Edutainment Means
Fun Learning For Kids!

by Lee Roth (

Copyright © 1996 Lee Roth. All rights reserved.

There are many aspects to the gaming industry, and one of the most satisfying to watch is edutainment— games that are fun, yet teach while playing. From traditional topics like spelling, typing, math and science to new media subjects like creating online movies and building Web sites, there is a wealth of quality titles to choose from. And speaking of wealth, there is even a game that teaches how deal with that concept!

Hasbro Interactive brings you that warm fuzzy feeling of familiarity with their interactive version of Monopoly for ages eight and older. Monopoly promotes its online presence as "A nice, ruthless, money-hungry Web site. Where you can buy it. Rent it. Build it. Sell it. Trade it. And if worse comes to worst, mortgage it."

Gary Carlin, Director of Marketing for Hasbro Interactive, says, "Our games are perfectly suited for Internet play. They are naturally social and multi-player, and therefore make the transition to the Internet multi-player environment very smooth. Scrabble was just released with the same technology." By the time this article prints, Risk and Battleship should also be available.

How smoothly may games be customized for the Web? The Trivial Pursuit site cautions, "Please note that this (online) version of the game differs slightly from the board game. For one thing, there's no board. But let's not get caught up in details. And remember that spelling counts. So those with particularly chubby fingers, please watch out for typos."

Gary continued, "The Web is an extension of the game itself. We create a great game, and use the Internet to make it better and give it more broad playability. Artificial Intelligence is fun, but it is no substitute for competing against humans."

When talking about the future, Gary said, "You can't just build a Web site and expect people to come. Putting out garbage brings down the integrity and usefulness of the Internet. We must keep content worthy and interesting, and navigating the Internet must be easier. The positive side far outweighs the negative though, as you can access the world at your fingertips."

In children's software, Hasbro Interactive has five titles in distribution: Mr. Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley, Playskool Puzzles, Play-Doh Creations, Candy Land Adventure and Tonka Construction. Hasbro Interactive's plan is to extend Hasbro's rich toy and game library—which includes the Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, Playskool, Tonka, Play-Doh and Kenner brands—into interactive and Internet-ready games.

Theatrix Interactive publishes the hippest, most hilarious brand of educational software on the kids market. I have never heard edutainment described better than on the packaging of Theatrix titles: "The power of play. The thrill of discovery. The joy of creativity. The confidence of knowing how to think through any problem. These are the qualities we strive to give each child through our playful environments, open-ended challenges, and irresistible characters. Experiences like these help children develop their unique talents in preparation for the demands of a new century."

Kim Marder, Director of Marketing and New Business at Theatrix, says, "We include an online component in each title. The games of Theatrix offer entertainment, education and creativity in an environment where there is never a right or wrong answer, but plenty of opportunities for children to express and share their creativity."

Hollywood High, for ages nine to adult, allows you to become a Hollywood director where you select the cast, write the script, add special effects and sound, then watch your creation come to life. In The Exchange, you may download scripts and movies from all over the world, or post your own creations for others to enjoy.

Theatrix is working closely with United Artists and the Starlight Foundation to promote Hollywood High. Inside the packaging of the title are instructions on how to enter your production for consideration (until January 31, 1997). The grand prize winner will premier their movie in Hollywood. Seventy-five first prize winners will premier their movies at a United Artists theater near their home.

Big Science Comics features true edutainment in this CD-ROM comic book adventure for eight- to twelve-year-olds. Enjoy the wonders of discovery as your child helps the lovable Bumptz, who have crash-landed their spaceship. Their craft has been found by Bette, an artist who just might turn it into a sculpture! Your child will learn while trying to balance and float the Bumptz through the obstacles that begin in Bette's basement. The Bumptz and lab assistant "Mo the Packrat" are wonderful characters that are likely to enchant every member of the family.

Build-A-Book with Roberto lets you "Jump into the pond with Roberto the hippo and his friends in a story-making CD-ROM program for three- to six-year-olds. You can create over 100 original stories about Roberto, who tries to join his friends in a game of hippoball." Here again, Theatrix allows your children the ability to post their creations online and compare their stories to those posted by other children.

Math Heads suggests you "Put your head into math on this CD ROM for 10- to 14-year-olds that puts you into an outrageous parody of TV. Become a Math Head by choosing heads, wigs, outfits, and hobbies for your TV personality. Even import a picture of your own face and—suddenly—you're on Math Head TV." With wacky TV game shows as the focus of the presentation, the Web site offers new material which may be incorporated into your child's production.

While discussing marketing on the Web, Kim said, "The Theatrix site is geared to support the retailer. It is to generate traffic and send them to the store ready to purchase." When asked about concerns, Kim replied, "The Web is one of the best things that has happened; it turns apprehension into opportunity. You must be careful, but make sure you are still on the cutting edge."

RandomSoft, the multimedia division of Random House Publishing, brings the book-publishing model to the gaming industry, and soon to the Web. One RandomSoft title, Smart Games, promotes "Fun for your Brain, Not Your Trigger Finger!" With word, strategy and perception games, this CD-ROM for ages 14 to adult offers literally hundreds of hours of fun.

RandomSoft offers several titles from Sunburst Communications, including A to Zap Type to Learn, Book Workshop and Net Explorations. Sunburst's What's New page contains brief descriptions of each title. These PC/Mac hybrids and other Sunburst titles are used in over 68,000 schools and feature the "School-to-Home Connection." In this promotion, you may give your child's teacher a coupon good for $50 discounts on Sunburst software. The school or teacher who redeems the most coupons by February 28, 1997, will receive a new computer system and a complete library of Sunburst-published software.

Sunburst has been creating educational products for schools since 1972. While I rarely will link to just a page of links, Sunburst's Educational Links page offers a world of fun for kids.

In Net Explorations Web Workshop your child may post his/her own Web site free of charge for 30 days. One contained an interesting link to Yahooligans Elementary Schools. Using this CD, children ages 10 and up have no need to know HTML. Net Explorations lets your child explore HTML code, import pictures and photos and add links just like a professional WebMaster.

RandomSoft's Vice President and General Manager Dennis Rosenberg says, "RandomSoft was started as a distributor of third party titles, but it soon became apparent that most clients needed more than sales and distribution. RandomSoft has evolved into a basket of services to include package design, launch planning, sales and merchandising, and distribution to retailers." The RandomSoft Web site is in development and is scheduled to debut later this year.

Dennis continued, "We don't want to hurt the retailer, but support them as the point of purchase. Our Web site will become the information center about the titles and the studios which created them, with direct links to the studio Web sites."

Bandwidth is both a current concern and Dennis' greatest anticipation. "At present," Dennis said, "you can't deliver more than a handful of megabytes via the Web. This allows you to sample, then go to a retailer to buy. The benchmark everyone is familiar with is television. ISDN and 56Kb phone lines just won't cut it! People want instant access and 500 channels. With the advent of cable modems, people will be able to surf the Web like they do TV." In anticipation, Dennis concluded, "For gadget hounds like myself, this is the greatest time to be alive!"

This column is interactive. If you have questions about business on the Internet for anyone interviewed, or wish for a particular game or studio to be reviewed, send an email to Lee Roth.

Lee Roth is executive producer for Lee Roth Media and Webmaster for AnyGame.Com, a never-complete reference guide to "The Business of Gaming"! Questions or comments for those interviewed? Email Lee ( and your message will be forwarded for a response.