Educational games never quite turned out like we hoped they would.
That’s the conclusion Technapex’s Tristan Kruth reaches, as he fondly remembers the educational games of the 90s—Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, and more.
Kruth recommends a paper published by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which discusses the rise and fall of edutainment. “I can safely say that I did not learn a single thing about any actual Oregon Trailers,” Kruth says. “Unless you count the fact that even if you shoot every buffalo on earth, you can only carry 200 pounds of meat back to your wagon.”
Educational gaming faded away as soon as more games were accessible to more people. Being able to find free, fun games online negated the demand for educational properties. According to the study, game companies tried to sell more games by lowering the retail price of educational games. “As a result, consumers’ perceptions of the value of educational software were dramatically reduced, and the industry was never able to recover.”
Games published in the modern era avoid the “educational” label, though many of them—the report singles out The Sims, Little Big Planet, and Minecraft—could easily fall into that category.
Now, thanks to mobile gaming, “the educational game discussion is coming back to life.” We can accomplish more with technology these days, and mobile gaming has a huge audience not limited to a specific age group. Price remains the question, though. With so many games and apps available for low prices, educational games will have to be marketed carefully.
Fortunately, as the study highlights, “demand is there for quality consumer products that both educate and entertain.”
What is the best educational game you’ve encountered? Let us know in the comments below.