Encyclopedia of Computer Graphics and Games

Living Edition
| Editors: Newton Lee

Children’s Games, from Turtle to Squirtle

  • Krystina S. MadejEmail author
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-08234-9_103-2

MIT 1967, Pokémon GO 2016

We are acutely aware that children use media all day, every day and that a part of that use is playing video games. Today four out of five US households own game consoles (Lofgren 2016) and in 2017 sales of children’s mobile games alone are expected to reach $2.2 billion (Children’s Mobile Game n.d.). In 2013, 38% of children who were 2 years old used mobile devices; in the two previous years, the rate of use for two to four-year-olds climbed from 39% to 80% (Rideout 2013). Now a 91 billion dollar business worldwide (2016) (Fuscaldo 2016), video games were first developed barely 60 years ago. Adults have long used children’s games to entertain as well as educate. Plato’s comments in The Republic (380 bce) on the value of structured play for developing young children into socially responsible and well-adjusted adults, John Locke’s entreaty in Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) to make education entertaining because children “love to be busy, change and variety are what they delight in; curiosity is but an appetite for knowledge,” and John Dewey’s proponing in Democracy and Education (1922) that children learn best through experience, demonstrate to us society’s ongoing desire to take advantage of children’s proclivity to learn as they play (Madej 2016). It’s not surprising then that children’s video games had their start with a desire to use technology to benefit learning. It is also not surprising that, on their own, children prefer to accentuate entertainment over education.

Since the late 1960s, when the first programming language for children was developed at MIT, until today’s mixed reality applications, games for children have travelled a continuum committed to both learning and entertainment objectives. The brief history that follows shows children’s games as evolving from two different beginnings: computer applications with educational objectives for specific age groups and computer and console games designed to entertain a wide audience. The differentiation between children’s and adult’s games is difficult to establish because of children’s facility with technology, the social nature of playing games, whether with older siblings, parents, or other children, and the nature of some games that can be played across age groups. Too, children are precocious – their nature is to challenge themselves with new things; they seldom stay within their age category for long for any activity. As an important market, children have been a motivating force in the evolution of game genres. While not all genres are covered in the following history, those discussed are representative of innovations in technology and shifts in interest that have encouraged change. These include early educational and arcade style games, handheld games, massive multiplayer online games, active games, augmented, virtual, and mixed reality games. Our trajectory takes us from the first LOGO Turtle to today’s augmented reality Pokémon Go Squirtle.

1960s: The Very Beginnings – LOGO and Education Through Constructive Play

Computer play environments developed specifically for children date back to Seymour Papert and LOGO, the programming language released in 1967 that he and colleagues developed at MIT. Papert had studied with the child psychologist Jean Piaget in Switzerland and considered the computer an ideal tool for learning by doing. Using LOGO, children as young as three controlled a “Turtle” to create graphics (Fig. 1) (Blikstein n.d.). The program proved to help children learn complex notions qualitatively, more deeply, and with less effort (Papert et al. 1979). Papert’s work was highly influential and encouraged the use of computers and software programs as a supplement to work in schools. LOGO spawned a number of research innovations that moved out of education and into entertainment including LEGO Mindstorms, a robotic system of LEGO bricks that had children building robots with motors, lights, and sensors.
Fig. 1

(a) First Turtle. (b) Buttonbox for preschoolers. (c) LOGO graphic

Early Interest in Education and Entertainment

Educators found that children were drawn to the active engagement computers offered and became interested in providing their students with subject-based programs to take advantage of this increased eagerness to learn. They were supported by educational organizations such as the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC), which developed statewide systems for learning about how to use new technologies and software applications for different age groups, grade levels, and subject categories (For more information on MECC see Jancer (2016). For a list of programs available through MECC in 1983 see Atari Program Exchange Catalog (1983)). To reinforce learning at home, MECC sold its school software to parents and by 1983 offered more than 150 subject-related applications for children age three-and-up in its annual catalog. One of its popular school offerings, Oregon Trail (1978), a game about settlers who made the difficult pioneer journey from Independence, Kansas to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, became a notable success when it was released to the general public as a game title in 1985 (Wong 2017). Other programs that became popular included DinoPark Tycoon (1993) and StoryWeaver (1994).

