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Thread: Educational games on very early consoles

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    Default Educational games on very early consoles

    On the earliest programmable consoles, it seems they always had a number of educational games, typically elementary concepts such as basic math. The 6th and 7th cartridges released on the Fairchild Channel F, in early 1977, were Math Quiz 1 and 2 - basic arithmetic games. The RCA Studio II's 10-cartridge library included TV Schoolhouse 1 and 2, 1 being a combined basic math/social studies game and 2 was called Math Fun. One of the Atari 2600's 9 launch titles was Basic Math and the Odyssey2 got two educational math games in 1978-1979. Even the Intellivision had a math game in its lineup of 8 games available at the initial test-market launch in December 1979, although it did spice things up a bit with an Electric Company theme.

    I wonder why there were so many of these educational, specifically simple arithmetic games in the 1970s? Yes, there were educational games later on (I'm talking early 1980s) but those were usually furnished by third parties and very specifically niche market games, not to mention they were usually themed with some children's show and had some entertainment element to them as opposed to being a bare-bones "do the math problem" non-game. But I'm guessing cost was a big reason for these games falling off the radar. Atari 2600 games at launch were $20 - that's $96 in today's money. Would you rather drop 96 bones on some glorified math worksheet, or Combat?

    I'd be willing to bet that Basic Math was the worst-selling of the 9 Atari 2600 launch titles, and I bet Math Quiz for Channel F and the math games for Odyssey 2 weren't flying off of shelves either. I would say that the TV Schoolhouse titles probably flopped on the Studio II as well, but when your console's graphics and sound are no better than hooking up a baked potato to your TV and jamming a cartridge in it, who really knows.
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    Potato honks for sound aside i think its more to do with finding its place.

    i mean we've all seen it, game consoles were pushed way harder as family entertainment systems and over time has grown away from that. Not only that but the systems early one were thought as kids toys and i think that too has something to do with the percentage of educational games released per system as time goes on.

    sure there are still educational games made today and there are more made per system today as well but the percentage of educational vs other titles on any given percentage is probably a fraction of a percent.
    and you kind of have to think of success too, how many educational games can you name that were successful? i can only come up with brain age and its only pseudo educational.

    sure you could name the blaster games (math, word, etc., blaster) but they were known but i wouldnt consider them successful

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    Quote Originally Posted by Niku-Sama View Post
    and you kind of have to think of success too, how many educational games can you name that were successful? i can only come up with brain age and its only pseudo educational.
    Brain Age isn't really educational, but I guess it's still classified as educational for whatever reason. It's not really about teaching people anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Niku-Sama View Post
    sure you could name the blaster games (math, word, etc., blaster) but they were known but i wouldnt consider them successful
    But didn't they sell really well? Anything from The Learning Company like Reader Rabbit, Super Solvers, or Math Blaster sold well back when they came out. Plus Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? was a huge success with cartoons and game shows produced. There were also games based on kids shows like The Magic School Bus. I do remember what was available for schools that I went to, programs like All the Right Type, Mathville, Cargo Sailor, or Cross Country Canada.

    I think the best example of a game or series was The Oregon Trail which was quite popular for many years, actually for decades with the first game coming out in 1971, so this is a good example of a great early and popular educational game.

    There are still educational games made today, but really just a few on actual game consoles. Educational games are aimed at a younger audience, and today they have their own dedicated systems for games like the various Leap Frog consoles. That's what parents will buy for educational content, or just tablets for their kids with various apps. Game consoles are really aimed at older audiences now, mostly just for actual entertainment.


    As for older consoles I can see them having limited educational content due to technical limitations. Even calculators at the time were considered cutting edge despite being used for basic math, so it doesn't surprise me that basic math is what a lot of educational games focused on with early consoles. With older computers there were more options, like The Oregon Trail which I mentioned earlier.

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    i dont think the blaster series sold well, i think it was bundled well

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    So I guess the mid-late 1970s were sort of a "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" era for video gaming. I mean even in 1981-1982 the video game industry was much closer to what it is today compared to even 1978. As the crash showed, it was obviously nowhere near mature but they knew what genres would sell and what wouldn't. I'm surprised they didn't have straight up calculator programs. That probably would have gone over better than glorified math worksheets.

    I've played some of the 80's educational games on Apple II. A lot of them were a lot of fun, especially the king of educational games, The Oregon Trail. We had the 1985 version at school, even though I was born in 1992 and was in elementary school from 1998-2004 (we had the Apple II's until halfway through 5th grade, so end of 2003). It was so good I wanted it at home, and yes the late 90's/early 2000's versions I got for home use were just as fun.

    I think it's safe to say that like video games as a whole, educational games evolved immensely between those early efforts from 1976-1978 and what was available by the mid-1980s. And that included moving their prime focus to computers, they realized that early game consoles would never be able to do educational games really well.
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