glimmer faded out of sight.
I’m sure you could still find edutainment CDs on the shelves of Walmart or your local equivalent, but they are no longer heralded by promoters or placed in the more prominent sections of the store. The enthusiasm for its genre has run dry – when was the last time you’ve seen someone lowering one of these games into their cart? Or perhaps an employee restocking depleting stocks?
Edutainment games are no longer found along side their “big brother counterparts” in such departmental stores, let alone niche retail stores. And its online digital retail market share is completely non-existent.
You might say:
“Its about time we realized that the edutainment genre is nothing more than a marketing gimmick intended to cash out on the Gamification rage.”
We have started to conclude that games could be little more than entertainment – you can’t possibly ace your SATs or GCSEs by playing Minecraft or Guild Wars 2. On another note, its not like anyone of us really enjoyed Math Blaster. And recent researches note that those brain training games does little to raise your intellect, it’s not like you’re going to get magical INT stats boosts just by equipping yourself with the right software.
“I can help you draw references and help you remember better, but nothing beats the textbook.”
I’ve hardly seen a game that, with education at heart, allowed players to cruise with its game mechanics whilst learning at the same time. Most attempted ideas and teachings largely involve basic arithmetic and simple problem solving skills. And simulation does not go very far, because at the end of the day, we still need some suspension of belief.
But I get it.
We’ve always said that games like Sid Meier’s Civilizations and Rollercoster Tycoon could teach us a thing or two about resource management and, in the case of the former, diplomacy. But barely. Such learning materials, more or less miss the mark. Even the best materials quoted at discussions surrounding the topic hardly fit the bill for actual teaching material. Games like Portal, Puddle, Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program have been employed in some schools as teaching material, but they only served as supplementary teaching aids.
The games are brought into the classroom to spice things up a little.
And after playtime is over, we whisper to ourselves: “It’s about time to start studying”, and put them back on the shelves again.
Well, I think we’re doing it wrong.
Taking a look back at those educational games, everything felt extremely forced. Why do I have to solve this mathematical equation in order to move my character? What most of these games did was to slap a piece of academic material on top of the game’s core mechanic. I believe some of you have seen it first hand, having played similar games in your childhood(regrettably). More often than not, these games are largely unpolished and it makes an all too conspicuous effort trying to shove its course materials down your throat.
Not all interactive media are games.
This is a post written by PP1MT.
After all that being said about edutainment, I still want to believe.
I don’t think this is the last time I’d talk about this.
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