In 1972, the first home console system, Odyssey Home Entertainment System, offered entertainment games based on the simple mechanics of moving light blips across the screen with a controller. Plug-in programs changed how these blips reacted to the control units and created different games. Players attached gameboard overlays to the television screen and could play, among other games, Tennis, Hockey, Football, Cat and Mouse, and Haunted House (Fig. 2). Educational topics were also included: players could, for instance, learn the names of the US states. Odyssey games included poker chips, play money, and score cards that completed the game play experience. The system inspired Atari’s Nolan Bushnell to create Pong, the popular game in which players use paddles to hit a ball back and forth (Winter 2013).
Fig. 2

The Odyssey Home Entertainment System (1972)

Edutainment

By the early 1980s, PCs began selling in the millions and were being advertised as family computer systems that could be used both for education and for entertainment. Ads often showed parents playing together with their children as a family. Video games were on their way to becoming a fixture in children’s daily lives (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3

Family computer systems were advertised for both education and entertainment

Publishers and game developers noted the success of education-related titles and began to intentionally combine entertainment games and education software to create edutainment, software that could be marketed as both entertainment and education. The Learning Company and Broderbund were two companies that began to create and promote entertainment-based educational games from different perspectives that still prevail. The Learning Company was started as an educational software developer. Its first commercially developed edutainment title, Reader Rabbit (1983), designed for elementary school children by cofounder Dr. Leslie Grimm, set the pattern for educational series. Using stills, simple animation, and music, the click and point games engaged children in learning about language. Children picked individual letters, or combinations or sequences of letters, to complete activities and were rewarded with a jumping/tumbling bunny and congratulatory sounds (Fig. 4) (Reader Rabbit and the Fabulous Word Factory n.d.). Successful Learning Company titles included Clue-Finders, Mind Power, Zoombini’s, and Super Solvers. Each targeted a specific age-group and a subject area (The Learning Company n.d.). The company aimed to interest parents in improving their children’s skills and knowledge.
Fig. 4

Reader Rabbit: Menu Screen (1984)

Broderbund (1980), on the other hand, started as a commercial game developer (Prince of Persia, Myst). It moved into edutainment titles in 1985 with the detective game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. The company’s approach to edutainment was story rather than arcade-skill based: in Carmen Sandiego children were set the task of finding Carmen and travelled around the world asking questions that would lead them to the thief. This narrative approach had more in common with text adventures than with arcade action. After the initial success with Carmen, Broderbund founded Living Books, a series of interactive CD-ROM storybooks that engaged children through click and point animations. It brought well-loved print stories – Mercer Mayer’s Just Grandma and Me (1992), Marc Brown’s Arthur’s Teacher Trouble (1992), Stan and Jan Berenstain’s The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight (1995), Dr. Seuss’s ABC (1995) – to an audience who enthused about the new game-like interactivity in these stories. Game publishers soon adopted popular story characters to bring their appeal to education-related topics such as reading, writing, math, art, puzzles, and thinking (Fig. 5).
Fig. 5

Lil Critter helps his sister with her math, Arthur worries about his spelling, Dr. Seuss’s ABC’s

Evolving Entertainment and Edutainment for Computers and Consoles in the 1980s

Entertainment games evolved along two main paths in the late 1970s – as arcade-action games and as text adventure games. In an arcade-action game, although the game might consist of cause and effect events, it did not require a story to be successful. By the early 1980s, original Pong action had evolved and included: maze games – Pac-Man (1980), players needed to avoid four ghosts while eating up all the dots; platform games, called climbing games at the time – Donkey Kong (1981), players jumped obstacles and enemies through four different levels; and simulation games – Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator (1982), players had to defend the Starship Enterprise from Klingon invaders.

