The Grumpy Gamer on Eduware
6:00 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story
We don't typically link to editorial material, especially when it has little to do with Mac gaming, but when the person on the other end of the pen happens to be shareware game designer Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software we tend to make an exception. His perspective, honed by years of producing such mini-masterpieces as the Exile series, is a mixture of deep cynicism redeemed by a genuine love of games and gaming.
This week's Grumpy Gamer column takes issue with the issue of educational games -- is the very concept an oxymoron? Can games really teach you something, or are you perhaps learning something from playing games already, and haven't realized it yet? While both games Jeff cites as examples of this phenomenon are PC-only, there are similar-enough games on the Mac OS to allow us to follow the discussion:
n general, educational games are dry exercises, grinding repetitions of what should be covered in school, covered with splashy graphics and sound in a futile effort to fool kids into thinking they're "fun."It is an interesting concept which does lead to other thoughts -- what have you learned from the games that you play, personally? Do the puzzle-solving skills earned by Myst III players, or the lighting-quick reactions of a SiN player, or the delicate balancing of resources required to run an island kingdom in Tropico really translate into usuable, real-world skills? Read Jeff's column and then share your thoughts in our forums.
When someone asks me why I don't design educational games, this is stuff they mean. What people don't seem to take into account is that there are much subtler, but just as important, things that a game can teach. Consider, for example, Roller-Coaster Tycoon...
How is this educational? First, Roller-Coaster Tycoon teaches the basics of economics and running a business. Supply and demand. Setting the correct price. Borrowing capital. All of these things are covered. This is teaching the kid how to be the boss, not the grunt, and it's actual, potentially useful knowledge. Second, the game teaches planning and problem solving. When setting up a roller coaster, you plan the route in your head, try to build it, and only then do you find out that it doesn't work. Maybe it's boring, or the track segments don't line up properly, or it throws all of the riders to their certain deaths. Then you tinker with and debug the design until it works. You know. Problem solving and independent thought. Education.
The Grumpy Gamer on Educational Games
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