Secret Writer’s Society Conexus / Panasonic Interactive Multimedia 1998

This was supposed to teach kids how to write well. Instead, it became infamous. The game had a text-to-speech feature that would read back what you wrote, and under the right circumstances in the Macintosh version of the game, it would read in error a list of obscenities on a filter list instead. The game is series of seven writing lessons. They’re framed as tests for your induction into the Secret Writer’s Society, a mysterious, underground club of writers. To entice children to think of this like a secret mission rather than writing instruction, the full copy of the game came with a society membership card and spy-style writing supplies like “decoder pens.” All the bonus accessories can’t disguise that it really is a rote exercise in formal writing structure. It teaches punctuation, capitalization, ordering sentences in a paragraph, and other functional parts of writing, explained with crummy School House Rock-style music videos, but there’s no imagination here. Programs like MECC’s Storybook Weaver or Edmark’s Imagination Express have colorful pictures from fantastical settings that inspire kids to dream up stories to tell; in comparison, this game doesn’t get to the creative writing prompts until the final lesson, after 20 minutes of punctuation drills, and even then, the focus is on proofreading. It teaches you how to write but not why to write. The membership card would’ve been cool, but it might not have been inspiring. There are two places in the game for freewriting, the final lesson and a diary feature. Clicking the Read button will make the program read back what you wrote.
ISO Demo 402MB (uploaded by Internet Archive Software Collection)

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