Read – A Summary of the History of Educational Gaming

As early as the first microcomputers in the late 1970s, gaming and education have gone hand-in-hand. Early educational gaming pioneers like MECC, Davidson, and the Learning Company created innovative titles that inspired the Atari generation and beyond. Computer labs began to spring up in school across North America and the world. Students gleefully munched numbers, typed with Mavis, and guided wagons across the American frontier. Soon, the floppy disk gave way to CD-ROM, as technology continued to advance. The 1990s became the age of the PC, as families around the world invited in a new member of the family into their homes.  By the 2000s we were wired and well connected, as people all over the world interacted over the world wide web. A new era of gaming would be ushered in with the proliferation of the internet, where people could play, share, and learn together from thousands of miles away. Touch screens, apps and other modern innovations have propelled the gaming industry forward even further, leaving educators and game developers positively giddy over the possibilities. For an in-depth look at the growth of the educational gaming industry, click on the link to the timeline below.

View – Explore the Timeline

Take a stroll through “The Educational Gaming Industry Timeline”. Click and read about the key games, developers and innovations that shaped the industry’s history. Each key date is complete with a short description, as well as videos, games, and links to further information. Explore and enjoy!

Participate – Add to the Timeline

Did we miss something? There are so many important moments in the history of educational gaming, it is almost certain we did. If you have a favorite game, or key invention that you think belongs on the list let us know in the comments section below and it will be added to the timeline.

Comment – Your Personal History

In the comments section, elaborate on your own personal history with educational gaming, from your experiences growing up to occasions that you have used game-based education as a teacher or parent.


29 Responses to History

  1. jetz66

    I think that it would be important to include Scratch to the timeline. First developed in 2003 by the Lifelong Kindergarten Lab at MIT. This programming language is a great introduction to computational thinking. It also has an community where people can publish, remix content that other have published and comment on projects. To me, this is an important advancement as game creation is sometimes more engaging and fun than playing games.

    • psweeze

      Wow. I didn’t even notice that, but completely agree. There has been a huge push back in my district back home to integrate scratch at younger ages so that students get an introduction to coding before they decide on their electives.
      Outside IT firms and their CMO’s and CEO’s have been meeting with department heads to find ways to implement scratch as well as partnerships with local companies to show them the opportunities out there for them. I’ve been in touch with the CMO of Introhive and am really encouraged with the efforts he and others alike are putting into this. I’m excited to see what develops.

    • Thanks for the addition Jetz66 – I’ll add Scratch to the timeline PRONTO! We included it in the later “Industry Leaders” portion so it most certainly got its due 🙂

  2. diane

    Thanks for the history lesson! Fascinating to review the passage of time and the remarkable improvements in the user experience. I am thankful to those who persevered through the early days of computers and gaming, as it paved the way for what we have access to today. Cheers, Diane

  3. agfarooq

    I remember having a massive coding book when I was around 8 years old. It took me a few hours to code a camel walking across the screen. Next came Kings Quest, Civilization and then a whole bunch of games before the wicked (both evil and good) World of Warcraft game out. When I started teaching I remember trying to find interactive games for my students, but the selection back in 2000 was very limited. Nowadays the selection is greater, however the biggest obstacle is finding games that really meet your students needs.

    • For me Civ was THE game. I think i spent more time playing that game than any other game not called NHL 95. It does feel like there’s a bit of a catch 22 with regards to “edutainment” in that if it meets the students needs, it probably won’t be that fun, and if it’s really fun, the learning objectives are probably secondary to the game-play. It seems like a rare occasion where there is perfect synergy.

  4. psweeze

    I was first introduced to game based learning early on in Grade 2 on an Apple Classic II. It was a language/math game that was more of quest based adventure. I can remember not wanting to leave class and just wanting to “get to that next level”. I had completely forgot about it until this weeks session.
    As a teacher I have still yet to incorporate GBL on a significant level, but would really like to start.

  5. leemail

    Prior to the Commodore 64, and very influential in the education market of the time was the Commodore PET. I don’t remember much more than playing Lemonade Stand on it, but we sure did clamor to get to it.

    I use games wherever I can to gather interest. For Bridge Building/Structures in Science, this game (http://www.candystand.com/play/bridgecraft) is tried and true. I had to fight with the Board censors, as they wanted to block anything with “game” in the title or link. I plead my case of educational value and it was allowed through the filters.

    Another game I use as an intro for settlers/colonists/etc. is http://www.123-games.net/games/bunni-how-we-first-met . Though odd, it’s addictive and I use it to highlight the order of necessity of resources when pioneers settle new land.

    But these are generally one-off games, used to intro a subject or teach one specific concept. I’m interested in learning more about using games to teach entire subjects, or the gamification of teaching in general.

