On Educational Games


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I was interviewed by Corey Paul of Oregon Business Magazine for a story about the latest iterations of the classic Oregon Trail series of games. The article is available online, but I thought readers of this blog might dig my unabridged thoughts on why educational games have trouble making money:

Educational games and profitability is a bit of a “chicken and egg” scenario. If every educational game was as novel, fun and appealing as Oregon Trail, I’m sure they’d have no trouble recouping their cost. But because most educational games are a bit stodgy, focusing less on playability and more on communicating information, they can’t ever compete with titles that aim to be fun first and foremost.

There’s a comic book I love called Usagi Yojimbo by a cartoonist named Stan Sakai. The book is set in feudal Japan, and all of the characters are animals; a samurai rabbit, a pig ninja, a rhinoceros bounty hunter. The stories are fun and full of swashbuckling adventures, humor and dramatic moments. Most readers would never consciously realize that Stan has done painstaking research to insure that his portrayals of that era of Japan are accurate. Just by enjoying the stories, you will learn dozens of Japanese phrases, customs and historical moments, so much so that his comics are often used as textbooks in college courses on Japanese culture and history. Educational games should strive for a similar style of engagement as often as their subject matter allows.

Here’s a drawing of Miyamoto Usagi I created for a 25th Anniversary gift presented to Stan at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con:

As a kid I remember liking Oregon Trail and Math Blaster, but few other educational titles spring to mind. Which, if any, have you enjoyed?