In elementary school, when we heard the pitter patter of raindrops hit the window panes, we knew exactly what we were in for: indoor recess. When we heard that recess bell, it was a mad dash, not unlike the running of the bulls, to secure a prime piece of real estate in front of an open computer. Those kids who missed out on an empty chair were forced to "silent reading" or paper football. We plugged away at the keyboards with our sticky peanut butter and jelly fingers playing extraordinary educational games aimed at feeding our brains with knowledge. We were being taught without even knowing it and dammit, we liked it.
Hey, Jack Thompson, why don't you swap your Haterade with a carton of cafeteria style chocolate milk and peep this here list. You might learn a thing or two.
You knew this was coming. The obvious answer that everyone can see 2,000 miles away is a game that has gone down in meme folklore: The Oregon Trail. And for good reason. It taught us so many things that the classroom couldn't, e.g. you can't go anywhere with a broken yoke. And that the yolk of an egg is much different than the yoke of a wagon. I learned that the word "grueling" doesn't mean eating the sub-par food in orphanages. And that your standard covered wagon back isn't capable of hauling over 100,000 pounds of buffalo meat.
We learned that you never take the Big Blue Riv-- WRONG! You always choose to ford the river. That's the best part of the game! Well, besides naming one of your wagon members after that jackass in class who stole your Garbage Pail Kid collection and getting satisfaction by killing him off with dysentery. Take that, Ryan Wolfe!
Back in the early 90s, Sierra was churning out edutainment titles faster than you can say "3-2-1 Contact". Pepper's Adventures in Time was one of the best. Not only could you learn a thing or two about American history, but the character designs were hilarious and the dialogue was pretty damn witty for a game aimed at a younger audience.
Much like Dr. Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap, Pepper got sucked into a time machine and had to right the wrongs of colonial America. Except in this point-and-click, our founding fathers are now hippies and it's up to you to swap their hookah pipe for a Constitutional writing quill. What other game sets the record straight that Benjamin Franklin wasn't actually a flower child? And while he did invent the Franklin Stove, he did not invent the hot tub.
Although, it's not too far of a stretch to imagine some beatniks re-purposing lines from Poor Richard's almanac into their "art". Maybe Sierra was onto something...
For those who didn't have the pleasure of experiencing the greatness that is Midnight Rescue, here's the skinny: you play a school newspaper reporter and it's up to you to stop this bastard Morty Maxwell from painting the school invisible. Not really sure why he's hellbent on holding the school ransom; last I checked the public school system wasn't swimming in money. In any case, Morty is hiding in one of his many robots and it's your job to figure out which one by going through various classrooms and reading bulletin boards for clues.
I spent many a school night sipping a Tab, booting up DOS and getting lost in glorious 16 color VGA graphics. I had no idea that the passages I was reading were actual bits from classical literature. Not only did Midnight Rescue test our reading comprehension, it also exposed us to classical music. This game very well could have been my introduction to The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Peer Gynt.