Text-adventure games, on the other hand, were based in story. Players achieved their goals not by repeating arcade-type actions but by asking questions of game characters, unlocking secrets, and overcoming obstacles to reach a goal. As Spacewar! (1962) gave rise to all later action games beginning with Pong, Adventure (1975) became the first text adventure game that spawned all other text adventures. Popular in university and corporate intranets, Adventure was initially created to be shared with children. Will Crowther, the designer, writes “I decided I would fool around and write a program that was a re-creation in fantasy of my caving, and also would be a game for the kids [his two daughters], and perhaps some aspects of the Dungeons and Dragons that I had been playing…. The kids thought it was fun” (The origins of “Adventure,” Crowther n.d.).

As the game market grew and as technology evolved, exploration in different game-like experiences for children increased. When HyperCard, an easy to use software programming tool was introduced by Apple in 1987, Amanda Goodenough used it to create Inigo Gets Out for younger children. This first graphical hypertext lets children explore a space the cat Inigo inhabits and move the story forward by clicking not on the object of action (i.e., the cat), but on where the object needs to move. For instance, clicking at two birds will make Inigo jump at them. Published by Voyager, the simple narrative opened the eyes of artists and designers, as well as writers, to the possibilities of making their children’s stories interactive (Fig. 6) (Madej 2007).
Fig. 6

Inigo Gets Out title screen

While Goodenough, a writer, was creating with hypertext for young children, Roberta Williams, a game designer, was developing the first edutainment graphical adventure game, Mixed-up Mother Goose (1987), to entertain and educate her two preschoolers. Williams had set up Sierra Online with her husband Ken and they had created the 10+ adventure series King’s Quest (1984). Based in stories, many adapted from traditional fairy tales or adventure tales, King’s Quest was the first game to introduce third-person play; until that time players played in the first person. The third-person position allowed the player an important choice – to think about the character either as her/himself, or as a separate character altogether (DeMaria and Wilson 2002). In Mixed-up Mother Goose young children play as one of eight characters that searches for lost items throughout the land and returns them to help story characters out of their predicament, i.e., they could help Mary by bringing back her lost lamb (Fig. 7). When completed successfully, the task was rewarded by a congratulatory animation/sound. In contrast to Reader Rabbit published four years earlier, children could visualize themselves in the story through the avatar, could explore the space, and could interact with story characters. Other mechanics such as picking up the clue, dropping it off, and being rewarded by an animation were based on existing types of actions. Together these sets of click and point actions became characteristic of children’s games, and indeed of many adult games.
Fig. 7

Mixed-Up Mother Goose of the rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb

In 1986, Walt Disney released The Black Cauldron based on its animated film of the same name. The company made the game to be more child-friendly than other games of the time; designer Al Lowe simplified the game commands by replacing the text parser with function keys to make it easier for children to play the game, an innovation not used again for a number of years. Lowe followed the original story and provided more decision-making choices by adding new plot branches and six endings. Sierra’s expertise in graphics made the game visuals more realistic and appealing than the linear and stark graphics of other games (Fig. 8) (Lee and Madej 2012).
Fig. 8

Black Cauldron graphics (left) versus Dark Crystal graphics (right)

Animated movies were a natural source for children’s action-based games as their storylines already consisted of action that designers could mine. The puzzle game All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), the side-scrolling platform game Aladdin (1993), and the action-adventure Casper (1996) featured only action sequences rather than the entire story. Live films were also used to inspire action adventure games suitable for children. As is the case with animated films, most games use the story plot only loosely to take players through action sequences. In The Karate Kid (1987), for instance, the player uses karate moves on four levels and ends with Master Miyagi congratulating him/her on learning the moves needed to help Daniel successfully meet all the challenges (See a partial list of movies made into video games at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Video_games_based_on_films, Great video games based on movies n.d.).

