The History of the Educational Gaming Industry

This timeline shows key dates in the emergence of the educational gaming industry, from its nascent stages in the 1970s, to today's advanced gaming platforms.

1967-01-01 00:00:00

"Logo" Developed

Logo is a programming language that was designed by Seymour Papert and Wally Fuerzeig. Logo used a small cursor called a “turtle”. Users could program the turtle to move and draw lines through a series of codes. It began as a robot in 1969, which operated by moving around the floor, tethered to a central point. A computer version followed shortly thereafter. By 1970, schools had started implementing Logo to teach young students a blend of mathematics and early computer programming. You can experiment with Logo programing language at "Turtle Academy" by clicking the link.

1971-01-01 00:00:00

"Oregon Trail" Released

Oregon Trail was a developed by history teachers Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger in 1971, and released by MECC in 1974. It became one of the most popular early educational games and was commonly found in school computer labs throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The game had students lead an oxen-pulled wagon from Missouri to Oregon in the pioneer days of the 1800s. The journey had them encounter obstacles, and complete tasks that were “realistic” to the time period. In doing so, Oregon Trail integrated an American history lesson into an interactive gaming experience.

1973-01-01 00:00:00

MECC Founded

The Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (commonly known as MECC) was founded by the Minnesota state government in partnership with the University of Minnesota. The cutting edge program led to the creation and licensing of a number of influential games such as "The Oregon Trail", "Odell Lake", and "Number Munchers". MECC took a blended learning initiative by combining the games with worksheets and projector slides for supplementary classroom lessons.

1977-06-10 09:01:03

Apple II Released

Perhaps the most important development during the early stages of the educational gaming industry was the creation of Apple's seminal home computer. The Apple II was an 8 bit computer that allowed games to be played off of floppy disks. Many of the early educational games were developed for the Apple II. In addition, Apple was active in the educational marketplace, proactively approaching schools and school boards to integrate their computers into classrooms. The Apple IIe model followed in 1993. Click the link below to read an interesting blog post about the Apple II's effect on education in the 1980s.

1979-01-01 01:11:14

Edu-Ware Founded

One of the key players in the early educational gaming market was a studio called "Edu-Ware". The company created influential titles such as "Compu-Spell" and "Compu-Math" as well as strategy games like "Prisoner". Despite a catalog of popular games, Edu-Ware underwent numerous marketing issues before being sold and eventually disbanded.

1980-01-01 00:00:00

The Learning Company Founded

The Learning Company was one of the important early developers in the educational gaming industry. Their titles, including the Reader Rabbit, ClueFinder and Super Solver series, encouraged interactive learning for reading, phonics, math, and problem solving skills. Today, the Learning Company is still going strong. Check out it's current line of educational games by clicking the link.

1981-04-06 16:13:53

DOS ushers in IBM era

IBM's DOS (Disk Operating System) was actually not a single operating system, but a group of operating systems that took over the world of personal computing during the 1980s and 1990s. Introduced on 8-bit IBM PCs in the early 1980s, it became one of the main platforms for gaming. The educational gaming industry flourished partly due as DOS helped bring computing to the masses. Click the link below for access to hundreds of Educational games for DOS.

1982-01-01 00:00:00

Spinnaker Software Founded

Spinnaker Software was one of the early leaders in educational software development. Their line of games released in 1982 included FaceMaker, The Story Machine, and Snooper Troopers. FaceMaker allowed users to design and animate a face using simple commands. The Story Machine asked users to write stories, which would be animated trough recognizing key nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Snooper Troops was a mystery game that had users walk through the streets of a city collecting clues and solving crimes. It encourages problem solving, creative thinking, reading and comprehension, and information organization. Snooper Troops in particular greatly influenced future educational games, such as the popular “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego” series.

1982-08-01 03:32:40

Comodore 64 Released

Following the success of the Apple II, computer company Commodore entered the market with their own 8-bit system. Like the Apple II, it would be an important development for the educational gaming industry. My elementary school computer lab featured a number of these computers, and I'm sure yours did as well. Click the link for an interesting article from BBC commemorating it's 30th birthday last year.

