During the 90s, I played a lot of games that insisted they were educational. Some of them taught me a few things — I’m freshwater fish expert — but most failed to live up to their grandiose claims.
The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis said it would help me build advanced math skills, something I desperately needed. Its box alleged it covered everything from data analysis to set theory, and it promised I’d have a little fun along the way.
And Logical Journey of the Zoombinis did indeed provide me with hours of fun. I played the game over and over, creating hundreds of Zoombinis along the way. I wound up using my own money to buy both of its sequels, and I sunk hours into those as well.
But I’m pretty sure the only skill it taught me was determination.
Failing in the Zoombini games didn’t mean a game over. It simply meant a Zoombini or two would be sent back to the nearest checkpoint. It didn’t matter if you couldn’t grasp Zoombinis math-based games. Solutions would present themselves through process of elimination.
Math skills may have made the games easier, but they weren’t a necessary part of the equation. You could beat the game entirely through sheer force of will. As long as you were willing to keep trying, you could get through the end without learning a thing.
I actually think this may have been more valuable than lessons about math. I’m a writer; my life involves very little algebraic thinking. But forcing myself to keep trying things, even if I don’t understand what I’m doing? That’s a skill I use on a daily basis.
Maybe my life would have taken a different path if Logical Journey of the Zoombinis had taught me the math that it promised. Maybe I would have actually taken calculus, and maybe I would have chosen an entirely different career path.
But for better or worse, I’m pretty good with where my life it at right now now. And maybe, just maybe, I have Zoombinis to thank for that.