The first video game that featured animation as polished as in animated movies was Disney Interactive’s The Lion King Animated Story Book (1995). Media Station, the developer, used breakthrough technology and skillful editing to ensure the original quality and continuity while affording interaction. Designed for children 3–8, the game became popular with children as well as adults who had enjoyed the movie. Other Interactive Storybooks based on Disney animated films followed: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Mulan, among others.

A game phenomenon that began in the 1980s and grew to great popularity in the 1990s was the simulation game. Simulation games had grown out of educational games such as Oregon Trail (1978) that had been designed to simulate real world activities and provide players with a greater appreciation of the real life events. The success of The Sims in 1990 and of Railroad Tycoon in 1993 encouraged the development of simulation games for children such as Harvest Moon (1997). In this game, children were responsible for allocating their time to best maintain a farm that had fallen in disrepair. They were provided daily tasks to complete, different environments to explore, and, among other things, weather to contend with. Simulation games such as this one were “learning in context,” and fit the genre, although were not always labeled, edutainment.

Such a learning simulation game that leads us into the next topic, handhelds, is Nintendogs (2005). Handhelds are particularly suited to providing children a means to carry out set tasks in real time. In Nintendogs, children take care of their pet dog on the Nintendo DS. Using the touchscreen, they can train their dog, take it to the park, and wash and brush it. They can also record commands that the puppy should obey if it has been trained correctly. A real-time simulation, the action is based in the DS’s calendar and clock so, for instance, a puppy would grow hungry if not fed on time; the game provides feedback for acting responsibly toward a pet.

Handhelds Prepare the Way

During the 1980s, handheld games gained tremendous popularity. Small and easily transportable, they could be used anywhere from the sofa to the car seat; playing video games no longer kept children tied to computers at a desk or console – a large part of handhelds’ charm for both children and parents. Introduced at the beginning of a new era, when parents trekked their kids from activity to activity in that other phenomenon of the time, the mini-van, handhelds became a part of children’s everyday life and probably more than any other game technology were the determinant of today’s generation of digital natives.

Handhelds had their origin in the single game electronic devices of the 1970s, such as Auto Race (1976) and Football (1977) made by the toy manufacturer Mattel. When Nintendo introduced Game and Watch in 1988, a single game format with one small screen and two or four buttons, it had similar simple game action that also challenged skills. The games were both educational and entertaining: Flagman (1980) was a memory game in which the character on screen showed a random number the player had to memorize and input into a series of squares. The format’s popularity was increased through games that featured well-known cartoon and video game characters such as Mickey Mouse (1981), shown in Fig. 9, Popeye (1981), Snoopy (1982), Donkey Kong (1982), and Mario Bros (1982), who brought their own background stories as context and backdrop for the games (RolyRetro 2016).
Fig. 9

In Game and Watch, Mickey runs to catch eggs falling from one of four chutes

The success of Nintendo’s next handheld system, Game Boy, introduced in 1989, is based on the popularity of its games rather than in any sophisticated technology. In comparison to its competitors, its green screen was blurry and graphics were unimpressive, yet it became the most successful video game system ever – handheld or otherwise – because of its strong stable of notable games. It was released with what became the most popular game of all time, Tetris (Melanson 2006), and then featured a wide spectrum of game genres: puzzle games – Boxxle (1990), adventure games – Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1991), historic action adventure games – Prince of Thieves (1991), sports games – Ultra Golf (1992), fighting games –Street Fighter II (1995), pinball games – The Getaway: High Speed II (1995), racing games – Street Racer (1996), and side-scrolling platform games – Toy Story (1996).

Children enjoyed playing these games – parents saw their children were not only occupied but were also learning new skills: a win-win situation that helped establish playing handheld games as a go-to activity, one that translated readily to playing games on mobile phones, when that technology became available.

The most recent iteration of mobile gaming that continues children’s (and adults’) enthrallment with this genre of game play is the Nintendo Switch (2017), a hybrid console that can be played on-the-go as a handheld or on a TV at home. It consists of a main unit with Joy-Con controllers attached to each side that can be slid off so the screen can be propped up on a table for one- or two-player games. The Switch system also includes a charging cradle so games can be played on a big-screen TV. The design allows for players to get the same basic experience regardless of how they play (Thang 2018).