1983-01-01 00:00:00

The Age of "Edutainment" Begins

The first mention of the word "Edutainment" as it pertains to the educational video game industry appears in an issue of "Your Computer" Magazine for a software package released by the Oric 1 and Spectrum Microcomputers in the UK. The term would be used frequently to represent educational gaming endeavors. Click the link to view the magazine. Of note on pg. 54, 125, 146 (an advertisement for educational software), and pg. 88 (an article with a young upstart Bill Gates).

1984-01-01 19:53:48

The CD-ROM is Invented

One of the most important inventions for the gaming industry was the CD-ROM. Created by Sony and Phillips, the CD allowed for greater storage than floppy disks. This increased storage allotted game developers the ability to enhance graphics, and add a new depth of game-play. Consoles such as Playstation, Sega CD, and XBox would utilize the technology to advance the gaming industry. For a presentation on the history and influence of the compact disk, click the link below.

1985-01-01 00:00:00

"Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" Released

In 1985 developer Gary Carlston, founder of Broderbund, created a game with the goal of making geography and world culture exciting and interactive. His creation was “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” It would become one of the most popular educational video games in the history of the industry, and spawned a number of sequels and even a TV Show. The gameplay involved trying to solve a crime by chasing a thief around the world while answering geography questions to gain clues. The strength of the gameplay was that it changed every time, with a large number of theirs, objects, countries and clues to vary each gaming experience. If you haven’t played it in a while, why don’t you take a trip down memory lane by clicking the link.

1986-01-01 00:00:00

"Reader Rabbit" Released

The Learning Company’s most popular series “Reader Rabbit” remains one of the most successful educational games in the history of the industry. The original game first hit the market in 1986. Over the following three decades, “Reader Rabbit” would spawn a number of versions and spinoffs, such as the popular “ClueFinders” series. The original “Reader Rabbit” taught young students how to read and spell through a variety of mini-games, led by the eponymous rabbit host. The series would become a mainstay in preschools and kindergartens across North America and Europe. Today, new versions of Reader Rabbit are still being released for tablets, computers and most recently for the Wii.

1987-01-01 00:00:00

"Math Blaster" Released

"Math Blaster", a game developed by Davidson, would capitalize on a growing educational gaming market. The original game had students zap numbers as the heroic "Blastronaut" with the help of his robot dog Spot and the Galactic Commander, his superior officer. Math Blaster was a huge success, paving the way for the entire "Blaster" series which included both math, phonics and science adaptations, and more recently an MMORPG version of the game. To see how far Math Blaster has come, click the following link.

1987-01-01 23:57:11

"Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing" Released

In 1989 The Software Toolworks released what would become the standard for keyboarding classes throughout the 1980s and 1990s. To say that a copy of "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing" could be found in every computer lab throughout North America would be an understatement. It taught students to type quickly and efficiently, through speed based challenges and competitive multi-player modes. It is still being produced over 25 years later. Curiously enough, the name "Mavis Beacon" is completely made up, a creation of the developers to add a human "teacher" element to the game-play. Check out the website to see how Mavis is teaching typing in the 21st century.

1987-01-01 23:57:11

"Number Muncher" Released

MECC, the creators of such hits games as "Oregon Trail" and "Odell Lake", had another hit on its hands with "Number Munchers". In this Pac-man clone, players guide their "muncher" across a grid eating numbers to solve math problems. All the while the "muncher" must escape the grasp of a purple monster. The game's success spawned "Word Muncher", a game with similar game-play that taught spelling rather than math. Click the link below to relive all the math-munching action (download required).

1989-01-01 13:50:53

"SimCity" Released

In 1989 game designer Will Wright developed what would be the first in a long line of "Sim" games for Maxis studios, including "The Sims", one of the best selling computer games in history. "SimCity" was an instant classic that is still cherished by video game enthusiasts today. The game had players design cities by plotting residential, commercial and industrial zone, along with city infrastructure such as roads and rail. It was more game than educational, but it taught players planning and problem solving skills, as well as allocating resources and budgeting. If you want to give it a try click the link below, but be warned, once you build your first road it is nearly impossible to stop.

