An Education

When I was a kid, computers were kind of the "next big thing". They had awful 16 bit graphics (if you were lucky), and were not exactly the most powerful tools in the world. However, educators knew that they were the way of the future, and saw fit to drum their usage into tiny little sponge brains. This was, of course, a very good idea. No one would argue that.

A not so good idea? Educational games. They rarely worked.

For example, the Oregon Trail.

For those that don't remember it, the point of The Oregon Trail was to get your wagon of settlers to Oregon (or to get them out of Oregon, because it was flooded with Pavement-listening Hipsters? I was never sure). You stocked up on supplies, and then went out into the wilderness.

I don't think any kid every actually beat the game. It was hard, and there was a lot of reading to be done that was boring as balls. Instead, we'd just stock up on bullets and go hunting.

Hunting was this great little mini-game where you were supposed to kill the occasional buffalo to get spare meat for your journey. However, the game was definitely more fun than the rest of it (at least, it was more fun from a kid's point of view), so this was where the majority of the game was spent. Killing the buffalo with an intensity that is usually only found in warfare.

For most everyone I knew, killing stuff became the game. We'd just go up in the brush, with a South Park-style mentality.

"He's coming right for us!"

"Ha ha, I shot him in the eye."

None of us ever learned that maybe trying to get to Oregon in the olden days was hard. Or that a lot of people died on the journey. Not a single kid ever realized we were supposed to be learning history. I don't think any of us even knew that there was a place called Oregon. We thought it was made up, like Barsoom, Narnia, or the Neverland Ranch. What we learned was that it was fun to kill buffalo, but rabbits were even more fun, because they were harder to hit.

We also learned how to criticize.

"Rabbits should be worth more meat, because they're smaller and harder to hit. It's not as realistic that Buffalo are easier to kill."

"Bankers shouldn't start with more money, because that means Bankers get more bullets. There should be a Marine occupation, and he gets to start with more bullets. And a combat knife."

"This game needs a machine gun. It'd be more fun with a machine gun. Oregon Trail 2 should have a Machine Gun."

I'm pretty sure those game developers have a lot to answer for.

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