The Internet Introduces Community to Children’s Games

At the same time as handhelds were keeping children enthralled in the world of desktop computers, the internet was changing into a user-friendly place that was opening up doors for gaming of a different nature. In 1994, Netscape Navigator brought the graphical user interface to the general public and changed the face of the World Wide Web both for adults and children. At the time, edutainment CD-ROMs were at their height. As children’s authors took advantage of the new technology to create edutainment websites such as Banph, Chateau Meddybemps, Fablevision, and Little Critter World-Wide Network (Fig. 10), based in their own work, the industry faltered and would never again be so financially successful. All of the activities CD-ROMS provided were now available online, if perhaps not quite the same quality, for the cost of a service provider (Madej 2007).
Fig. 10

Chateau Meddybemps and Little Critter World-Wide Network with games, puzzles, and stories

Online access also popularized Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs), which, at the time, were considered an adult genre. In 1996, Starwave Corporation brought the genre to children 8+ with the game Castle Infinity. Entertainment video games had over the years stirred up considerable controversy with addictive and violent game play dominating the discussion; diverse opinions were held about the value of games for children. Multiplayer online games were equally suspect. Castle Infinity promoted the use of nonviolent ways of problem solving: how to get rid of monsters who were threatening the last of the dinosaurs in their home, the Castle. Children used a password and a unique name to join players around the world in cooperatively saving the dinosaurs.

Into the fray of concern about online entertainment The Disney Company launched an ambitious site for children, Disney’s Daily Blast (1997). The site offered parents a gated environment in which their children could connect with each other safely. Attractively designed to be child-friendly, the site offered a changing range of stories, comics, arcade games, and educational games for online play, either alone or with chosen friends (Fig. 11). Multiplayer games included the musical activity Music Room Composer, in which children could compose and record music, share music with friends who could comment on the composition, and play in jam sessions (Lee and Madej 2012).
Fig. 11

Disney’s Daily Blast presented a child-friendly portal page to a gated environment

By the 2000s, the major children’s publishers and media companies, from PBS Kids to National Geographic Kids, realized the promotional opportunities of engaging children online, and created sites that were based in children’s favorite characters and stories such as Arthur, Caillou, Clifford, Dragontales, and Sesame Street. These sites offered learning opportunities through entertainment, although initially they did not offer a multiplayer environment.

Today, many games are available in versions that can be downloaded from the Internet. The sandbox game Minecraft (2010), for instance, which is now the second most popular game after Tetris, can be purchased for single play or can be played online with friends. A sandbox game is an open-world game akin to playing with LEGO blocks and building objects or scenes, only the number of blocks is limitless. In Minecraft, children 6+ decide for themselves what to do and how to do it. They collect materials available in the space and build whatever their mind can imagine. As online friends they can cooperate to build worlds together.

Changing Handheld/Mobile Landscapes

Mobile technologies brought the connectivity of the internet to the portable handheld. Tablets replaced desktops and laptop computers for children in many homes. Their small size, portability, relatively low cost, and Wi-Fi connectability made them a practical device for playing favorite games, including online games, anywhere in the home, or indeed, even away from home. The smartphone has quickly replaced even the convenience of the tablet for Wi-Fi access (Fig. 12) (Mobile and Tablet Internet Usage 2016). It is useful to parents, engaging for their children, and is ever present. Easy availability and mobility, together with the fact that, like a handheld, a smartphone fits a child’s hands well and has a responsive touch screen (tablets have this as well), makes it a most advantageous digital entertainment device for on-the-go parents who want to occupy their children. In addition, game developers have been assiduous in fulfilling parent’s requirements for educational games and children’s need for entertainment games both for IOS and android tablets.
Fig. 12

Up from 2016, shown above, 2017 stats indicate mobile use continues to increase. Mobile – 52.29%, Desktop – 43.29%, Tablet – 4.42%