1991-01-01 13:50:53

"Civilization" Released

Iconic game developer Sid Meier created the original "Civilization" for MicroProse loosely based on a board game of the same name. For those who have never played "Civ", the program is a strategic, empire building game that used real historical civilizations, places, people, and cultural artifacts. For many, the game presented history in a fun an interactive way that was sorely lacking in Social Studies class. Ask a 30 year old where they learned of the Ancient Wonders of the World, or the key cities of the Turkish empire, they probably will cite this game. Try it for yourself by clicking the link below. (note: requires download)

1991-01-01 22:44:24

First Game of the "Dr. Brain" Series Released

The "Dr. Brain" series by Sierra yielded 4 main games and 3 spinoffs throughout the 1990s. The game-play features the eponymous Dr. Brain, an absentminded professor, who players have to help solve puzzles.

1991-08-06 18:23:45

The World Goes Online

On August 6th, 1991, the World Wide Web was officially launched to the public. Although it would be years before most people had access in the comfort of their own homes, the influence of the web has been unmeasurable. That influence has spread to the educational gaming industry, by changing the way we access and play games. As Rolf Heuer, CEO of CERN correctly stated: “There is no sector of society that has not been transformed by the invention of the web. From research to business and education, the web has been reshaping the way we communicate, work, innovate and live." Check out the first ever webpage by clicking the link below.

1993-01-01 13:02:11

Mario's Time Machine

One of the most successful of Nintendo's forays into game-based education was "Mario's Time Machine", a histor game staring everybody's favorite plumber. Play the game by clicking the link below!

1994-01-01 01:11:14

"Storybook Weaver" Released

One of the latest but most successful titles by MECC was "Storybook Weaver", released in 1994. It was a creative writing program that enabled users to write and illustrate their own stories using drag-and-drop functionality. The game was another market success for the studio that released "Oregon Trail" and "Odell Lake". New versions of the game were released until 2004.

1994-01-01 13:02:11

"Amazon Trail" Released

MECC were at it again with the release of the long-awaited "Oregon Trail" remix, "Amazon Trail". In this game, players journey up the Amazon river, attempting to navigate its dangerous waters while trying to survive and take photos of different plants along the way. The game teaches science and history, as well as exposing students to the geography of the Amazon region. The game spawned a number of editions.

1994-01-01 18:23:45

"Museum Madness" Released

Another winner for MECC, this DOS game took users on a trip through an American natural history museum. Players control a teenage boy who tried to defeat a computer virus that is bringing the computer-controlled exhibits to life. Along the way game-players solve puzzles and interact with American historical figures. Download and play an emulator by clicking the link below.

1996-01-01 00:00:00

First Tamagotchi Sold by Bandai

"Tamagotchi" is a digital pet sold by bandai. The small egg-shaped Tamagotchi was designed to be carried on a key chain. The game starts with an egg appearing on the Tamagotchi's screen. The User must shake the Tamagotchi to make the egg hatch. Users had to nurture their Tamagotchi to keep it healthy and happy throughout the day and help it grow. Wikipedia reports that over 76 million Tamagotchis were sold worldwide by 2010.

1997-01-01 13:02:11

"Evolution: The Game of Intelligent Life" Released

This genetic life-simulation game was created by Crossover Technologies, in association with Interplay Entertainment (creators of the popular "Fallout" series). Game-players learn about science and biology as they adapt their creature through different ages, from the Prehistoric Age all the way to the Age of Mammals.

1997-06-01 05:18:50

"Ultima Online" Released

Although not an educational video game per say, Origin System's MMORPG "Ultima Online" was an important release for the future of educational gaming as it ushered in a new generation of massive multi-player environments and social gaming. Titles such as "Mathblaster", "Little Big Planet", "Spore", and "Minecraft" owe much of their popularity to the original MMO game.

1998-01-01 12:49:53

Lucas Arts goes Educational with "Droidworks"

Lucas Arts subsidiary Lucas Learning created a number of educational titles, but none were more successful and heralded than "Star Wars: Droidworks". The game had players build their own droid and complete puzzles, while learning about science.

1999-01-01 23:57:11

"Whyville" Released

"Whyville" is the first educational game that successfully merged education and virtual reality. Designed for elementary school aged students, the world of Whyville is a rich, virtual world simulation. It is one of the first games to incorporate a virtual currency system, whereby game players earn virtual money (called "clams") based on completing education-based tasks. "Whyville" continues to be a model of excellence for online educational gaming. It has won awards for player safety and security, and innovations were highly influential to future MMORPG style games. To learn more about the world of "Whyville" click the following link.