    • Thanks for the awesome suggestions. I remember lemonade stand actually. In grade 5 I had a teacher who brought a Commodore 64 to our classroom and used it as reward for good work. I remember playing Lemonade Stand on it. I also remember playing Bird vs. Magic, which enthralled me for whatever reason and probably started my sports video game addiction of my teens and early 20s.

  6. jldr

    I have not yet incorporated GBL into my practice. I see huge potential here and have heard of examples of games like Civilization that would be great for teaching history or other specific subjects. A major obstacle for me is that I am not aware of games that are available/appropriate for my subject areas – high school Math and Science – or how to find them. Another problem is that, although there are games out there, like Portal, that could be used to develop very valuable general skills like problem-solving and systems-thinking, they are not used because they do not fit neatly within the restricted range of subject area curricula and their effective use would (because of the time required) significantly detract from our ability to meet the prescribed outcomes. This needs to change. We need to redefine and desegregate education. Unfortunately, I do not see this happening as quickly as it needs to happen. How can we side-step the bureaucracy and make meaningful change now?

    • dave

      I agree, at the moment I have yet to integrate gaming into the classroom, but it is something I would like to do in the future. One major concern I have with gaming is the amount of time required to really participate in a game, a game that students would get into. Kids will often find lots of their free time to dedicate to gaming, but as educators it would be hard to dedicate too much of their time towards gaming. Great job with the timeline, it looks pretty slick, especially with the videos embedded in.

    • Interesting point you make about the “restricted range of curricula”. I totally agree. The way we teach is so fundamental and traditionalist that we haven’t been able to progress with other industries such as medicine, science, and manufacturing, which are so much more ready to innovate for the sake of getting an edge. The tide is changing, but as you say, it will not change quickly enough.

  7. amb585

    I have vague memories of playing paint and a basic fairy-tale rpg game in grade 1 or 2. We would be taken to the lab once a week to work on those old-school macs. I also remember a game where you click to make a man with a parachute jump out of an airplane. You have to time it just right so he lands on a pile of hay being pulled by a horse. I remember loving those games so much. I couldn’t get enough! I first used games in school with a group of non-English speaking first graders. I am a middle school teacher by trade so it was already a challenge but add in the utter lack of English and teaching them addition was a ridiculous task. I think the math arcade game a teacher recommended taught them better than all of the different methods I tried in class!

  8. aadair

    I wonder whether you think Tamagotchi belongs in this timeline? Thanks for including videos, by the way, it was a great way of illustrating the progression of technology and ideas.

  9. candelaria

    As an elementary student, I remember playing with Oregon Trail and Number Munchers. But I did not get a lot of educational value from it. After looking back on the experience, it seemed like Oregon Trail was a time filler and Number Munchers did not help me with my times table. I still needed to use the traditional method of memorizing through drilling and practicing to get my times table, which I did not realize as a child. I didn’t enjoy these educational games as much as the non-educational games like Jumpman and a Bar tending game which I played when I got older. But the most enjoyable game that I would still play today is the adventure game Kings Quest where a member of the royal family travels around different worlds to try to find someone. The player is required to solve puzzles in order to advance in the game and the reward is a really elaborate animation once a stage has been achieved. Although the animation is static in this case, it still has a very adventure feel to the game. It would be nice to be able to somehow make Kings Quest flexible enough to be programed by a teacher easily so that it can be used in an educational setting. I have never used computer games in my teaching because I have not really found a good game that I thought can really teach the students math or science concepts until I encountered “Lure of the Labyrinth” in the MET program. What sets this game apart from other educational games is that it has two modes where the student can explore the map and learn critical thinking skills and inductive skills by using patterns to solve problems, but the individual puzzles can be accessed by the teacher to give lessons on math concepts to the class as well. The puzzles cannot be solved by guess and check and there is a community of players that can help each other when the players are stuck during the game or online tips. The game can be found on the link http://labyrinth.thinkport.org/www/index.php

    • I know King’s Quest well, but never would have considered it an “educational game”. I think you could really make a case for all “puzzle” games like King’s Quest, Maniac Mansion (a personal fav), or even Myst, as they truly do build cognitive skills such as problem solving and logic. I will most certainly add Lure of the Labyrinth. I had learned about that game as well but had forgotten about it haha! Good memory 🙂

  10. sarahrowe

    This timeline is a great complement to your lessons for this week, and I think it also could be a fantastic teaching and assessment tool for History/Humanities teachers.

    • Thanks Sarah. The timeline was really fun to make. It’s free and a pretty easy tool so a Humanities or History teacher could most certainly use it! The premium version even has “group edit” for some serious constructivist style learning.

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