Mobile games for children, while limited by the speed of the technology and the size of a device’s memory, were initially not much different from what children had available to them on a desktop or laptop computer. A traditional edutainment game for mobile devices, Brain PoP: Today’s Featured Movies, for instance, uses internet connectivity to present a new set of movies each week about topics from math to social science. Children choose their topic and accompanying movie, watch, and then answer a pop quiz. Whether either at the behest of their parents or on their own, children are learning the alphabet, learning coding through puzzles and games, or learning to speak Spanish by saving trapped toys, they have access to hundreds of applications through dozens of websites specifically for learning or identified as just-for-fun (during which learning does go on). An example of a popular (most downloaded game of all times) game is Angry Birds (2009). A puzzle, turn-based game for ages 8+ in which cute birds aim to retrieve their eggs from some greedy pigs, it has no new types of interactivity, but does have engaging characters in fun and wacky side-scrolling gameplay (Cheshire 2011). Angry Birds has translated well into cross-media activities such as children’s library programs and use in early learning environments such as preschools. Cut the Rope (2010), in which players must feed a little green creature, Om Nom, with candy they retrieve from hanging ropes, requires more challenging planning and dexterity in use of the touch screen to cut the rope. It is also popular across media so that children have opportunities to transfer their mobile knowledge to physical play (Fig. 13).
Fig. 13

Playing Cut the Rope on a smartphone requires planning ahead and dexterity. Cross media marketing, for this as for many other games, has provided players with real world artifacts for interacting with Om Nom

Mobile devices have become very popular with parents for very young children as well. Designers have put such technology as the touch screen to great advantage in games for them. In Old Macdonald (2009), for instance, young children can use their fingers to push a tractor, open barn doors, jump with frogs, pop balloons, and swish their way through the rhyme as the tune plays to the animations. Together with parents or alone, children can also read, listen, and record themselves singing. This engages them not only cognitively but also physically in their play activity, creating stronger connections in their learning (Madej 2016).

Tangible Games

The most recent developments in tablet and smartphone games, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), are at the end of a trajectory of evolution in action video games that, during the mid-1970s, took the form of accessories such as racing wheels, and today, has players moving about the neighborhood, the city, or even the world, searching and catching virtual Pokémon. While manifested in different ways, the main purpose of action games is to provide tangible or embodied interaction that engages the player physically and simulates real world activity. This could be by providing haptic feedback, physically engaging interaction, an immersive environment, or by augmenting an existing environment.

Among the first live-action games were racing games and marksman games. Although entertainment oriented, many of these games required children to improve skills to acquire higher scores or reach new levels of ability. Coleco’s Telstar Arcade (1976) (Fig. 14) exemplifies early interest in creating a simulated experience for home video games. The three-sided Telstar featured two sides that provided for a “real experience.” Players controlled a racing wheel while playing racing car games on one side, or drew and fired a pistol for target shooting on another side. On the third side, players used typical game buttons to control pong games such as tennis (Madej 2007). Racing wheels continue to be used and are still bundled with racing games for systems such as Mario Kart Wii (2008).
Fig. 14

The Coleco Telstar Arcade (1976) with its racing wheel and pistol

New types of interactive artifacts that engaged children physically were introduced in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These included play mats on which children could enjoy dancing to the music video game Dance Dance Revolution (1998), konga drums they could beat in Donkey Konga (2003), and guitar controllers they could strum in Guitar Hero (2005). Each of these interfaces required improving skills to reach the next level of proficiency and provided for learning while playing.

