Written by Joe Pranevich
In 1984, Dr. William H. Kraus was a rare breed: one part game designer, one part Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics Education. Up to this point, the games he had designed were simple, one-trick teaching tools for students in K-5. That was related in part to his academic bent: unlike most designers, he was concerned about quantifying and documenting the improvements his students saw while playing educational games. As he was sitting down to write what would be the first of three adventure games to break that mold, he made a prediction:
“In the not too distant future, it is likely that at least one microcomputer will be found in most elementary school classrooms and that teachers will wonder how they ever got along without them.” - “The Computer as a Learning Center.” Computers in Mathematics Education: 1984 Yearbook, edited by the National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics.
Kraus never became a famous game designer. Perhaps his games were too stuffy and academic. Perhaps his evidence-based approach to teaching fun didn’t quite translate for enough students. Or perhaps, he just enjoyed doing the research that would benefit future teachers and educational game designers. Whatever the reason, his short design history has left us with only three adventure games: 1984’s Adventure Alpha and The Islands of Beta, and 1985’s The Lantern of D’Gamma. I looked at the second of these games five years ago, but now that archivists have discovered the missing original, I wanted to revisit these happy memories of my childhood again.
You may have been expecting a Space Quest V post this week. Unfortunately, due to a computer emergency (and the discovery that I cannot write a blog post without the use of the letter “R”), my laptop has been shipped away for repairs. My write-up of Adventure Alpha has been sitting in the “draft” bin since the start of the COVID epidemic. With a borrowed computer and browser-based emulation, I was able to put in the time to finish the write-up. I hope you enjoy this diversion from our regularly scheduled content.