History & Mythology
Discovery Channel Multimedia has taken a collection of articles on American history, added some narration and video, and linked it all up via a fancy 3D interface. They call it SkyTrip America (ages 9 and up). Choose your craft and then check out a virtual diorama of America; when something catches your eye, click on the TV screen to be whisked to the article and any available multimedia. The articles are brief, but not bad, and the selection of topics demonstrates some courage – the Pro-life versus Pro-Choice debate and the poor treatment of Native Americans are examples of sticky subjects that have not been avoided. There’s a modicum of flag-waving going on in the program (America eventually won both the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War, the narrator says with distinct pride), but the propaganda is subtle enough that it could be considered patriotism. Games, an overall “Pony Express” framework, and an explorable 3D model of an Old West town have been offered up as entertainment, but they are not the point. Skytrip America strives to teach. Even with all the added glitz, though, it doesn’t teach a lot, and it’s not a lot of fun. There’s no interaction or real “witnessing” of historic events (which the packaging promises), and the relationship between the games and the educational content is not nearly symbiotic enough: it’s fully possible to play a lot of games without learning a thing about history.