Last week, Mandi waxed nostalgic about a series of educational computer games she played in her childhood. While I certainly appreciate one’s affinity for 90’s PC gaming, I can’t say I share the same sentiment when it comes to the educational entertainment titles of the era.
In fact, even hearing the word “edu-tainment” makes me bitter. That’s because when I was younger, I wasn’t playing Day of The Tentacle or anything cool like that. I had a Lode Runner game that came pre-installed on the family PC, but that was about it for anything that could be considered remotely fun.
Instead, my parents insisted on buying me crap like Reader Rabbit and Treasure MathStorm and trying to convince me that they were equally an enjoyable as Prince of Persia or Doom.
I wasn’t fooled.
There would be days in my second grade computer class when we would be allowed to have “fun time”, which meant that instead of having to be taught to type by a condescending, evil-eyed woman, we got to take a load off by guiding an amorphous blob off goo around a screen doing math problems in Number Munchers.
Those less savvy to our instructors’ deceptions were thrilled with these brief moments of perceived freedom, but I wasn’t having any of it. I once even managed to convince my teacher that the ROM of Vice: Project Doom I was playing on an NES emulator that I downloaded on to the class computer was actually a D.A.R.E.-sponsored educational game about drug prevention. Or maybe my teacher simply didn’t give enough of a shit to argue otherwise.
I know what you’re thinking as you read this. What about Oregon Trail? It’s time to be honest with yourself and admit that the only reason you liked that game was because of the hunting. It wasn’t because you enjoyed experiencing an important part of American history. It wasn’t even because you got to name the members of your party after your friends and write things like “Steve eats poop” on their tombstone when they died of horrible diseases.
Nope, it was because you got to something that was actually fun: take down hordes of dumb, innocent animals with a rifle just because you could. Now that’s historical accuracy! *nods approvingly at American flag*
Guess what? There were entire games all you did was shoot stuff. Did I get to play them? Hell no. But identifying multiples of even number for hours was totally just as fun.
I’m not trying to diminish the importance of education to the development in children. I just feel like maybe it’s OK that not every second of their time needs to be spent being forced to learn something. Maybe you have some sort of childhood connection to a piece of educational software and I won’t try to diminish that, but I can’t help but brood angrily about the hours spent learning to spell instead of digitally microwaving hamsters.