While mixed reality appears to be a very recent phenomenon in children’s video games, it was first seen in Sony’s EyeToy:Play in 2003. Sony used an inexpensive webcam to literally put the player into the game through motion capture video. Players could dance, Kung Fu, wash windows, play soccer, or box against themselves. While EyeToy caught the imagination, it was difficult to get the actions right to appear on the screen. This difficulty caused frustration. It wasn’t until the Wii console system, which detected the player’s movement in three dimensions, was introduced by Nintendo in 2006 that motion capture gameplay became seamless and enjoyable rather than frustrating. Both Wii arcade games and its narrative games used the technology to advantage. In the medical drama, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, the player, as Dr. Derek Stiles, sets broken bones, cleans and stiches wounds, and simulates the use of a defibrillator during an emergency situation: he has to “shove the two controllers forward to shock [the] patient[s]” (Fig. 15) (Trauma Center 2006).
Fig. 15

Wii Trauma Center requires players to simulate real-world action

Wii games were promoted for children as young as toddlers and games like Kirby’s Return to Dreamland were positively viewed as family friendly because of their multiage, cooperative play. But toddlers and preschoolers found the controls difficult, both in this and other games such as Reader Rabbit Kindergarten in which any precision was required (Healy 2011). Issues also arose when Microsoft introduced the next motion capture device to come on the market, the Kinect (2010). Older children could engage in simulated action in games but problems existed with recognition of younger children because of their height, as well as with light levels, the amount of space required to play, and recognition of movements (Kinect Sucks for Little Kids 2012).

Mixed reality games entered a new era when they began to include either or both VR and AR in their mix. Virtual glasses such as Google Cardboard, a simple, inexpensive version of a VR headset, became an asset in the development of immersive adventures for children. Edutainment benefitted in particular in games such as Jurassic Virtual Reality (2014), in which children go back to the time of the dinosaurs and can observe the creatures in their natural habitat from any angle. The ability to engage in a very personal way within an environment makes learning immediate and takes edutainment to a new height.

In September 2013, colAR Mix, now called Quiver, was announced as an AR coloring experience for children. This application let children bring characters they colored on pages printed from the app to life in 3d when they are viewed through a tablet or mobile phone and added an engaging new experience to traditional coloring (Fig. 16a). Each new MR application seems to raise the bar for engagement: Toy Car RC (2014) for children 6–8, follows the adventures of a small car named Wheely that is always searching for an adventure. Once children print out and position target pages in a space, they set Wheely on his journey and connect the real world with a virtual world, either Candy Land or Western World (Fig. 16b, c).
Fig. 16

(a) colAR/Quiver character, (b & c) Toy Car RC’s Western World brought to life through AR

The AR game Pokémon GO (July 2016) brings us to the end of the trajectory of action games, at least for our present time frame. It is also where, for the moment, this brief history of games ends. Pokémon GO has taken what is the most used platform for games, the smartphone (which we carry with us everywhere), paired it with well-loved and storied characters (which few, if any, of us have not heard of), and simply asks of players that they look around their natural environment to find and collect Pokémon and then share these collections with others. Pokémon GO is currently being used for classroom assignments: children “Keep a log of where they go, what they see, and what they are learning as they play, including historic places and points of interest” (Gracey 2017). But a classroom situation isn’t needed to spark interest in learning for children who search for Charmander, Bulbasaur, or Squirtle (Fig. 17). While Rolling Stone says Pokémon GO is “a free-to-play, location-based, augmented reality, multiplayer online mobile game that also supports its own custom wearable tech” (Davison 2016), more humanistically speaking, and more to the point, through its enthusiastic embrace of engagement with the real world Pokémon GO shows how technology, story, and environment can be joined effortlessly to engage us communally in an entertaining game that engages children in learning.
Fig. 17

Pokémon GO: Searching for Squirtle

Finally

In 2017, 60 years passed since the LOGO Turtle was first introduced to the world. Seymour Papert’s interest during the 1960s in creating a playful environment with computer technology to benefit children’s learning continues to be pursued with vigor by the games industry today. Through an unflagging continuance of effort, and whether developing games solely either for learning or play, or developing games intended to do both, the different streams that have evolved are exploring technologies as quickly as they are emerging and taking advantage of new types of engagement to offer a mix of learning experiences. While some may not see searching for Squirtle as beneficial to learning, others have taken the idea, and exploited its potential to engage a generation of children, many of which, have never been without a digital gadget in their hands.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Georgia TechAtlantaUSA