Games of my Childhood Part One

And now?   A moment of nostalgia.

Dress up games, princess games, baby care games, horse games, princess games, etc.  The industry for creating games that appeal to this ‘untapped’ market has consistently misunderstood and patronized it.  When I was growing up, I hated the girl games.  Boy games had trucks and firefighting and robots.  I wanted to construct a city or save the day, so I played boy games.  But my favorite games of all were the games that didn’t make the distinction between boy or girl.  One game franchise that springs to mind is Jumpstart.  I was in elementary school when these games were big.  They were broken into grade levels and my favorite was third grade.  You played as a student with a robot named Botley wandering a castle and fixing history that the professor’s daughter, Polly Spark, had messed up to make the answers on her history test right.

What I loved about it was not only the funny voice acting by Polly and everyone else, but also the robots.  There were different robots for every room and subject area, but my favorite robot, Mort, was in the kitchen.

Mort taught you math and you had to feed him.  I liked the silly combination of food and his reactions. I had a lot of trouble with the math, especially because I played this mostly when I was in first grade, so getting inside was a special challenge and reward for working extra hard.  Mort was grumpy and fat, but man, I loved that level.

My favorite level overall was the biosphere.

I loved controlling the craft and answering science questions to find out where the clue was that I had to find.  Reaching the surface was satisfying and the illustrations were bright, cartoony, and detailed.  I especially loved the fossils sticking out of the ground.  This level I played over and over, long after I knew all of the answers and had gotten the clues for that level.  Really I liked all of them, but i never finished the game.  I was young and kept starting over again.

I think this is a perfect example of what a children’s game should be.  It should have variety so there’s something for everyone.  It should have great voice acting to engage the child in the story.  Educational tie ins not only teach but give the child something to think about and challenge them.  We don’t need ‘boy’ games and ‘girl’ games, we need good games.  Jumpstart found that formula, and made a game that stuck in my mind years after I played it last.  It had a female main character AND robots.  I could relate to Botley and Polly.  Now I only wish I could be a child again so that I could play this games just as I remember it and not through the eyes of a slightly more learned and mature person.  Because while I may never experience magic like that in a game today, I can remember always what made it magical.

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