Gaming and Simulation as Instructional Tools
We start kids on games early in this country, usually by age three or even younger. Many of us can remember with varying degrees of fondness playing hours of Barrel of Monkeys, Candy Land, or Chutes and Ladders (based on the ancient Indian game, Snakes and Ladders, a marketing nightmare for game manufacturers) with our own children. Games have also been used in schools since the advent of public education. Rhyming games and puzzles have long been used to teach letter sounds and vocabulary, and crossword puzzles, word-finders, and math games are still very much in evidence in classrooms at all levels of the K-12 system. In the 1970s and 1980s, with the birth of personal computers, a number of traditional games were put into a computer-based format-including old standards like checkers, chess, and other common board games. Almost simultaneously, games designed specifically for computer delivery were launched to take advantage of the computer’s rapid data processing and graphics capabilities-games such as Oregon Trail, Lemonade Stand, or the Stock Market Game. As with most software of the time, these games resided on the user’s computer or on a small network server with several terminals attached to it. By the early 1990s, advances in technology and the increasing availability of computers produced a number of CD-Rom based games that had high entertainment value as well: Where on Earth is Carmen San Diego?, Reader Rabbit, Math Blaster, and many others that are still in use today, although usually in networked form. Other, more sophisticated games and simulations were also developed as the computing and graphics capacity of personal computers increased and the price began to drop. Sim City, Sim Earth, and, more
recently, The Sims, have continued to develop along with the technology currently available to everyday users. The explosive development of console-based games, such as Sony PlayStation and Nintendo’s Wii, have captured a new (or, more accurately, older) generation of gamers as well. Although gaming among young people is almost a cultural norm, there is astonishing growth among baby boomers and their children, too. In fact, a higher percentage of gamers are women over eighteen than boys under seventeen!