I haven’t done one of these in ages. Not for lack of interest, or lack of games to cover, but it always comes down to writing my post about other subjects, and then… never doing one of these.

That said, I feel the need for a “theme”, and am going to cover educational games for “Back to School”. I played all of these titles on my Apple IIc, and most notably in class (outside of Kareteka), and each of these struck a resonant chord with me. Enjoy.

1.) Number Munchers (MECC) – Mobygames says this came out in 1990, and I say “foul” because that can’t be right. The majority of my post elementary school adventures had this title in the mix, and that was…. Well, never you mind. Ws it the exciting allure of math and numbers that drove me to complete this game? The need to refine my education? Not really. I honed math skills to go up in levels and see the various intermissions. Part game, part learning tool, it offered incentive for doing well to see those crazy disputes between the Munchers and the Troggles, and how those tales fueled my imagination. Perhaps not, but it was an entertaining and non patronizing way to do math.

2.) Lemonade Stand (Apple) – One of those classic games that came with the IIc (also by MECC), Lemonade Stand let you run your own big-business enterprise at the tender age of 8, complete with price management, enduring all the weather conditions, and the occasional price gouge of hapless customers. It was always entertaining to see how far into the year one could last, through all the various seasons and weather conditions, and listen to that trilling IIc music. The graphics looked like building blocks, but had their own charms.

3.) Odell Lake (MECC) – Yes, MECC cornered the educational gaming market back in the 1980’s. This game was all about learning the pecking order of life. Could you eat that other fish? Would that fish try to eat you? Would that pesky otter come out and ruin your chances of devouring every single fish in Odell Lake? The game let you live out the life of a fish and make choices, which was novel at the time, and certainly satisfying in learning which fish were the lake’s “big fish” as it were.

4.) Oregon Trail (MECC) – Who didn’t play Oregon Trail in elementary school? And if you didn’t then you really should have. Another “life sim” game, this title put you in charge of a pioneer family trying to make it out West. Everything from hunting, stocking up on supplies, being attacked by thieves, rafting down the river, and even dying of dysentery all became good fun and life lessons along the way, which actually had a good bit of action in the title, that was appropriate for the game’s theme. It’s funny how certain titles stick out with you from the earliest days of gaming. This title was a true classic.

5.) Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (Broderbund) – A non MECC game? Really? This was another one of those classic edu-games that blended the importance of geography, customs and culture with the need to capture the super spy/master criminal Carmen Sandiego, and her V.I.L.E henchmen. There was definitely some intriguing gameplay, as well as a bit of mystery to keep it entertaining and feeling too much like a school lesson.

Videlectrix did a parody of the game not too long ago in their usual goofy style, and then there was that catchy little theme song from the TV show:

MECC (Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium) was an amazing educational gaming company, which made such a lasting impression on my early gaming career with games that taught something, but were more fun than work. I haven’t really kept up on them, but I would hope that all of these titles have been retained and are still circulating in schools even today, as the lessons are still good, even if a few graphic updates would be likely needed for the kiddies.

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