A long time ago, someone decided that learning games – from the Commodore 64 all the way through to Wii educational games, today – don’t need levels, leveling, or the standard video game staple: the end boss. This needs to change.
From MathBlaster! on the Amiga to BrainAge on the DS, developers have ignored turning their games into recognizable video games by skipping this key element. It stems from a nasty beginning: laziness and tradition. Back in the 80s and early 90s, console video game developers enjoyed a relative monopoly. You could choose Sega, or you could choose Nintendo. Parents, desperate to attempt to shoehorn learning into their children’s gaming, would buy pretty much anything that promised to teach while it entertained. Unfortunately, some of that attitude survives to taint our Wii educational games to this day.
The one exception, prior to the Wii educational games era (around the turn of the millennium), “The Typing of the Dead,” was well-received by critics, parents (for the most part!), and gamers. It turned a classic arcade shooter, “House of the Dead,” into a typing instructor. Players are faced with “shooting” hordes of zombies by typing words that appear on-screen. The faster and more accurately you type, the faster and more accurately you “shoot” the zombies. The game progressed exactly the same as its arcade original, advancing through a house infested with all kinds of monsters. Each level was capped off with an end-of-stage boss, completing the disguise and fulfilling the educational game’s promise.