NCHEG’s collections have grown rapidly, and I wanted to take a moment to highlight one of the largest recent additions: more than 5,000 educational children’s computer games donated by Dr. Warren Buckleitner, Founder and Editor of Children’s Technology Review.
The games themselves range widely over different computer formats, from games on 5 1/4” floppies like Fisher-Price’s 1985 Alpha Build (front side runs on Apple, flip it over and it works on the IBM!) to 3 ½” disks like The Berenstain Bears Learning Essentials (released in 1992) to more recent and well-known CD-ROMs like Freddi Fish and Jump Start. These games have amused and educated millions of kids and are an important part of the history of electronic games.
Today, kids play most educational games on the Web, but during much of the 80s and 90s the stand-alone home computer was the dominant platform for such games. Console makers, often fearing that the term “educational game” would scare away kids, left that market to makers of games for home computers. Adults bought most of these games, and manufacturers sold products like Reader Rabbit and Carmen Sandiego by touting their educational value. For many kids, these games provided fun, learning, and a crucial introduction to computer gaming. Anyone remember playing Oregon Trail in school?
What’s fabulous about the Warren Buckleitner Collection is that few people collect these educational computer games. Name a console and you can find groups of hard-core collectors, but where are the people with shelves full of Math Blaster and Mavis Beacon? There aren’t many, and these types of games are in danger of disappearing. Luckily, because of Warren Buckleitner’s gift to NCHEG this important period in the history of electronic games will be preserved.
By Jon-Paul Dyson, Director, International Center for the History of Electronic Games and Vice President for Exhibits