2003-01-01 00:00:00

"Scratch" Released

Scratch is a programming language and user interface program that encourages young learners to program their own "games". Users use Scratch's simplified coding to program series of movements to characters. "Scratch" was originally created by Lifelong Kindergarten Group but is now under the MIT umbrella. Try Scratch for yourself by clicking the link below.

2005-01-01 05:18:50

"Brain Age" Released

"Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day" was a commercial and critical success for Nintendo. The Nintendo DS game incorporates puzzles, memorization challenges, and other tests to push your brain to the limit. It and its sequels went on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide, one of Nintendo's biggest recent success stories.

2006-01-01 00:00:00

Nintendo releases "Big Brain Academy"

"Big Brain Academy" was another of Nintendo's recent attempts to bring educational gaming to the masses. The puzzle game was developed for the Nintendo DS but has since spawned a new version for the Wii. The game series has sold over 3 million copies to date.

2006-01-01 13:31:03

Nintendo Releases the "Wii"

Nintendo, the world's leader in game consoles, released its revolutionary console the Wii in 2006. While Sony and Microsoft targeted a more adult market, Nintendo continued to market to a younger demographic. As a result, the Wii has become a home for educational games such as "Reader Rabbit", "Sesame Street" and "Big Brain Academy". In addition, "Wii Fit" teaches children to stay healthy and active. Check out a great blog post on how to use Wii in the classroom by clicking the link below.

2008-01-01 00:00:00

"Lure of the Labrynth" Released

"Lure of the Labyrinth" is a successful game created by MIT. The game is part comic book story, and part maze game where users must solve puzzles in order to rescue your pet. The puzzles involve logic, math, and problem solving skills. Play LoTL by clicking the link below.

2008-01-01 13:02:11

"Little Big Planet" Released

Media Molecule created this massive multi-player game for the PS3 in 2008. The virtual world in "Little Big Planet" is based on the concept of creating and sharing through online interaction. "Little Big Planet" is a complex game where players solve puzzles, modify their character, and share user-generate levels through an in-game social community. The game allows users to experiment with creativity while building critical thinking skills. It's success spawned a number of versions and spinoffs. Click the link to learn more!

2008-01-01 23:57:11

"Spore" Released

Maxis and game developer Will Wright teamed up to create this creature-creator called "Spore". Game players create a creature and raise it from its cellular stage all the way to full growth. The game has been heralded by educators as a fun and effective way to teach students about evolution and biology. For more information on "Spore" click the link below.

2010-01-01 23:57:11

Apple's iPad Released

On April 3rd, 2010, Apple Inc. released an over-sized iPod it called the "iPad". At the time, the general public looked at it as a tweener: half iPod and half computer, but were unsure exactly how it was useful. Its lukewarm reception is all but forgotten a few years later. The iPad has opened a new chapter in touch-screen gaming that is now being adapted for educational purposes. Whatever the future of educational gaming might be, it is certain that the iPad and other tablet computers will be a large part of it. Check out the 30 best educational games available on the iPad by clicking the link below.

2011-01-01 05:16:18

"Math Blaster" Goes Online

Knowledge Advernture's "Blaster" series has long been a major player in the educational gaming industry. In 2011, "Math Blaster" went online in a massive multi-player version. Players guide their cadet on-board a space-station, training to defend the universe. In doing so, players complete math puzzle games, interact through an in-game social community, earn merits, and modify their character and pet. Check out the new "Math Blaster" world by clicking the link!

2011-01-01 20:52:00

World of "Minecraft" Begins

"Minecraft" is a massive multiplayer world created by Sandbox studios. The game allows users to build onto the 3D world by using textured cubes. Game-play features survival, creation, and combat. "Minecraft" has become a hot topic in education and design fields. Although it is not explicitly an "educational" game, the creative construction element of the game has been heralded by educators. There is now a growing movement to integrate "Minecraft" into schools through the MinecraftEdu movement. For more information on the educational properties of minecraft, click the following link.

The History of the Educational Gaming Industry

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