Educational games emphasize learning. They are designed to teach or reinforce a learned concept. Educational games look like games of other genres, but they are their own genre because they emphasize education.
The most basic (and to me, boring) educationally designed game would be text exercises like fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, or essay. With a little imagination, you could turn the multiple-choice game into a fun gameshow where the host asks the student an educational-oriented question and correct answers earn points or virtual cash.
History games could be turned into adventure games or RPGs, where the student plays the key character and must answer relevant historical questions or resolve a historical situation properly.
English games could be graphic stories with relevant questions that when answered correctly proceed to the next chapter.
Throughout my career I have developed many educational games.
In 1983 a major book publisher had me design and program several games that were to accompany their new school textbooks. World-Wide Reporter was a game where the player, as a top-notch reporter, was sent around the world to get the scoop on headline stories. Based on 50 cities covered in the accompanying textbook, over 20 facts about each city were saved as clues. The student would receive one to two clues about a city and a clue about the story to cover. At the airport, the student would see five cities to fly to and had to select a city. If they understood the clue(s) and flew to the right city, they’d get another clue for the next city. If a mistake was made, additional clues were given directing them to the right city. After the student had traveled to five cities, he would receive one of several citations and make front-page news (student’s name in huge, bold letters).
Let’s say you’re interested in chemistry and would like to create a fun and educational chemistry game. In your travels adventuring throughout the human body, you need to find “nitrogen.” In your inventory you have a container of carbon dioxide. The player would have to figure out or know that the carbon dioxide is comprised of carbon (atomic weight 6) and two oxygen (each atomic weight 8) and the sought-after nitrogen has an atomic weight of 7. The player would examine each element found and weigh it against the carbon and the oxygen. Nitrogen is the only element heavier than carbon and lighter than oxygen. This design could make learning chemistry (the atomic weights and names) interesting and fun.
In 1984 I designed and copyrighted two math titles, Mathathon and Geomnastics. In Mathathon, the student was a marathon runner and competing with a dozen computer opponents in a race. The goal was to finish in first place by quickly and correctly answering algebraic math questions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and quadratic equations). Every quarter mile of the 26.2-mile distance, the student was presented with an algebraic question as the player’s runner ran in place or drank some water. The student was given ten seconds to answer the problem. If the correct answer was typed in, the runner would continue to race. Otherwise, the problem would be partially solved and the student would have ten seconds to answer it. This would continue until the correct answer was entered by the student or solved by the game. When the race ended, the winner was placed on a pedestal with the player’s name prominently featured as music played. A list of missed problems could be reviewed or printed.
In Geomnastics, the student was to choreograph a balance beam routine by selecting beam maneuvers and answering geometry questions. Each balance beam maneuver had a difficulty level and a geometry question of equal difficulty. After an entire routine was created and the geometry questions answered, the student would see his choreographed routine performed. After the routine, the five judges would give the gymnast a score from zero to ten based on the correctness of the student’s answers, the difficulty of the problems, and the time duration it took to answer the questions. The student could replay his routine, checking each problem with the correct answer. If the student received high marks from the five judges (45 points or better), he would receive a gold medal. Silver and bronze medals were awarded to lesser scores.
Educational games have become more interactive over the last few years. They now have graphics, sound, and gameplay on par with the other genres. Many educational titles have linked themselves to licensed properties like TV shows, cartoons, and films.
Barbie Secret Agent, Blue’s Clues Learning Time, Cosmopolitan Virtual Makeover 2002 Deluxe, Oregon Trail 4th Edition, Shrek Gameland Activity Center, Tonka Dig n Rigs Playset