Illustrations: Kyle Ellingson for Polygon
If you play video games today, chances are decent that your introduction to the hobby happened in a computer lab. From Oregon Trail to Number Munchers, edutainment games offered a little dose of learning alongside the joy of playtime. Computer labs were a gateway to the medium of games, providing access to technology that not every household had — especially in the ’80s and ’90s, before smartphones became standard.
Some of the games in the computer lab ignited our sense of competition, like The Impossible Quiz. Other games encouraged us to create virtual versions of our wackiest imaginings, like Sim City and Roller Coaster Tycoon. And then there were the forbidden games — Doom, Warcraft 3, and oh-so-many graphing calculator ports — to be enjoyed with discretion, or with the rare blessing of a Cool Teacher.
In 2022, with the increased availability and mainstreaming of technology, computer labs may not feel as revolutionary and essential as they once did. They still provide a key service to the needy, though — namely, students who would rather be gaming. This week, we honor every one of those students, and the legacies of the games they played in computer labs of yore.